We need education that breeds integrity
Human beings, like all other mammals, are born helpless and must depend on parents and society for nourishment and nurture.
It is in the nurturing that education features.
Education forms part of the environment that influences the perception of the developing human being.
In the broader sense, environment encapsulates our physical surroundings and conditions, groups that we join, associates or friends that we move with, and the type and level of education we receive.
However, early education starts at home with parenting which creates the base for attitudes, values, and self-image.
Of the three, values are the most critical.
They are generally derived from childhood upbringing and training, and acquired beliefs which may be influenced by religion.
Values form the principles and tenets that determine standards of action and give birth to what one considers to be the most important thing to adhere to in life.
Values of uprightness and godliness are the vehicle for intrinsic development of integrity.
Social science models of behaviour indicate that character is a derivative of values and environmental influence.
Therefore, if we want to build children with good character who would exhibit high level of uprightness and be mindful of society and country when they grow, then we need to find a way to firmly instil values of integrity in our children at an early age.
Instilling righteous values at an early age is very important because the Value-Expectancy theory postulates that it tends to be more difficult to make changes in a person’s values and behaviour as the one grows older.
The Good Book buttresses this fact by saying that “Train up a child in the way he should go; and even when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Traits of integrity are not impossible to find among humans.
Taking responsibility for one’s actions or being accountable is not always easy to do, but it is a sign of integrity.
Choosing honesty even if it does not bring benefit to the individual, is a manifestation of integrity.
Going by fair play and respect to everyone no matter their level, is a demonstration of true integrity.
Offering kindness without strings attached or hope of reciprocal gesture, is a display of genuine integrity.
Opting to be consistently reliable and trustworthy, makes one a person of integrity.
Undoubtedly, integrity will make people choose to do the right thing at all times, even when it is hard.
To achieve the afore mentioned, many nations have intentionally and strategically incorporated in their early childhood education curriculum, lessons that will lead to the imbibing of values of uprightness and integrity, and patriotism and acceptable behaviours in their society.
Some of the curricula that I sighted have codes that will help the children to be one another’s keeper and think of the national good before individual benefit.
Consequently, when such children grow to be prominent public figures who are assigned to negotiate an agreement for their country, they will think of the nation first, and not individualistic concerns to enrich themselves, while accepting poor deals that will jeopardise the fortunes of their nation’s economy.
Arguably, it is for lack of childhood training in integrity that a nation like ours is saddled with inimical contracts which rob the country of material gain and leave the nation poorer than before the agreements were contracted.
Some of us believe that owing to the scanty presence of elements of integrity in our school education setup and child upbringing at home, though Ghana is well endowed with riches in the sea and on the land, significant part of its citizenry still lives in abject poverty.
For the same sad reason, the nation goes abegging from other nations that it should be rubbing shoulders with, in terms of wealth and development.
For lack of intentional tutelage and training in integrity in our school education configuration, that we are hungry in the midst of plenty, and the youth of our country chase after crumbs in other countries.
We do not need any seer to tell us that the root cause of the endemic corruption in our society, as suggested by the perception index, is the absence of integrity.
The collecting of bribes to allow cheap, poor standard goods to enter our country, as constantly lamented on our air waves, derives from lack of integrity.
The selection of cronies and patrons to be square pegs in round holes, is a manifestation of low integrity in our society.
The open secret of exchange of money for votes in our political domain, is a pointer to deficiency in integrity.
The overt indifference of officialdom to the lack of modern equipment in our hospitals and insensitivity to the health needs of the populace whilst they travel outside the country to seek expensive medical care for themselves, is a display of compromised integrity.
Some of us are of the opinion that to rid ourselves of the chronic corruption that is impoverishing our society, we must embark on an early childhood and basic education reform which will make paramount, the inculcating of values of integrity and working with internally consistent framework of principles of uprightness and honesty.
The fruits of such an education reform may not be evident immediately.
But if we start, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow morning, we will move into the space where honesty thrives.
That would make our nation an attractive and a secure place to live in. In that state of affairs, our youth will no longer be tempted to embark on dangerous journeys to seek survival in strange lands where their benefactors will require of them to sing a song to entertain them after being hewers of wood and drawers of water for them.
It is the duty of parents and those at the drawing board of our schooling design to bring into materialisation, an education system that yields integrity in our young people and, for that matter, in the whole of our society.
The writer is a lecturer, Methodist University, Ghana and a former HNO, WAEC