As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s independent status, it is important for us to reflect on what it really means to be independent. We may have achieved quite a lot as a nation but we certainly have a long way to go.
As a country we have an incredible combination of human, social, cultural and economic capital and we must continue to find ways to harness these resources to forge a nation and society of which we can all be proud.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of our student population are oblivious to the concept of our country having to fight to gain independence from a colonial power. This is reflected in the indifference with which the day is treated. It is a direct result of a generation growing up without a sense of national history, without which it is quite easy for young people to be devoid of any sense of patriotic pride.
While in most of the nation’s schools it is mandatory for the national anthem to be sung and the national pledge recited on a daily basis, this is hardly enough to instil the level of national pride we would like to see in citizens.
Our nation is in urgent need of citizens who are willing to place country before self. The level of social degradation we are witnessing can be attributed in large measure to our individual and collective sense of selfishness. The Government’s patriotism initiative is a welcome one in that regard.
Again it is worth pointing out that patriotism is instilled through a variety of ways and should not be left up to the school alone. This must begin in the home from a tender age. The efforts of the family and other institutions in society can then complement the work that goes on in school.
As such, this patriotism will be displayed in many tangible ways — from the way we keep our environment to the extent to which we tolerate corruption and white-collar crime. Collectively, we have displayed a history of becoming very patriotic whenever citizens achieve outstanding success on the global stage but that soon fizzles away until another national hero comes along. This part-time love of country is hardly enough to build a culture of patriotism.
At schools, homes and places of worship children must be taught, through example, that selfishness and greed are traits that are inimical to the creation of a fair and just society. Our national watchwords must serve as a moral compass to all citizens and we must constantly remind our children of this.
They must develop that sense of passion and desire to make their country proud in everything that they do. Teachers, notwithstanding the constraints of the taught curriculum, must endeavour to instil that sense of patriotism and national pride via the hidden curriculum.
Unfortunately, teachers can only teach these concepts if they themselves are endowed with such feelings. It is therefore incumbent upon teachers to enamour themselves with a firm sense of nationalistic pride so that they can discharge their social responsibility to society with a sense of diligence and honour. Our schools must be beacons of patriotism and provide children with living examples of the principles upon which our quest for independence was pursued and attained.
Notwithstanding the divisiveness that is often preached by elements of the society with political, sectoral and personal interests, our children must be taught to transcend those messages and rise to the challenge of creating a nation that can fulfil the hopes and dreams of all citizens.
Happy independence from the teachers of our nation!