The pain of those images coming out of South Africa is unbearable. Watching people so closely linked suck life out of another brother or sister is a shock.
- For now our prayer is that “Nkosi sikeleli SOUTH AFRICA”.
Yet again, the annual parade has taken place. The youth have taken to the street, pounding the Independence Avenue surface to commemorate Youth day on March 12th.
The cycle and pattern is consistent each year. The march past, the brass band, the salutes and aerial displays as the helicopters zoom past. Then the speeches follow either the Republican President or his delegate.
A moment of renewed reflection
The pattern may be the same each year but what is done with the current circumstances the youth face is more critical. This year, my mind has challenged me to a deeper level of thought.
What is there to celebrate? Who owes the youth a celebration or indeed something to celebrate indeed?
This line of thought has prompted me to question how much I have to play as an individual in creating the future I desire. Does the Government owe me that future as much as I owe it to myself?
There is need to curb the rise of the apologetic youth. The youth that points an accusing finger at everyone else but themselves. The youth that sits back, expecting the world to give them all while they do nothing in return.
No time to play casual
The youth must realise that there will not always be time to rehearse or get the good things dumped on their laps. They create and prepare for the future through today’s choices and actions.
So first and foremost, the fact dawns that any future we desire or want to achieve must first be driven by us.
As the youth ponder what tomorrow holds, the pertinent question becomes whether they are aware that the mantle is passing on to them.
Once the youth adopt this mindset, it is inevitable that they will channel energies and thoughts to how they can and are preparing to embrace this future. When the responsibility is clear and expected, what must be done becomes explicit.
Then too will we appreciate our inherent value and potential. When this happens, we may then reject attempts and the trend to use us as cheap political cadres or simply a readily available means to a selfish end.
Wanted: Role models
By extension, this throws the spotlight on role models. Who is moulding today’s youth? What example are they exposed to as they prepare for the next level?
If the role model is chronically flawed, unaware of their influence or simply inappropriate, this spells an active challenge to the youth.
They stand the risk of being a younger version of the tried and failed role model.
Youth beware. Pick your role model wisely and let your drive be to make a huge difference in any and all areas of influence in your life. That way the ultimate motivation is from within.
There is an immense number of things happening around us. We must therefore be selective of what we learn, who teaches it and who we allow to influence our ideology, life and worldview.
The demand is not for perfect role models. Rather it is for the appropriate example to be set. An example that inspires and propels others to accentuate their positive side, strengths over weaknesses.
As the world stands today, so much lies on the shoulder and head of the youth. A misled, ill equipped and weak youth spells horror for this world’s future.
The parental factor
This aspect is critical. Most of the exemplary lives of the youth we can point to today are a result of parental shepherding.
If our parents got it right, it has shown in those good examples we see now. If they got it wrong, perhaps some of the chaos around us is a testimony of that.
The point though remains that the parents have played a commendable part and handed over an evident positive heritage.
How are we preparing to hand over the next mantle? What will be our legacy when the next generation must take over? Are we harnessing a positive life that will impact those we influence? Or are we a collection of youth that are wasting away, a disaster waiting to happen?
We do not have to be in high profile positions, splashed all over the newspapers or wrapped in a cloud of popularity. Where we are, in whatever we do, we all have something to offer and build on that will impact someone’s life meaningfully.
The connecting link is whether we are aware of this and are prepared to take the lonely route of positivity. This is as opposed to the oft treaded path of ease that most youth take.
Anything holding the youth back?
Now that we each may know we have something to offer, what is it that impedes us? Each person on the face of the earth has something endowed in them to make a mark.
We either ignore it or have no use for it because we opt for the precise opposite.
The youth that will take over tomorrow and make a difference are those that realise they owe it to themselves to do what must be done. The choice to be different lies with the individual. Anything more to spur one on is a mere bonus.
This calls for honest introspection on the part of the youth. Is it a lack of self belief that hinders our progress? Is it drugs and alcohol abuse? Could it be illicit sex, unwanted pregnancies, STDs/AIDS and death?
