Editor's Comment

Strong families foundation for nation-building

President Edgar Chagwa Lungu. PICTURE: SALIM HENRY/STATE HOUSE ©2017

FOR an umpteenth time, President Edgar Lungu returned to the theme of national unity.But this time around, he dealt on the importance of family as a prerequisite to national unity.
President Lungu used the occasion at which a newly built house was handed over to a landmine victim to underscore the importance of national unity.
He said the union of family, whether nucleus or extended, is important in the upholding of national unity.
We agree.
Family is considered the basic cell of society. This is especially so in Africa, where family has always played a crucial role.
But we are aware that the role of family, particularly the extended one, has been diminished in recent times.
Traditionally, Africans have had strong family foundations. This is typified in the sense that there was no such thing as an uncle or aunt in an African society. We only had fathers and mothers.
There were no such things as nephews and nieces.
We only had sons and daughters. There were no such things as cousins. We only had brothers and sisters.
That is how we lived, and happily for that.
But, unfortunately, so many changes have taken place in a typical African family.
The consequences of these changes can be seen on a national scale.
For instance, in a typical African society, we would not have orphans so to say.
Where one lost a parent or both, it was expected that the extended family would take care of those remaining behind.
But things have drastically changed to an extent where in certain cases, orphaned children are condemned to a life on misery. Consider the many street kids.
Of course not all street kids are orphans. Some of the street kids are coming from functional families.
But we have had cases where when parents die, the extended family opts to take the kids to orphanages, yet these extended family members are capable of taking care of them.
This should certainly not be the case.
We are aware that changes in the socio-economic fortunes of many families have had a bearing on the relations with the extended members of the family.
We know that there are some families that are barely able to take care of their own needs and therefore cannot afford to take in extended family members.
But even with that, we are aware that there are some African elites who, despite having the means to support members of the extended family, have deliberately decided not to do so.
They consider extended families to be a burden. Even when they have the means to support members of the extended family, they have opted not to do so.
Instead of looking after their grandparents, they decide to take them to old people’s homes. This is unacceptable for an African.
The same goes for orphanages. Orphanages should only accommodate children whose relatives cannot be traced or indeed those who are unable to survive on their own.
Why should we have a child in an orphanage in Mtendere when the uncle (read that as father) or aunt (read that as mother) is somewhere in Woodlands?
As a society, and as a nation, we need to start valuing family unity. We cannot afford to have broken family structures.
They have a bearing on society. When we have strong family structures, then we are assured of having strong societies, which are important in nation-building.

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