By Juliet Rogers,
In the past, Africans were well-known as real exponents of good moral background or sound Afro moral education. Before independence, most African countries exhibited sound moral behavioural codes which in some cases was mistaken for weakness. But today, in a world of changing values, where the traditional ethos of Africans have been seriously eroded by the Western Culture, it is very difficult to reckon how Africa as a Continent has been able to portray sound discipline and moral values which have complemented its behavioural codes in a world of changing values.
There was hardly in times past any African nation which did not value moral education as a recipe for national development. The freedom of the typical Africa society was almost invariably curtailed by the need for respect to elders at all levels. This was made manifest by the fact that moral education was widely taught to school going children at all levels.
In extreme situations, where a child was unable to go to school and was therefore illiterate and distant from civilization, secret societies were formed with the primary aim of training the African child to be disciplined at all levels in order to be fully prepared to approach society, respecting it expected norms at adulthood. Such societies included the Bondo society in Sierra Leone for instance for the girls, and in case of the boys, the dreaded Poro society.
Eventually, with the onset of civilization, even these secret societies have been subject to serious criticisms. International Civil Societies often charge these cultural societies as being primitive and harsh. Some even consider these cultural practices as a breach of the human rights of the individual. In such, they are now calling for a total ban of these secret societies practices from Africa and such as, the ‘Female Genital Mutilation’ (FGM) practised by the Bondo society which they considered as barbaric.
As civilization continues to spread worldwide and with the impact of scientific and technological change being felt in almost every corner of the world now fast becoming a global village. Despite this change in circumstances, it is doubtless true that “Discipline is required as a strong force to transform the face of Africa.”
There is also a popular saying that “Manners maketh the man.” This sententious saying could be interpreted to mean that good manners or social codes of conduct shape our personalities and that habitually acting in a certain way starts to mould and shape our personality. According to this interpretation, good manners are not just ornaments to our lives, but they actually shape how we think.
In this connection, it is God’s will that mankind treats his companion with adequate love and respect. In the Bible, we are enforced to love our neighbours as ourselves. In pre-colonial Africa, children were well used to pay homage not only to their parents but also to elders who bore their responsibilities. There was hardly a typical African village where a wife would not stoop down to accost her husband. The children would also bow down to greet their parents. The Africans are strong of the belief that before honour comes humility and Africans all over did not eschew the practices of love and respect for elders and authorities. We must not forget in Romans 13 in the Holy Bible that, we are commanded to show respect for authorities. The idea of promoting discipline as a strong force to transform the face of Africa is not a novelty. Discipline therefore whether fiscal, moral, social or political is indeed a prerequisite for the advancement of any society.
In the meantime, reflect on these words:
“Never in a million years that the world would be in peace without discipline. Discipline is needed for a better society, it’s for the people in any community. It should always be applied, young or old, student or not. Being disciplined should be in each and everyone’s character, something that should always be applied and never forgotten. You can’t be an exception to this matter, discipline is the key, the key to a better living.”
The National Dance Troupe of Sierra Leone led by the late John Akar in the sixties, for instance, scored laurels in the international scene because, not only for their exuberance in promoting the Africa Culture but also for their apparent exhibition of discipline, courtesy and obedience to their discipline.
When self-discipline conceives, it engenders wisdom and probity which are indispensable elements. These illuminate the integrity of the individual and sustain its academia.
Low level of individual self-discipline (or self-control as the form of self-discipline) leads to different problems in social and personal life (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005). And vice-versa, strong confidence and high level of self-discipline facilitates success, better achievements and reaching the goals (de Ridder, Lensvelt-Mulders, Finkenauer, Stok & Baumeister, 2012) which, in their turn, improve the mood and makes people happier and gladder (Hofmann, Luhmann, Fisher, Vohs, & Baumeister, 2013). People with high level of self-discipline much better are able to control their daily and routine activities, and as a result, usually, avoid problems, cope with the tasks and overcome possible difficulties. Such people always try to find the most suitable solution to solve a problem, and their resistance desire in unfavourable conditions remains longer than those without self-control (Hofmann, Baumeister, Főrster & Vohs, 2012). It is also found that student achievements in university might be better predicted based on their self-discipline level rather than their scores shown in a school diploma (Baumeister, & Tierney, 2011). With this realisation, there is an incontrovertible true tenet asserted by Tryon Edwards that “The great end of education is to discipline rather than to furnish the mind; to train it to the use of its own powers, rather than fill it with the accumulation of others.” ___(1)
As Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878 – 1969), one of the belated most prominent liberal ministers of the early 20th century has written:
“No horse gets anywhere until he is harnessed. No stream or gas drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is turned into light and power until it is tunnelled. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined.”
In conclusion, it is not only essential but also pertinent for us, Africans to be cognizant of the fact that: “Nations rise or fall on the basis of their moral values. A nation that focuses on building the infrastructural foundation but ignores the moral foundation will have great difficulties.”