Many of the vices that derail today’s youth are self inflicted. Many can be averted and a brighter meaningful future achieved. But that realisation must be an individual’s. Anything less entails more of the same despondency and stagnation. More stories of failure and wasted potential that can build a nation, continent and world.
When every youth accepts this truth, it will become imperative to all that the future desired is entirely their call. This will surely give rise to visionary youth ready to be the generation that etches its mark on the world.
This cannot be a tall order. We have seen unparalleled levels of creativity, bounds of energy and leadership qualities in some of our youth. Undoubtedly, this points to the fact that the pipeline has the right resource in supply. It is time to tap it.
Government off the hook?
The foregoing does not in any way devolve responsibility from the Government and our national leaders. They are in roles that stimulate progress.
Therefore, when all those speeches are made, what follows to ensure execution and set the stage for the youth to realise their potential?
Are they merely empty rhetorical speeches to fulfil a fixture? Is there real action that ensues to deliver on commitments made?
If nothing tangible results from all this talk, we may as well discontinue the commemoration of such annual events. Until such a time that we are resolved to make a difference and not speak to be heard or seen.
This year the theme is “Opportunity for youths through enterprise”. What will this really mean and what real steps will be taken to support youth development and empowerment? What skill enhancement will take place to equip them to be entrepreneurs? What opportunities will be created to apply these skills or generate sustainable income?
It is such factors that will have a lasting impact on ills such as high unemployment, poverty, disease and failure that have beleaguered the youth. One only needs to spend some time observing our crop in schools, colleges and the streets as they roam. The looming disaster is unmistakeable.
Much as it may be a dire situation with some casualties along the way, it does not spell the end. We can do something about it and the starting point is the youth themselves. Everyone else will come in afterwards to render the required support.
That is precisely where Government comes in. To facilitate the development of the youth through deliberate and sustainable interventions.
If Government intention remains on paper, delivered through speeches, what we parrot each year will remain worthless. It will not build the next leaders or provide them a platform to take over and lead the nation into progress, development and prosperity.
A parting thought
As it has been known and stated, each of us has unique skills, abilities and potential. In the end, we will give an account of what we did with them and even the resources made available to us in whatever form.
What will be the excuse? That we did nothing with the “talents”? That the Government did nothing for us? That we had no opportunities to achieve anything? What will we show for the shot at education we were accorded, the chance in a job where we became lax?
The list may be endless but the fact remains that the youth have a part to play to make a better tomorrow a reality. Further support may come but time to take steps towards progress start with the individual.
This Youth Day, each youth is challenged to reflect on what they will do differently from this point on. It is a positive choice each one of us cannot shy away from.
Like is so often said, it is best for opportunity to find those prepared for it.
Are you, dear youth?
When pupils take to the street
I watched the 19 hrs news on 18th of June in awe as pupils vented their anger, burning whatever they could and blocking the road.
Kitwe boys pupils were rioting and police intervention was required to quell the protests. From a distance, one would not be faulted to assume there was a justifiable reason for this reaction. Zambia has seen such riots before in the past, mostly a reaction to teacher strikes.
This protest though was a shocker. The pupils were not happy with the school rules and the strictness they were handled with. Initially, when I heard this I was convinced I had mixed up the information given during the news.
When time, discipline and attitude are elusive
Our dear pupils preferred to report for school after 8 in the morning and were strongly opposed to the half 7 or earlier.
There is much inference one can make of this. Firstly, we must be worried about the crop of youth we are grooming. Secondly, if this continues and we have no coordinated and spirited interventions, the future is as bleak as a winter morning.
Finally, listening to some of the pupils express their grievances and coincidentally some recent assessments I have made of some teachers, the quality of education and relevant impact of our education system is a huge source of concern.
I will expand on each point.
A train off the tracks
For starters, the youth as reflected in the protesting pupils must at this stage of their lives be sharpening their discipline. This is in terms of time keeping, focus and respect.
