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Future uncertain as children listen more to secular ‘voice’

By Elias Mokua | Jul 1st 2021 | 3 min read

Value-based learning is weakening by the day. The number of children getting pregnant, dying by suicide, falling into depression and delinquency signals a deeper collapse in constructive social values.

Value-based learning is both spiritual and social. But this critical formative dimension in the lives of children is significantly given the least attention by education stakeholders. Is the voice of secularism, therefore, stronger than the voice of God among children and youth aged between 13 and 20 years?

An indicative study conducted by Loyola Centre for Media and Communications among 120 educators shows that while there are children who are committed to their faith in everyday life, there is a considerable number that is not just drifting away from religious teachings but also that is listening more to secular voice than that of God.

The educators involved in the study were directly engaged in the formation of children and confirmed by parents we train on Child Identity Formation.

Of course, a broader study will help validate this finding. But, we can still discern even with just an indicative study.

For a majority of parents, raising children is becoming a burden. How is this? We asked the 120 participants the extent to which they agreed with the following statements: (a) parental care has declined in the past 10 years (95.7 per cent agreed), (b) children increasingly use social media for mentorship (80.2 per cent agreed), (c) many young people are leaving the Church (89 per cent agreed), (d) schools are struggling to form children in attitude and character (94 per cent agreed). 

In another indicative study with 644 parents, we asked their agreement with the following statements: (a) I trust the attitude and behaviour of my teenager to not get involved in peer criminal-like activities (46.7 per cent agreed), (b) my parenting style is that I ensure my teenager follows my instructions to the letter.

I must control his/her actions because it is my responsibility if anything goes wrong with his/her life (45.5 per cent agreed), (c) my parenting style is that I allow my teenager freedom to do what he/her she wants as long as they are open to me (or to their mother/father). Breaking this principle is disrespectful to me so I discipline the child as I know best (43.6 per cent agreed).  

The simple stats tell a story. Children’s identity is being formed by multiple sources that reflect a radical shift from traditional mentorship in which a child belonged to a community to a society that is providing space for children to define their own understanding of freedom and responsibility. Moreover, there is evidence to show that more and more children, particularly teenagers, will figure out on their own what kind of adults they will want to be and pursue it. This is a double-edged sword.

Parental care and guidance is being reduced to the provision of essentials for the material wellbeing of the child but not the spiritual component which defines higher-level values of human existence.

Besides, church buildings are being repurposed for other uses in Europe. If we agree with most of the findings in the indicative surveys above, then it will be no surprise that in about 30 years, the many beautiful church buildings we have or are building will be repurposed. Thankfully, we have seen what has happened elsewhere to start acting responsibly.

Young people today erroneously argue that they are spiritual but not religious because the latter is an institution with rules and expectations. Being spiritual is left to the individual to find a connection with God away from institutions that systematically promote faith in God.

Further, the stats on parents point to a lack of a parental model in a changing world. Parents unconsciously pass parental responsibilities to teachers. However, studies on teachers as mentors show that with the pressure to “pass students” and the heavy weekly workload, an additional parental role does not wash.

Dr Mokua is executive director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communications.  

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