By Rev. Fr. Gerald Nwafor
The Europeans have said that respect is reciprocal. Africans said that respect brings longevity so that you will be respected too in your old age (Onye fee Eze, Eze elue). Asians believe that what you give is what you will get in return hence when it is bad you have karma. Americans say respect is earned so be careful you do not incur insults. In any of the above-mentioned traditions respect is a positive value.
Whether you earn it or receive it because of your age, it is of great value. The challenge of 21st-century society is that respect is dying away. The young ones feel entitled and if you deny them the entitlement, they will deny you respect. The elders feel that the young ones are not listening to them but listening to the media (social or mainstream, it doesn’t matter), the fact is that their attention is on the phones and television.
How would we earn back our respect in the society of today? Teachers should have been the best people to help us, but I have watched where the parents would come to the school to bully the teachers because they are richer, and their husbands have bought them one fairly used Tokunbo. Now the teacher who receives thirty thousand Naira minimum wage cannot defend him or herself. They do not want to lose their job just by stamping their feet on the ground because the principal may have compromised too.In the good old days when your teacher said you were disrespectful, you owe the punishment at school and home.
We do not want our parents to know that we were punished at school because it means that we are going to receive another punishment from the parents. You must say the reason why out of a thousand students you are the one being punished by the teacher. Most of the time the reasons were not handy because we have not mastered the act of lying. And good parents would teach you how to be respectful and responsible. My mother once said to me that I should not bring shame to the family by allowing myself to be punished because of being disrespectful.
I was so afraid to confront a teacher or a senior student so that I would not bring shame to the family. Today teachers are afraid of rich parents. Even some teachers respect the students whose parents buy them gifts at the end of the semester. It is no longer about dignity and respect; it is all about money and fame. Where can we go to find the respect that will bring old age and happiness? In our homes parents are too busy that the home teacher now is the iPhone and the television.
The parents will buy the laptops and the iPhones and give them to the kids without monitoring how they use them because sometimes they themselves do not know how it works. So, an unwanted visitor is in the house and gives the wrong education to your kids.I watched when a seventh-grade student saved the whole class on a bus tour when the driver got a heart attack.
All the students on the bus were on their iPhones watching or listening to music. None of them paid attention to the environment where they were staying. Not even to the bus to know when it would veer off the road in case of any emergency. Paying attention to your environment is also a sign of respect. Knowing what is happening around you is a sign of respect for that vicinity. Back to the Bus driver episode.
When Dillon Reeves slammed the brake all the students in the bus started shouting because the bus stopped abruptly, and a fellow student was holding the steering wheel. None of them knew what was going on because they did not pay attention to the environment. And the takeaway of the story was when Dillon’s parents said that Dillon had no phone and that they have encouraged him to look at people, not on the phone, people realized how important it is to respect your parents and obey them.
Dillon could have bought the iPhone and hid it from his parents which is another aspect of disrespect. I have nothing against iPhones and social media, but I think that there should be moderation on the use, especially by the students of primary one to senior secondary six.
The parents and the school system should discourage the use of mobile phones in the classroom, and encourage facial interaction between the students. During the break, I saw almost all the students on their phones, and I asked at what point do they interact with fellow students.Respect is going away in our society today. Teachers and parents should help us to bring it back.
The government of the day may help us if they have the willpower. I do not want to involve the government because it is now enshrined in the political scenario of our country where the young people who are contesting for power see it as a plus to insult the gray hair. On the other hand, the elderly who wanted to cling to power by all means are ready to abuse the youths, or kill them, as we saw in the end SARS protest.
In Nigeria we do not play politics with respect, it is a do-or-die affair and the winner takes all therefore, I would not involve politicians in this discussion because they would politicize it. Going on, I would like the teachers not to compromise their values because of the fat envelopes they receive from the parents during festive times.
And parents please allow the teachers to do their work. Stop going to the schools to confront the teachers saying I know my child he or she is not that bad. Why not keep them at home and raise them yourself or don’t you know about homeschooling? We need respect back in our society.