As a country, we are hit by a decline of ethical and moral living. Ethics seem to have lost a place in our society. Most people seem not to mind about others. This is almost in all spheres of life. If it’s not a politician or a civil servant who has embezzled public funds meant for provision of social services, then it’s a head teacher of a school who never registered candidates for final examinations and swindled their money. Parents use their children to tell lies; manufacturer’s put on market counterfeited products to maximize profits at the expense of innocent lives; if it’s not contaminated milk, then its beef injected with formalin or Jik. Moreover, to get a service from a government agency, it has become normal that you have to pay cash or in kind for a service that should be free of charge.
As if that is not enough, government medicines in hospitals are being sold to the public, yet they are meant to be free of charge. This twist could be an explanation as to why the President of our country has resorted to placing soldiers in most key posts because for long, it’s believed that our comrades in UPDF are professional and put service first before anything else. What remains a dilemma is whether our friends in UPDF study from different schools. Or, is it the training they undergo? We might be living a life similar to prisoners because of consequences of disrupted education. In such a precarious moral situation in Uganda, we need to define the root cause of the problems.
We also ought to analyse the role of schools in character education. We need to bring to mind our African saying that “a stick can be bent when it’s still young” therefore, to promote character development in our children, we need to analyse the role of schools in character development of our learners who make up subsequent citizens. The approach of character sensitization may not lead to desired change in character. It’s like informing an alcoholic to stop taking alcohol without applying a practical approach on him or her. May be this is why corruption has become a rhetorical song and some civil servants have resorted to syndicate corruption which is more complex to track.
To succeed in our country, we must combine three things; that is humanism, education and authentic development. These should be fully integrated in our education at family and school levels. The type of education I have in mind stands on three legs: intellectual formation or formation of the mind, moral formation or formation of the character, technical formation or formation of the hands. It is a tripodal notion of education, and we must bear in mind here that whatever is designed to stand on three legs will be tripped over if any of the legs is broken. Furthermore, these three legs of education must stand on the ground of spiritual formation. In other words, without spiritual formation, education has no foundation. Agents of formal education assist the individual to actualize potentials for self-fulfilment, the attainment of which is integral to authentic development. Uganda’s education manifests an imbalance. More has been done in skills and knowledge acquisition but a gap still remains in character development. Yet, life without character is like writing on water.
The tragedy of under development in Uganda, our land of enormous but unfulfilled potentials, populated by men and women of innumerable and exquisite talents, is in fact the tragedy of a monstrous misconception of what it means to be human, of what development is, and of what education is. Our policy makers have prioritized education in science and technology to the detriment of studies in humanities because we are in a hurry to meet up with the rest of the world when it comes to technology. The problem, however, is that technique without virtue is another name for science without conscience.
The question remains, what should be done by schools to address the neglected domain of education of moral formation? For a school to succeed in character education, an effort must be put by the school administrators to integrate it in the daily chores in the school. It is vital for a school to outline the goals of education in its mission statement, and a school that seeks to strengthen the character of its students should affirm its commitment to doing so in its mission statement. Each school needs to describe the kind of future citizens it wants to help develop and outline the philosophy that underlies its approach. The philosophy and approach should involve clear ethical expectations of students and teachers and modelling by teachers to guide the building of individual virtues in students.
Schools should provide opportunities for students not just to think and do, but also understand what it means to be and become a mature, reflective person. They should help prepare students for the tests of life, rather than simply a life of tests. ‘Character virtues should be reinforced everywhere: on the playing fields, in classrooms, corridors, interactions between teachers and students, in assemblies, parades, posters, head teacher messages and communications, staff training, and in relations with parents.’ No one doubts that belonging to a school community is a deeply formative experience that helps make students the kind of persons they become. Teaching a subject with integrity involves more than helping students to acquire specific knowledge and skills. The character and integrity of the teacher is more fundamental than personality or personal style in class, and it is no less important than mastery of subject content and techniques of instruction.
In a wide sense, character education permeates all subjects, wider school activities and general school ethos; it cultivates the virtues of character associated with common morality and develops students’ understanding of what is excellent in different spheres of human endeavour. Human flourishing requires moral, intellectual and civic virtues, excellence specific to diverse domains of practice or human endeavour, and generic virtues of self-management (known as enabling and performance virtues).
Sadly, these days, success is gauged in terms of material or wealth acquisition. When economic gains are prioritized over human dignity, that is when the world is ordered as if the human person existed for the economy and for the state, and not the other way round. Education ought to be taken as a holistic approach to life.
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