The greater the community it serves, the better the action.
THE BOND BETWEEN THE LIVING AND THE DEAD
For Africans, the living and the dead share one world. When someone dies, they don’t cease to exist; they merely transfer to another life. There are good and bad people among the living, as well as good and bad spirits among the dead.
Good spirits guard and protect good people and the living are often named after good spirits (dead people who were good in life). Bad spirits are people who died as bad people. They seek revenge on those who – they think – wronged them in life.
INDIVIDUAL ACTIONS AND THE COMMUNITY
With their actions, the living and the dead affect each other. The individual’s actions are assessed based upon the extent to which they serve the community, which comprises the family, the clan and the tribe. The greater the community it serves, the better the action. Selfish acts are generally condemned. For example, to eat alone individually or as a family while the rest of the village or the clan is starving is considered a bad act. Those who display selfish and bad behavior are counseled by the elders in the hope they can become better people.
If someone behaves badly under the influence of others (whether living people or bad spirits), they are thought to have no control over their actions so they are not blamed completely. On the other hand, if they act badly of their own free will, then they are totally in control and are to blame in full. When bad people can’t even be helped by the elders, they are considered irredeemable and are ostracized so they don’t damage the community.
For Africans, a deep sense of belonging translates into a participatory approach to life. The foundation of African ethics lies in each one’s fulfillment of obligations towards the community. Honesty and truthfulness are highly valued virtues.
Information received by the individual is shared with the family, the clan and the tribe. To live in isolation and do things one’s own way is not consistent with African ethics.
Resource: The Foundations of African Ethics (Afriethics) and the Professional Practice
of Journalism: The Case for Society-Centred Media Morality by Francis P. Kasoma,
Professor and Head, Department of Mass Communication, University of Zambia.
Educating Africa’s future generations
An interview with Florence Oloo – Deputy Provost, Strathmore University (Nairobi, Kenya)
WHAT’S THE ROLE OF EDUCATION IN HELPING AFRICA DEVELOP?
African youths are eager to get a quality education. Parents would do anything to be able to send their children to university. They are willing to sell their cows and land to pay for their kids’ education because they know that proper education will give them better job opportunities. Having a good job means a better economic status, and the chance to get out of misery. So, education is essential; in my opinion, it’s actually the only way to develop the continent. If all the aid we receive was channeled more towards education, it would really benefit Africa.
STRATHMORE IS A HUB OF ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE BUT IT’S ALSO EXTREMELY INVOLVED IN DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS FOR THE COUNTRY’S MOST MARGINALIZED AREAS. WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPLES THAT GUIDE SUCH A STRONG COMMITMENT?
Strathmore was founded with the belief that every educational institution should make it its priority to serve its country and the society it is part of, with a careful eye towards its specific needs.
That’s why Strathmore is always mindful of its environment, to be able to identify the best way to address the problems that arise. Today, there are a lot of pockets of marginalization existing in Kenya so we’ve focused on implementing projects that help strengthen the education of at-risk youth, and support small entrepreneurial activities through proper training; it’s a way to give everyone a chance of improving their conditions.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE AFRICA’S BIGGEST PROBLEMS?
Corruption, for starters; in both the public and private sector. How can we solve it? Certainly not with street protests or revolutions, but with education. By teaching our students the importance of the common good. If our children grow up believing that they can help and “serve” others through their work and professional status, then there is going to be less and less room for corruption. Of course, it’s not a quick solution but education itself is a long-term endeavor.
WHAT ARE THE STRENGTHS THAT AFRICANS SHOULD INVEST IN TO PROGRESS AND FACE THEIR CHALLENGES?
Our strengths lie in our core values. The value of life, of the person. In Africa, a person’s worth is not based on what he/she owns but what he/she is as a human being. Our values are our most important assets and we must fight to preserve them against external influences. I’m not saying all Africans are virtuous but life here is valued in its very essence.
2015 IS THE DEADLINE TO MEET THE UNITED NATIONS’ MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS BUT PROJECTIONS ARE DISCOURAGING… IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT SHOULD THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY DO TO ACHIEVE THOSE GOALS?
It should support our ideas. It should help us implement our solutions to our problems. We are the ones who know what our problems are and we also know how to solve them. We don’t need external solutions; we need your support.
As far as the Millennium Development Goals go, we have achieved an important milestone which is a guarantee of free primary education for all. In 2015, the first generation of students who have benefited from this success will enter university. It’s a significant step forward.
GOING BACK TO STRATHMORE, WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MAIN RESULTS THE INSTITUTION HAS OBTAINED THROUGH THE YEARS?
Through the years, we’ve been able to educate open-minded professionals who have experienced first-hand the value of responsible citizenship and (working for) the common good.
Strathmore was the first interracial college to thrive in a time when the idea of unity among our different ethnic groups was novel to say the least. We had a civil war a few years back and we were the only university to stay open, not only to allow our students to continue their education but also to provide a place for open discussion, debate, and reflection on the positive aspects of unity, in spite of the ongoing tensions. It was a very positive, uplifting experience for everyone involved.