Most of us have all been in educational institutions and know the discipline school demands. To want to report a little later raises eyebrows! This is because if we spoke to any of these youngsters, most likely we would not get any plausible reason that would win us over to their side. It could well just be a blatant reflection of rebellion and an aggressive seed of laziness. An extra hour or two in bed or outside class for more chat time than get started with learning.
This then is an indication of an attitude likely to be transferred into the professional world should this breed make it. Or worse, this is the rebellious mindset that will hit the streets of society when frustrated with the rules and discipline of school.
An urgent call for intervention
Further, if these are the warning signs of a storm brewing, then the need for intervention through guidance and character moulding is urgent.
It is not uncommon these days to see youth staggering in broad daylight or in the evening, intoxicated. It is not unusual to have youth on the wrong side of the law. It is almost normal to see youth derailed by early pregnancies, STDs/AIDS and a host of societal ills that continue to plague our country. The disillusionment is so clear.
I have on several occasions run into youth that sadden me when I decipher the choices they have made so early on in their lives. A life of weak morals, excessive alcohol intake, cigarettes, sagged slacks(jeans) and empty chats along the road as the opposite sexes whisper sweet nothings that inevitably result in broken hearts, teen pregnancies, AIDS, street kids, “one parent” children and ultimately a dysfunctional society as we see it today.
It has always been my view that our society requires a holistic and sustainable approach to defeat this cancer.
The interventions start with the home set up. What we see in parents, guardians and older folks must show us what it means to set an exemplary life in motion. However, if and when our default role models are drowning in immorality, “sugar daddy/mummy” affairs, multiple homes, children out of wedlock, divorces, domestic neglect and absent or anaemic spiritual lives, is it a wonder we see what we do in the current crop of youth?
In the absence of this strong foundation and pillar, technology has filled the void via internet, gadgets, entertainment and a host of options that are an active part of our modern youth.
The education system must also as a matter of urgency review its curricula to incorporate character moulding. Character ideally should be built in a home. This may not be the case now with children getting into school at 2 or 2 and half or being brought up by maids (perhaps relatives) because parents are pursuing busy careers and therefore absent from the home. This suggests the foundation being laid is either by the maids(or relatives) or through the education system.
Parents only have enough time to say hi to the kids after work and goodnight as the kids retire to bed.
As such, if a child is in school, the foundation will be laid there as the teacher will be a cardinal element in the child’s development. This challenges our education system to ensure part of the curriculum addresses character moulding to plant the necessary seed that will yield positive fruit as the youth swim into society.
Is the current system delivering what it should?
This brings me to my final point. The quality of education received and mode of delivery also raises a need to review its effectiveness.
I listened to two unrelated pupil interviews on the 18th and 19th of June on the news. Coincidentally, days before I had a rare glimpse of teachers, their writing and reasoning. What is the concerning attribute in both you may be asking?
Calibre. The articulation of issues, reasoning or writing pointed to questionable quality. With respect to expressing oneself, I gave the pupils the benefit of doubt because they were not interviewed in their local language. That is well understood and accepted.
However, english remains Zambia’s official language and the most probable mode of delivering lessons or lectures if you visited educational institutions. Therefore, for pupils to struggle to express themselves must trigger concern. Is it that they just failed to articulate issues but knew what they were talking about? Or could it be that perhaps that was a symptom of a challenge that loudly showed that what they were taught was also not being relayed effectively because the language had become a barrier? Assuming they are taught in english which I have no doubt they are, then how effective is the learning if they cannot even be coherent enough?
This is an area worth exploring so we are sure the right environment and delivery is made available for education to be meaningful in the lives of the youth and society’s future.
Without doubt, it also becomes imperative to assess the quality of training teachers are receiving and how impactful their end product is as they teach in classes.
If this piece is weak, we are staring disaster in its ugly face.
Where is the hope?
Not all that appears bleak means hopelessness. We make notable strides with the realisation of the daunting challenge we need to confront. That is half the battle won.
