July 14, 2015 By Abubakarr Turay (ABT)
The spokesperson of Tanzania’s Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau once told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that, “When children learn the reality of everyday corruption from an early age they are likely to reject it, even if their parents take it as a reality of everyday life”. Doreen Kapwani was responding to questions on the need to involve children in the fight against corruption. She was also corroborating a Transparency International Report that said taking the anti-corruption fight to schools will prepare the next generation to say ‘No’ to corruption.
Our holy books portray children as innocent, blameless, and to some extent, holy. In other words, their minds are free of vices and evil. But the manner of their upbringing and society, in general, often pollute these innocent souls to make them corrupt. It is no secret that a child raised in an environment of high moral standards can only grow up to be a citizen with high level of integrity.
The family has the primary responsibility of building corrupt-free minds. As an agent of socialization, the family plays a pivotal role in the upbringing of the child. This could mean teaching the child at a tender age about the values of moral uprightness, honesty and fear of God. Children often idolize their parents who they often see as friends, teachers and role models. This is why parents should use such opportunity to instill in the child the best of behaviours and attitudes that would benefit the family and the nation at large.
In many societies across the world, children are often seen as having little or no role to play towards national development. It is not surprising that they are often left out in even the fight against corruption, which affects adults and children alike.
Children may suffer from acts of corruption when they or their parents, for example, are asked to pay for services that are meant to be provided free of cost. Another example will be a child losing his life or that of his dear mother because of inadequate healthcare facilities caused by a corrupt healthcare system. Or you can think of a child dropping out of school because of his inability to pay for school charges that may have already been paid for by the government. In essence, corruption does not only cause high illiteracy rate but also accounts for the lives of young ones. It is therefore important for children and young people to know about the consequences of corruption and how they could stand against it.
The preventive and public education strategy of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in Sierra Leone promotes the approach of taking the anti-corruption campaign to all spheres of the Sierra Leonean society, including pupils in primary and secondary schools and students in tertiary institutions. As the saying goes, ‘You cannot learn an old dog new tricks’. This is why the ACC embraces the slogan of ‘Catch them young’. This has seen the establishment of integrity clubs in schools and tertiary institutions across the country. The Commission has also been conducting ‘Meet the school’ and ‘Meet the University’ campaigns in secondary and tertiary institutions across the country. The aim of these clubs and campaigns is to take anti-corruption messages to pupils and students alike to enable them imbibe the values of transparency, accountability and integrity from a very young age.
At the primary and junior secondary school levels, the pupils can be taught not to take something that does not belong to them. They can be taught to be honest and truthful at all times. Those at the senior secondary school and tertiary levels can be taught to desist from paying for grades in kind or in cash. They can also be taught about the consequences of corruption and the benefits of a corrupt-free society.
Building corrupt-free minds today would mean developing people that would run the affairs of our public and private sectors with a high level of loyalty, integrity, transparency and accountability. This would also mean developing a viable environment for investments and job opportunities.