Weekly Newspaper

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issn 0856 - 9135
Issue No. 0933
December 10 - 16, 2016



By Prof. Raymond S. Mosha

Teaching ethics to pre-schoolers

In the previous article I discussed about the role of Schools in teaching Ethics. In this one I would like to look at what we can do to give a solid ethical foundation to our young ones: birth to five years. This responsibility falls on parents, grand-parents, guardians, families, teachers in pre-school, and the entire community. This exercise of teaching ethics to the young ones was less complicated in the African continent before the advent of colonizers and missionaries from other continents. At that time, we had what we can call a mono-culture, that is, one ethnical culture that was handed on from generation to generation without interference from other cultural elements. The raising of children was done in an interconnected way that consisted of an education for life (wisdom from proverbs, stories, art, music, song, dance, ritual, etc.), and an education for a living that consisted of various life skills, practical work on the farm, hunting, and so on. As I have mentioned in an earlier article, these were not two types of education. The education for life and education for a living were given holistically in an interconnected way that inspired the heart (spirit, soul), informed the mind and nourished the body. In those days the teaching of Ethics and Spirituality was delivered without slicing it into what today we see as various subjects in our schools. That kind of formation of children was, in my view, better than what we have today by dividing wisdom and knowledge into many disconnected subjects. In fact, our ancestors did not see wisdom and knowledge as two aspects, but as one interconnected whole.

Now that today we cannot go back and teach our young ones in the same way our ancestors did, we can at least learn from them. In this case, how can we form our children, birth to five years? How can teachers in pre-school form our young learners in ethics and spirituality? It is obvious (is it?) that the parents, families and communities where these children grow up are the first teachers for our young children. These are the first teachers that our children interact with before they go to pre-school. Their role in the formation of these young children is crucial in their spiritual development. Our ancestors knew that the best way of teaching these young ones is teaching by good example. Good example is far better than giving rules and regulations and using a cane for physical punishment. No amount of rules and caning of children will help our children if they do not see good examples from the adults that surround them. None. When I look back at my own experience before going to kindergarten (German kinder means children and garten means garden) what I remember vividly is the good examples of my parents and grandparents who worked hard all day and who cared for their families and neighbors in ways that are unsurpassable. These good examples still work in my heart and mind at this time. There is nothing like the power of good example. In my childhood I was also deeply inspired by the stories and proverbs that were quoted constantly in the tradition in which I grew up. Every event could be explained by a story, a proverb, a song and certainly a ritual.

That is that it was. What can we do now? What should parents of our young children do? There is no way we can run away from the importance of good example. No way! We should also use stories to inspire our children. We seem to have no time to talk to our children in these hectic times, in these times in which we are imprisoned by technological gadgets that eat the precious time that we should spend with our young ones. We just have to find time to put off the radio, the television, mobile phones and just literally talk to our children. My grown up children still remember the stories I told them in their childhood and have used those stories in their schools. I know that these stories continue to form them and their listeners.
What can pre-school teachers do? First, good example, secondly good example and thirdly: good example. Children learn quickly and fast. They learn from good examples and bad examples. Rules and regulations in the class will only supplement these good examples, not replace them. My kindergarten teacher, now in his nineties, was a gentleman through and through. He cared for us and taught us in a way that demonstrated that life is interconnected. I have no doubt that we can learn from our ancestors in this aspect. We owe it to our children.

(rmosha@depaul.edu, 0769-417-886 and 0783-417-886)




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