As I reminisce about the good old days, I realize it’s time we reconsider the ethics instilled in the upbringing of our younger generation.
While growing up in Nyanturago village Kisii, life was lovely and enjoyable. As children, we upheld virtues of hard work, honesty, respect, unity, and love which were treasured and adhered to by all community members which encouraged us to live peacefully. Through storytelling, riddles and proverbs parents and elders instilled moral values in us. It is disappointing to observe today’s generation, who do not reflect these attributes hence the need to shift focus on introducing cultural programs through which our national ethos will shine.
I remember my grandmother constantly reminding me to respect the elderly, never to steal and always to observe honesty. She always warned us of taboos and the repercussions of going against them. Many times, she could send me and my siblings to help the old in fetching water, firewood, and other household chores. Unlike today, those days children belonged to the community it was the role of an elderly person to instill discipline in a child.
As I commenced my primary school education, teachers always encouraged me and other pupils to work hard insisting that nothing comes easy and hard work pays. Standing up whenever the teacher entered the classroom further indicated the level of respect we held for elders. This was usually followed by the response “Good Morning teacher” said in unison to a rhythmic vibe.
To understand and develop national ethos, we must have a frank conversation about our strengths, flaws, and values.
In 2006, as I transitioned to secondary school, everything pertaining to virtues seemed to take a different angle compared to what my culture had taught me and I realized our cultures look deal with issues differently. To some, stealing was the order of the day while to others lying was part of them or simply viewed as jokes. Other students seemed to be excited at organizing strikes and mistreating newcomers.
At the University level, things looked different too. Some students believed they could earn money without really working hard through ‘sponsors’ or simply by becoming politicians and joining cults.
Having finished graduated and got thrown into the real world, I realize that despite having many of us striving to earn a living through hard work and doing things the right way, our society is still facing a challenge that ought to be addressed on matters ethos. Losing our norms, values, and customs is not only seen in the communities but also reflects in the leadership of our country today.
Kenya is increasingly being defined internationally by its negative politics and the challenges that they create. Sadly, sometimes words like corruption and violence are heard whenever the international community discusses Kenya.
Despite the many positive attributes of our country, we are yet to define and promote our national ethos that will form the foundation of Kenya’s perception. Nationhood and patriotism require that people feel they enjoy a commonality beyond the sharing of residency in a country and that they feel they have common characteristics, beliefs, and aspirations.
To understand and develop national ethos, we must have a frank conversation about our strengths, flaws, and values. The Building Bridges Initiative provides an opportunity for Kenyans to discuss the values that they believe should define them. Its proposal to teach ethics as a compulsory subject throughout the schooling curriculum from nursery to university will play a major role in ensuring that morals are upheld. The BBI further proposes to include teachings of the national values and principles as part of every ethnic culture and particularly as part of the teachings during rites of passage.
I am aware these recommendations will not happen overnight, but I refuse to accept that we cannot change the negative perception. We are a work in progress and BBI is a chance to ensure the values we hold dear are transferred to generations. Think about this, it is 2080, the world is dealing with an outbreak of civil conflicts and moral decay. They look up to a nation to give them direction and they unanimously agree that the nation is Kenya.