By D. F. Effiong
There exist in every human being, a certain nostalgic feeling at the experience of an event, meeting or thought entertained especially at the reminiscences of days ago. I recall with enthusiasm the feeling that was exhumed at the sight of secondary school students with whom I was to work with. However, after a couple of hours spent in dialogue and questioning, I noticed something incredible amongst them.
‘Sir, please why are we not allowed to use phones in school?”
“Can you please talk to our principal to allow us make friends? He is too strict!”
“Why are we told to abstain from sexual intercourse, yet condoms are distributed to prevent disease and pregnancy?”
There seemed to be a high level of observation, curiosity, optimism, fears, worries and most importantly questions surrounding the recent moral trends in the society. But what really happens in our secondary schools? What lessons do the students really learn apart from class subjects or courses? What teachers are employed to teach the young minds? Are teachers open enough to share moral issues in class to aid the students? What qualities are sought for by employers or principals or the government in employing secondary school teachers apart from certificates? ‘Way back in 1996, John David, a student of medicine at Annamalal University, Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, killed and chopped his junior pon Navarasu’s body into several parts and scattered them in different places… Last year, a class 9 student of St. Mary’s Anglo-Indian School, stabbed his Hindi teacher, Uma Maheswari, to death for complaining to his parents about his poor academic performance.’ (cf. Firstpost). What really is the catalyst that spurred these violent clashes? Why the trend of students and girls committing suicide after getting upset over minor matters? These are the questions, amongst others that beg for modern and practical answers. I seek herein to offer parallel views concerning the impact of moral explosiveness and its destruction in our secondary schools.
Moral Instructions are “rooted in a past that is often thousands of years old and manifesting themselves in forms of religion, philosophy and poetic genius of every time and of every people, these civilizations and cultures offer their own interpretation of the universe and of human society, and seek an understanding of existence and of the mystery that surrounds it. Who am I? Why is there pain, evil, death, despite all the progress that has been unbearable? What will there be after this life? These are the basic questions that characterize the course of human life.’ (cf. II Vat. Council, Gaudium et Spes, 10: AAS 58(1966), 1032. Socrates knew centuries ago, that these questions, being quite complex, needed a generation of young philosophers who are enlightened, hence that popular adage of his, “know yourself”. There was indeed in our African traditional setting, a deification of the community, the individual and the proverbs of the sages. This was reflected in the courage inherent in cultural and traditional practices, a ‘be a man!’ concept of discipline and moral strength and authority. So you see! Moral instruction is as old as man! These ancient paradigms are quite important if we must keep building on this foundation.
“The fundamental questions accompanying the human journey from the very beginning take on even greater significance in our own day, because of the enormity of the challenges, the novelty of the situations and the importance of the decisions facing modern generations…one of such challenges is that of truth itself… and the second challenge is found in the understanding and management of pluralism and differences at every level: in ways of thinking, moral choices, culture, religious affiliation…the third challenge being globalization” (compendium of the social doctrine of the church, 2004). These challenges however, opens a new era that really concerns moral instructors, especially in secondary schools.
Are these students taught how to handle social gadgets or how to ‘visually’ relate with strangers? Are these students taught consequences of lack of self control or are they just taught how to ‘protect’ themselves in this wicked generation? Are these students taught the wisdom that comes from reading good books? In an era where talents or gifts are encouraged, I dare to say that secondary school students should look beyond the television, make-beliefs, popular musicians or sportsmen or sportswomen into themselves and bring new light.
According to Chennai, Oct 13 (IANS), the scrapping of moral instruction classes in the schools, the near absence of physical sporting activities and lack of adequate parental supervision at home are some of the reasons for students turning into killers or committing suicides…the general lowering of tolerance levels in society, the influence of social media and teachers becoming more focused on completing the syllabus are some of the other reasons. “Research studies have found that the foundation of a person’s moral values solidifies by his seventh year. Parents and teachers should take extra care to inculcate good values during this period which will guide the person till his/her end,” Chitra Aravind, a city-based consultant psychologist, said in response to an IANS survey on what ails society today. Let’s all accept the urgency of today’s call to a diligent accompaniment in our children’s formative years (herein, the secondary school students), by reenacting and encouraging these foundational lessons in our secondary schools.