My Mozambique, A Story By Guenda Dal Cin – from Ialia, Mozambique
To get out. To run away from here. It would be all too easy. Easy like stealing to make money. Leaving means giving up from the start, never truly trying to fight for what you believe in. That’s how many think in Mozambique but I believe in it because this is my country. My parents raised me to feel strongly about my fatherland, they taught me Portuguese, our official language; I also learned our dialect and by “our” I mean that of the Chingana tribe.
We’ve got 16 ethnic groups in Mozambique, each with their own language; as in all of Africa, the majority of us here feel a strong sense of belonging to our ethnic group and its centuries-old traditions. We don’t have that nationalistic pride to say “we’re all Africans” or “we’re all brothers”; it’s an important value that we are lacking in Mozambique.
I wish I could let everybody know about the beauty of this big and generous country, which gives us everything we need, while many leave and go where they think they can make a fortune, where they can make it big, like in South Africa. My country is very poor; it was destroyed by the civil war and keeps getting battered by tornadoes and floodings; we’ve got social, economic, political, health, and legal problems, yes…but you’ve got to understand, it’s only a bit more that 30 years old. We had to start from scratch, after years of being under the Portuguese, who exploited our lands but also brought developments.
I am not trying to come up with excuses for Mozambique but I wish I could make my people see they can’t leave because only if we all stay, work, and produce can the country grow. I really think the whole process needs to start from education because it’s like the foundations of a house: you can’t build it without its foundations. Education should be guaranteed for all, so it can fight ignorance and bring freedom, it can shape the youngsters and help them find work; it can even beat AIDS because we need knowledge to understand what must be improved, what is right and what is wrong.
I’m not presumptuous; I’m not a hopeful naïve kid who doesn’t know anything about life.
If I could change my country, I’d first improve education and then I’d build public infrastructures, a solid healthcare system and all those things that a population needs. I think about these things a lot and dream of becoming a politician but I have no chance of getting there. You can hope for that only if you have an education, and money…and I have neither.
I didn’t get the opportunity to go to school. I have been working since I was 12 to help my family, after my parents died in the tornado that hit the south of Mozambique in 2000. I am the first born so my younger brother and I had to take on all responsibilities. Working the land wasn’t enough to feed my 5 brothers and my 70-year-old grandpa. It’s almost a miracle to reach that age in Mozambique, you know; he’s the wise-man of the village, respected by all, but cannot provide for all of us. So I had to come up with a second job.
I would hitchhike to the capitol city or I’d take the “chaspa”, Maputo’s little bus – the only means of transportation if you don’t own a car. I’d get stationed on the crowded market street and wait for clients. To do what? I was a “sapateiro”, a cobbler, using my grandpa’s old and rusty tools. It’s a humble job, it only pays around 2,000 or 3,000 metacais per client, whether I polish or mend the shoes. Just to give you an idea, low-quality rice costs about 7,000 metacais, so with my pay I could just buy the essentials that I couldn’t get from the land: salt, soap, sugar, you know…
It was hard at first but then we got used to it and managed to get by.
Working the land was really hard and stressful; going into the city was almost fun, by comparison. You see, that’s when I first fell in love with my country. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked my village but until then, my perception of the world had been very limited, living in a remote place with never-ending fields and a group of shacks made of bricks, hay or metal sheets, here and there.
We lived in a small house with dirt floors and all the essentials, even a TV; so we weren’t really cut out of the world. But time almost slows down in these places; there’s a sense of calm that you can’t get in the city, of course, but I would feel so powerless at the mercy of nature and its catastrophes. I would feel like I was missing something; at times I would almost feel short of breath, as if deep down I knew that wasn’t the right place for me.
Maputo was my place; a real city, alive, with more than a million people. The air is different here; there’s movement and action, noise and chaos, people talking, laughing, yelling, trying to sell their merchandise at the market, a tangle of stands with the colorful fruits blending into the hues of the women’s “kapulanas” (traditional fabrics).
The women go around town with baskets full of fruit on their heads, people walk along the streets paved in colonial times, or dusty streets full of holes. The cool thing about these streets is that you know right away where you are, just by the smell: of food, dirt, garbage, fish… Ok, they can be very unpleasant sometimes when it’s scorching hot but I’ve gotten used to it by now.
Maputo is unique and I feel one with it but I know that all that glitters is not gold.
This city is a contradiction, a fusion of poverty and wealth, with the rich’s row houses surrounded by barbed wire, as if they were elephants’ reserves. Then you turn the corner and the real Africa is right there in front of you, with its dilapidated buildings, the uneven roadways, the beggars, the swarms of kids playing with a ball – happy, even with so little.
This is Maputo, and this is Africa, really: the real values are not wealth and power, but those that keep a family together; love, sharing a small meal sitting by the fire, songs, and dances…this is the real happiness.
Every time I head back home at night, I know that’s true.