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SR DR SOLOME NAJJUKA: A case for the centrality of the family in development

Sr. Dr. Najjuka Solome is a Senior Lecturer at Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Victoria University (PHOTO /Courtesy)

It is about time to begin preparing our young ones to return to school next year and we know quite well this new year will be far from the ordinary freshness of any other supervening years we have lived – 2022 will be a challenging, but may be a graced year too!  COVID 19 will still be with us, and we must admonish our young ones to stay vigilant and keep away from the contagion. However, this is not the only pithy reminder or training we need to bequeath to them. I wish to suggest that we start them off at a much deeper level considering what lessons COVID 19 has had to teach us – let us talk to our children about the centrality and meaning of our families, this smallest and fundamental unit of our society and nation.

More to the point, it would be important to underscore that when schools closed and everything went bleak, we all ran back to our families… we hid under the wings and familiar aegis of our families, our parents, siblings and close relations that make this well-knit cell of our social life. Our families are the bedrock of our nations and remain forever our first schools, first awareness, first loves, first life pavers, and again last hiding places when all seems lost. Nations build on good families as they only put flesh on the scaffolding of virtues and mindsets that are laid and rolled out in our homes.

Your family or home is the campus or loadstar for your future development, even though the fortuitous or chance factor may play a critical role in your life.  We effusively applaud our parents who have given their all to keep our children and youth safe and away from ineptitude and self-sabotage. The centrality of our families in national building and in our own personal development is succinctly explained by Confucius who shares the insight that the life of every human being is played out within the context of their particular family, for better or for worse. For Confucius it is one’s family and the complex of relationships that constitute it, rather than the solitary individual, that is the basic unit of humanity.

Some scholars posit that a society whose historical journey is entrusted to the guiding hand of tradition sleepwalks through history, but it does not take much thought to realise that we cannot live without recourse to our history where we often enough pick lessons that chisel and mould our families into places of wisdom that shape our children and youth into future nation builders and patriots of gravitas. As our children can now more than ever clearly see the value of our families, we must teach them to stem the tide and make their contributions to the family in all its aspects through hard work, generosity, endurance, self-sacrifice, faith, and trust.  There is a common saying among the people: “The empire, the state, and the family”: the foundation of the empire lies with the state; the foundation of the state lies with the family; the foundation of the family lies with the person (Mencius 4A.5).

Our children must well understand the economy, dynamics, and exigences of the family and know that nothing comes on a silver plata. They must let their contribution to their families be seen, they must learn to live in harmony in their homes. This is how we are going to evade parasites and groom wealth creators of tomorrow. Today we depend for life’s necessities almost wholly upon the activities of others. The work of thousands of human hands and thousands of human brains lies back of every meal you eat, every journey you take, every book you read, every bed in which you sleep, every house you enter, every tablet you swallow, every telephone conversation, every message you receive, and every garment you wear. This should be intravenously fed to our children, imprinted carefully on their very receptive minds – They must make their contributions and leave paw prints in their homes each single holiday, and each single day.

For our take home, we should ensure that in our training and mentoring we must have our children dirty their hands, … give them the pleasure to serve and the wonder and satisfaction that accrues from accomplishing a good task, albeit with weariness and some honourable callouses in their tiny hands. Another moot point here is that our children should be made aware of the mutual responsibilities required to sustain the so-called five relationships—father–son, ruler–subject, husband–wife, older brother–younger brother, and friend– friend—they provide a model for those around them to follow and thereby bring harmony to family, community, and empire (Confucius teaching).

Our young ones should be taught to seize opportunities that stroll past them incessantly, for it is true that an ocean of bliss may rain down from the heavens, but if you hold up only a thimble, that is all you receive. Note that lessons on recognizing and seizing chances, lessons on entrepreneurship and “okulembeka” will not yield, unless the family has done its first part. We should also talk to our children about minimalist living – the power of living with less, with only what you need and avoid squandering resources in this, our developing world. Confucius was clearly alive to the importance of wealth generation. When asked by a follower what should be done to improve the lot of the people, Confucius replied that there were two essentials: educate the people, and make them wealthy. Education was required in order to understand how to use wealth wisely, not squander it on personal pleasures; wealth, in its turn, paid for education and made it possible.

The onus still lies on the parents’ shoulders to bring up our children to be creative, for as Einstein claims, “imagination is better than knowledge” for in our struggling economies there are so many challenges to overcome. The cities of today look different from the jungles of our ancestors and we imagine that because the brain of humans overcame the old menaces no new ones have arisen to take their place. But look at the environmental challenges besetting us. Let us produce more Greta Thunbergs to lead the world in staving off world calamities, even as they are in their tender years – let us build confidence and awareness in our children before they leave our homes, and the schools will shape up what we have begun – “For God only sends a thread for a nest once began”.  It is now time to pen off, but I imagine that we have worked it out that to enable and empower our families as our special and central units for state building and for development, there should be an investment in family studies and more funding for family research. This should also be our systematic shift amidst this daunting epoch.

Sr. Dr. Solome Najjuka

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Victoria University

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Sr. Maria (MSW student)

    09/11/2021 at 2:32 PM

    I agree with the theme about the inevitable role of the family in development, with the pandemic’s ability to block East and West, there is left just the family to exhibit its ability to ensure continuity for the lives attached to it alongside the pops and corns from the life stressors caused by the pandemic restrictions.
    Thanks Dr. Solome for this awakening message.
    Sr. Maria

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