Winnowing the Society’s Moral Fabric

By Esther Olewe. Esther, 30, is an academy manager based in Kakamega, Kenya.

Parents, the world over send their children to schools and universities to get an education. In the minds of all these parents is a dream, to bring up all round children that will eventually grow into self-reliant adults. This mission can only be achieved if the child is able to acquire knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits that will enable the said child to fit in the modern day competitive society. Teachers in learning institutions are tasked with the responsibility of facilitating the actualization of this dream.

To begin with, children undergo a sequence of physical, cognitive, psychological and social changes in their growth journey. These changes are determined by two major factors: nature and nurture. Nature involves inherited biological predisposition of an individual while nurture refers to the influence of social and cultural environment on the same individual. By and large the latter plays a bigger role in moulding the personality of a child.

Right from the on set of growth, a child develops basic behavior capacities. At infancy, the child’s behavior capacity will only be sufficiently for its survival if that capacity is co-ordinated with the activities of the child’s mother, be it a caregiver. Because caregivers have a handful of other chores to attend to, they must find a way of meeting the infant’s needs within the confines of their own life routine and work schedule. Eventually a child’s personality is built based on the personality of the caregivers or that of the people that surrounded the child at critical developmental stages. This is to say that people in whose hands we entrust our children and inthis case teachers will to a big extent determine the behavior of our children.

It is every parent’s dream that their children go through school and in future become successful and that success passed across their generation. The fact that these children spend 80% of their time in learning institution means that teachers are better positioned to build their character. Teachers have therefore a moral obligation to shape the personality of their learners. In recent times the world has witnessed a decline in authoritarian parenting and an emergence of permissive parents. Children have been given a lot of leeway to determine their own schedules and activities. Some parents go to the extremes of consulting their children about family policies. Modern day permissive parents do not demand equal levels of achievements and behavior like authoritarian parents did in days gone by. They spend less time with their children, so much suchthat they barely know their own children.

Working as an Academy Manager for Bridge International Academies L.T.D., I handle almost on a daily basis cases of juvenile delinquency. “There is no bad kid” is a slogan I have lived with since the onset of my job. In the beginning, it sounded pretty weird as I had seen scores of really bad kids during my schooling years and I wasn’t a good kid either. My supervisors made me understand that every child can reform given an opportunity and an environment conducive enough to foster that change. In order to prove the practicability of this slogan; I did a case study with ten boys on behavior change. This group of boys had dropped out of school several years before joining my academy. Due to the socio-economic challenges they faced, they indulged in delinquent offences and sort refuge in a thicket near my academy. These boys would go into the village at night, steal from the sleeping villagers and later in the day sell the stolen items at throw-away prices. They would use proceeds from their night’s raid to buy drugs and other illicit substances. A background check on the boys revealed that most of them had absentee parents who were so much engrossed in their jobs and businesses at the expense of their parenting obligations. With a lot of patience from my staff, we were able to correct the behavior of these boys. They reformed and eventually formed part of the first cohort of class 8 candidates my company presented for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (K.C.P.E) in 2015.

Absentee parents are on the rise in a trend that is worrying, most of them have abandoned their children in learning institutions and tasked the teachers with a heavy responsibility of doubling up as surrogate parents. Such parents have a misplaced notion that money can buy them freedom from parenting headache. They diligently pay fees charged at these institutions and leaveeverything to the teachers. While this is escapism on the part of the parents, teachers can not afford to sit back and watch the society’s moral fabric tear away. All it takes to shape the behavior of a child is creating the right environment where moral uprightness will thrive. This environment is characterized by teachers that act as role models for their learners and peers who are equally morally upright. Learning institutions can maximize this by rewarding good behavior. Any child growing in such environment will not find a reason to behave otherwise. If learning institutions are turned into havens where moral uprightness thrives, these institutions will in turn give back to the society, morally upright adults. That parents have failed should not be a scapegoat for teachers to also fail. Learning institutions must therefore rise to the occasion and mould morally upright learners who will eventually form an elite population that is not only self-reliant but also morally relevant.

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