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Where have all the parents gone?

FRIDAY, July 21, 2017: Many years ago, there was a folk song that became a hit all over the English-speaking world. It was entitled, “Where have all the flowers gone?” It was written by Pete Seeger in 1955 and developed further in 1960. The first verse went like this…

“Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?”
In this verse, girls pick the flowers. In the next verse, young men take the girls. In the next verse, the army takes the young men.
Then in the next verse, the soldiers are buried in graves.
In the final verse, flowers are back, growing on the graves. It is full circle!
I first heard it in my youth and its simple message and melody had a profound impact on me.
I realised that life goes somewhere and yet at the same time it goes in a circle. Each one of us plays his role and moves on. This is what makes the world go around.
I was thinking about this song when I read an article today on the Open Zambia news website about the need for hygiene in Zambia.
The article quoted former Copperbelt University Student Union leader, Humphrey Milandile, bemoaning our dirty surroundings.
He said that there had been a lot of effort by both local and national government to draw our attention to the need to keep our environment clean through the “Make Zambia Clean” campaign but that these efforts had not yielded much fruit.
In his view, this failure was due to the lack of active participation by citizens in this country. Mr Humphrey Milandile said, “The problem lies with us the citizens.
People are too irresponsible, primitive and careless to protect the environment.” No doubt, he has a point.
He stated that it was because of our dirty environment that we had diseases like typhoid, cholera, and malaria.
He then called on the local authorities and schools to come up with programmes that would educate the citizens about this all-important responsibility.
It was precisely at that point that I remembered Pete Seeger’s classic. How come Mr Humphrey Milandile did not mention parents in his appeal?
He only appealed to the schools and to the government. I thought to myself, “Where have all the parents gone?”
Charity begins at home. The cycle must start from there before it goes out to schools and government.
If children are not taught the importance of hygiene in the home, the schools and government have an impossible task on their hands. Parents must do their job first.
Sadly, the tendency for well-meaning individuals in society to skip the role of parents is growing.
It has become pandemic especially in the Western world, where even sex education is now becoming the preserve of schools and government. Surely, that is wrong!
The assumption seems to be that the role of parents is to simply ensure that children are given physical food and clothes and a place to watch television and sleep.
Everything else must be done either by the school where the children go or by the government.
The excuse seems to be that because parents are not doing their job, so the schools and government have to step in.
Is that true? Have schools and government made a concerted effort to call upon parents to do their job in training up the next generation of adults?
If they have done so, show me where. Even many non-governmental organisations are going right past parents in their efforts to save our children and the world.
So, I keep asking the question, “Where have all the parents gone?” Have we suddenly become extinct?
Schools and government can save themselves a lot of time and energy if they can only learn to work with parents.
We brought these kids into the world. We want them to live in a clean and beautiful world. We need a little help from schools and government. That is all.
Let’s add to Pete’s song, “Where have all the parents gone? Long time passing. Where have all the parents gone? Long time ago. Where have all the parents gone? Schools and governments took them everyone. When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?”
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