Teaching morals alone won’t save Uganda

Mr Johnson Mayamba 

What you need to know:

I want to call us to heel to discuss our hypocrisy. If we want our children to be ethical, we must become ethical first and the children will follow. They are because we are.

Last week, the Catholic Church tabled 10 education reform demands to the Amanya Mushega-led Education Policy Review Commission. Among the reforms, the church wants the government to cap tuition, pay equal salaries, especially to secondary school teachers, standardise curriculum and make pre-primary education mandatory.

It also demanded that the government increase both capitation grants and research funding, and make Christian Religious Education (CRE) compulsory in church-founded schools. The church argued that the teaching of CRE, which is compulsory in Senior One and Senior Two and an elective for candidates and semi-candidates, is important to impart Christian values and integrity and rehabilitate the morals of Ugandans. This is my gist!

Personally, as someone who studied in traditional Catholic schools and later graduated from an Anglican university, their emphasis on delivering holistic education and raising a well-grounded individual cannot be understated. While the church, not limited to the Roman Catholic, may have a valid point that values are important in everyone’s life, they could be imbibed among children not by teaching alone but by demonstrating. That is what this country lacks.

Many of us look up to the church as the only place for moral shaping of humanity. From here, we are taught as children the needed values such as obedience, respect for one another, humility, and responsibility. It is in church that children are told never to commit crime, adultery, cheat and many other social ills.

The church – by its virtue of preaching the moral high ground – is expected to hold the powers that be to account to its citizens in all spheres like corruption, bad governance, and violence, among others. The church is thus seen to have a role in the political, social, economic and sometimes judicial issues.

However, it makes matters worse that the church, which is supposed to safeguard against moral decay, is where the vice stems from. Day in, day  out, we never run short of stories of some pastors fleecing their flock of their hard-earned cash. We have seen reports of religious leaders sexually molesting congregants with impunity, especially minors.

There are some living larger than life while majority of their congregation lacks food and shelter. Some are leaving their marriages and going after other people’s spouses. When we expect the church to guide everyone in politically charged moments, some have instead taken sides, leaving the congregation divided. The same church is quick to receive a portion of stolen taxpayers’ money as offertory and in form of gifts.

It then pats the backs of corrupt individuals and human rights violators, only to issue lukewarm statements or go mute. We all know these and more are happening but we shy away from discussing them in the open but our children are watching. Is it just about “do as I say but not as I do”?

Outside of church, most of our current leaders pride themselves in having attended these traditional church-founded schools and still take front seats in our churches, yet injustices on ordinary citizens by the same people persist. How do we defend that before our children?

Unfortunately, we are in the digital revolution. These things cannot be hidden any longer. Children, due to their exposure to mass media, are being influenced by what they consume and eventually grow up that way. Due to lack of values from those they look up to, they adhere to whatever is shown on the TV and the internet, ruining their lives.

I want to call us to heel to discuss our hypocrisy. If we want our children to be ethical, we must become ethical first and the children will follow. They are because we are. Can those called to do the work of God remain true to their calling and stop delegating it to others? Teaching morals in schools alone will not save our society until we start living by the example and demonstrate as such to our children.

Mr Johnson Mayamba is a human rights journalist.