However, to defeat this common enemy, the determinant will be and is what we do about it. Our youth need help, guidance and a support environment that will guarantee sustainable intervention.
The solution(s) is not singular in approach. Rather, it is abundantly clear that the solution must be comprehensive, intertwined and concretely coordinated to be meaningful with significant impact.
It must not be isolated and rest only with teachers and the education system. It must incorporate a new approach in our homes and how we raise our children. It must extend to our society, spiritual disposition and all elements of our interwoven lives to deliberately build a more positive future. It entails all who have achieved something to hold the hands of those left behind. Those who have survived the battering of life to sail on a less crooked path leading the pack of those lost on this journey.
Idealistic it may sound. But it remains the only hope we have for us to avert a catastrophe unfolding before our eyes if we do absolutely nothing about it.
If not you and I to play a part in this, then who?
The Gay story again
So the issue of gays and lesbians continues to pop up. It is in the news, print media, on television, private conversations and almost all corners we patronise.
The recent public acknowledgement by Barack Obama has fired it up even more. Recently in Zambia, it took centre stage after the visit by Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General. It was a highly anticipated visit from such a global figure but it ended in noticeable bad taste with his comments bordering on gay rights.
The rich and powerful are speaking up more loudly. Apart from the above two, we had UK’s Cameron tying aid to gay rights. The club is growing and all methods will be used to push this agenda. I remember recently seeing a British comedy “My family”. One of the couple’s sons was just about telling his parents that he was gay. It now seems clear to me that even previously innocent entertainment is a part of a coordinated way of justifying this and providing suggestions on how to explain it.
Africa has not been spared. We have gays and lesbians among us. Someone we know likely knows someone that’s gay. That is the reality smack in the face. It’s here. It’s official. Whether this existed on the continent or has been imported via our full embracing of westernisation is besides the point. It is here.
Pertinent uncomfortable questions and forthright answers
What then is the right position to take? Was Ban Ki Moon off the mark? Was Cameron on song for tying aid to gay rights? Is Obama showing leadership in acknowledging a trend that is fast becoming so strong and can not be ignored? Are gay people justified to cry for their right to be accepted and integrated as normal in society?
Call it bias, prejudice or a conservative narrow minded approach. I hold that there is a distinction between the normal order of things being improved or evolving and the order being distorted. Homosexuality is a distortion of the normal order of things.
God in the picture
I believe in a Supreme God that has created everything and all was beautiful from the start. Along the way, things went wrong and the chaos we see is testimony of that. To have the right perspective of what was good and approved by God, the Creator of all, we must then slide right back to what existed when He started it all.
There was man and when he needed company, there was woman. It may be the most simplistic of views but whoever said the truth is complex? To therefore come and hold a position that being gay is part of someone’s original makeup is absolutely absurd.
It is different when one is born without a limp or with a disability but to be born gay is certainly to suggest God made a mistake. It is equivalent to suggesting Sony intended to make an electronic entertainment gadget but ended up with a shoe. The make up and functions are totally different from the original intention in both cases.
Additionally, God the Creator (not any other) is very explicit and consistent about His position on certain issues. From the pages of the Old Testament to the New, homosexuality is abominable in His eyes. Refer to Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27. God has never held a position to be sin and alters that later to be acceptable. Even in allowing polygamy or divorce or seeing the filthy lifestyles we choose along the way, He does not in anyway sanction this. Instead He lets our desires and hard hearts lead us since we replace Him with those.
How can we who claim to know or serve God also hold a view in support of homosexuality? The truth demands that things are stated as bluntly as they should be. If we hold a position in support of homosexuality, we are not God’s own. He simply does not know us and we do not serve or know Him. It is as simple as that.
We may therefore then save ourselves from a chronic hypocrisy of calling Him “our God” but endorsing what He loathes. If that is the position taken, let us then also endorse murder, drug addiction, crime, corruption, prostitution and all other societal ills. What makes homosexuality right and all these others wrong and immoral?
