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Culture vs rights: 50 years after independence

VARIOUS societies define culture in different ways. The definition of culture has evolved over the years as a result of the advent of children’s rights.
However, many adults feel that in the past these rights were never recognised but they have still turned out to be responsible citizens.
During a training workshop by the Media Network on Child Rights and development, this subject was discussed at length and some interesting arguments were brought out.
For instance Brenda Mufalari of Zambezi FM wondered whether children’s rights are helpful or not.  She argued, “In our time, children were taught to respect elders. Whenever an adult called you, you had to kneel before them and wait to hear what they had to say. But nowadays, when a child is called, they stand over your head and even speak to you as though they have more important things to do and you are wasting their time.
Another example is the initiation ceremonies, where girls were taught manners, how to dress in front of men and especially their fathers. They were also told how to take care of themselves during their menses, but now that is lost and this is viewed as old fashioned by the children of our day. And everything is in the name of their rights.”
Another issue raised was based on the infamous proverb ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ by Andrew Mukoma who said “what good does it do for children not to be spanked in school, yet in the name of positive reinforcement children are forced into  immoral behaviour. For instance I visited a school where two children were caught as a couple, and were suspended.  They started cohabiting in the compound outside the school; my question is, is this issue of rights really helping us?
From the above comments it seems as a society, we are throwing away the baby with the bath water. While the Rights may be abused, the truth is, there is no one right, that does not come with responsibility. There is no Right to disrespect an adult. In fact the African Charter on the Rights and welfare of a child encourages the upholding of our culture.
While these rights are against corporal punishment, they are pro- discipline. Their purpose is not to give unnecessary, unhelpful freedoms to children but rather build pro-active, assertive individuals. Therefore one wonders where the gap is.
A few observations would suggest; where are the parents in all this? Simple choices like buying a school going child a smart phone and leave it unsupervised, gives that child freedom to dangerous vices such as pornography.
With the growing popularity of cable television, are parents constantly on the lookout as to what their children are watching? Is the school the primary place for children to be disciplined? Or is the old adage indeed true- ‘charity begins at home’?
While there is indeed an acknowledged high degree of moral decay, each group has a role to play in creating a better Zambia for children 50 years and beyond, by embracing helpful cultural practices and upholding children’s rights.
The author of this article is a member of the Children’s News Agency (CNA)-Livingstone Bureau. cnazambia@gmail.com

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