The question of authority
It boils down to one’s authority in life. My authority and every christian’s is God. The standards then that are set by Him define what we subscribe to.
If one’s authority is man, then that one’s authority will be the likes of Barack Obama, Ban Ki Moon or the corrupted minds of groups and leaders that have approved of this choice as normal and acceptable in the vain hope that it will be authenticated.
They may have the money,influence and capacity to bulldoze their way on several issues but not the power to alter and dictate what is right or wrong. Or to buy away morality and a sober conscience prepared to stand on the right side of issues.
This is a moral position and the normal stance to be taken in the original scheme of things. A departure from this is a distortion of the original plan. There can be no other way to justify it. No money, influence, lobbying or power must be allowed to dilute morality and subdue the correct position demanded in such a situation.
Rights and freedoms
However, those that have opted for homosexuality do not cease to be human. They are our relatives, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and friends. They have simply made a wrong choice. This does not in any way suggest they be treated lower than animals or be subjected to abuse and be ostracised. They must enjoy their basic human rights and freedoms as citizens of our country, continent and world.
They must at the same time be reminded that all rights and freedoms are granted in conjunction with what is legal. Illegal, socially questionable and objectionable activities or lifestyles do not go together with rights or freedoms.
Take a stand
Homosexuality is not only illegal. It also is a choice that is largely deemed as immoral and unnatural.
There cannot be any plausible argument to support homosexuality, whether biological, psychological or social. It is an inappropriate lifestyle opted for by an individual against the moral dictates of society or spiritual standards rooted in truth.
It therefore follows that only Zambians, Africans or citizens of the world with loose morals and warped perspectives of sexuality, what is right or wrong, will be in support of homosexuality.
It has no place in our society and the people drowning in it deserve our intervention and support. Some of us evidently detest the lifestyle but the solution is not to throw the gay and lesbian “babies” out with the bath water. It is to help those we know are trapped in this illness to see the error, confront it and turn away from it.
As far as this goes, I see no reason why christians, other people of different religious persuasion or anybody in their right frame of mind, should struggle to hold a position on this issue. It is a black and white, land and water position. Either it is right or wrong. It has nothing to do with basic human rights or freedoms. Those have always been guaranteed but only for the right things.
Homosexuality is not one of those and it is my hope that the current Zambian draft Constitution under discussion must explicitly enshrine that this is an unacceptable form and choice of sexuality. In the absence of that, we will open ourselves to ill influences that ultimately will destroy our history, morality, inheritance and collective conscience, all in the name of modernity.
So Obama, Ban Ki Moon and their like can compromise on their values and morals for expediency’s sake or the pursuit of power, ambition or money. But Zambia, Africa and all right thinking individuals must not tag along selling their souls to tastes or habits that even the simplest of animals don’t practise.
We need to stand for what is right and reject such forms of corruption.
It is yet another long weekend. Four days to unwind, socialise and perhaps family time. The parties and drinks are undoubtedly all a part of this.
Take a stroll around the neighbourhood, the malls and pubs, what do you see? The drinks flow as everyone drowns in them. The picture is incomplete without the youth. A host of them can be seen gulping litres of alcohol, dancing, fighting and one need not guess what follows when the hyper males and females disappear in darkness in pairs.
We all want to enjoy our lives and spend time in our activities of choice.
That is true. So what then is the challenge seen in this picture of things?
It is the youth. This is the future. This is the generation that must steer the future of the nation in the very foreseeable future.
Yet it is a generation consumed in drug and alcohol excesses, peer pressure and popular behaviour. This has brought to the fore a host of challenges. Early pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, school and college drop-outs and without doubt, a lost generation. We are staring in the face of a disaster. The hopelessness is painfully clear.
In bemba, it is said “imiti ikula empanga”. The youth are the future. If we want to see the leaders of this country in the next few years, we only have to look around us. It is from this generation that this breed must be wrought. It is that sad realisation that must prompt us to jump out of our comfortable seats in seeking ways to avert catastrophe.
To do this, we then need to also know how we have been exposed to this and have ended up with such a battle.
In my mind’s eye, there are several things I feel we must pay attention to in order to appreciate why this generation seems lost.
Let us explore these.
1. Distorted and wrongly defined goals- the youth today have detached themselves from noble aspirations such as education. We have a generation that wants success but is not ready to work hard for this. When it all crumbles, this breeds hopelessness as they blame the world for their failure.
2. Poor mentorship and wrong role models- who is grooming this generation and the next? Where are the parents and guardians? So much has changed. Careers, ambitious pursuits, questionable social tastes and economic demands have combined and conspired to deprive the youth of the direction they need.
We see today that most of our children are raised by maids, relatives, TV and the internet. This happens while we chase careers and money for a good life and future.
As a result, our children are heavily exposed to the trends and influences they see more of than the guidance of their parents. It is on that basis that we now see gangsters, celebrities and the superficial life becoming the yardstick. The dressing, language, lifestyle and choices we see around are the evidence of this. A gap is created which us parents must fill with the right guidance. Any void must be filled by something and if we do not undertake to manage this, we can now see the result in most of our youth
3. Societal moral decay- related to the above, we have seen the ills that ravage society. Adultery, co-habiting, the case of sugar daddies and mummies, divorces, defilement and partying parents. These are but examples of the so many things gone wrong. Each week the news covers broken homes, domestic violence, lives lost on account of alcohol abuse, corruption, leaders arrested and charged. This has fast become the norm than exception, a very unfortunate situation whose far reaching impact is evident around us.
4. The rot in church-even spiritual leaders have failed to be the torch bearers society needs. If there was a pillar to offer hope, this is one. However, the church today seems an extension of the world. Compromise, the pursuit of wealth, politics and power squabbles are not uncommon. Greed has sunk its sharp teeth in the church’s flesh paralysing its moral authority. This means even the voice that could command some attention is stifled. Church leaders are in the news after marital scandals, in pubs with the flock and the naked ambition that showcases selfishness is clearly exposed.
5. Materialism and westernisation as a definition of success- as in the first point, you have to be “the bomb” to succeed at whatever cost. This is the philosophy and has led to the fast life the youth aspire for. The big flashy cars, fat wallets and a “rented” life of fun are all seen as success. In the end values are grounded on these and thus nothing solid remains to prepare the youth for the future. Hence we see kids drop out of school easily having invested time in parties, alcohol, sex and other appetites.
Sadly, with these ill elements, we are breeding a lazy generation that will not read or learn, go to school, prepare for positive contribution and develop skills to bring out their immense value.
6. Priorities speak- our priorities are not what we say they are. They instead are those we spend the most time on. If we use this as a standard for our youth then the clubs, bars and street time being “Yo’s” are priority. Thus there is no time to develop or engage actively in areas that will build solid characters.
7. The unwanted truth- when God is not in the picture, the whole piece falls apart. What are the values we live by? How is our collective spiritual health? We note here that God is not in any way an active part of our lives. Most of our youth are growing with a limited, if any, appreciation of who God is and His importance in our lives. We all have a part to play because this is the biggest challenge and the ripple effect in society is unmistakable.
In view of these points above, we see the scale of our challenge. We have a generation of leaders stepping off the stage for the next cast. Where is this cast meant to come from? It is the youth we see on the street, at the corner bar, in the club. The young pretty girl that loses her way and comes home pregnant. The wayward son that takes to smoking and drinking, a streetwise life and an empty life with no direction. A glimpse of hopelessness.
This is the leadership pipeline, the “imiti ikula”
Each time we see these scenes unfold, our minds and hearts must turn to what needs to be done.
Intervention starts now and we must find ways to provide guidance and direction to a lost generation. It starts with you and I. Us doing the right thing with our own lives, being examples worth following in how we conduct ourselves and ensuring charity begins at home. It is not the easiest of undertakings but happen it must.
It is there for all of us to see. A generation is crying out to be saved from themselves and a disastrous future.
Can you heed the call?