Holding on to African values: Africans have a lot to teach the West, if only we can find the confidence to stand by what were once common African values. Prime Minister David Cameron has a lot to learn from informed Africans, if he wants a genuine 'Big Society' in Britain, writes Awula Serwah.

Author:Serwah, Awula
Position::Guest Column - Column

WE SHOULD BE PROUD OF POSItive African values that say something about who we are. When I first came to live in London, I was appalled when I heard young people calling adults at the African Centre where I worked by their first names.


More than 10 years on, I am still appalled when I hear African children calling adults old enough to be their parents or grandparents by their first names. I was brought up to call my parents' peers auntie or uncle, whether or not they were related to us, and whether or not they were African. In school, we called those senior to us sister or brother, as a form of respect.

Instead of correcting children who call adults by their first names, some misguided African parents seem to think this is modern and cute. It is because I could not have children calling me by my first name that I adopted the Ms Serwah persona. I now also use the name Awula Serwah.

Sadly, many of us have abandoned positive African values and have not taught them to our children. Nature abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of positive African values, some of our children have taken on feral ways of behaving. They sit on buses and see elderly people standing and do not offer them their seats. They eat meals on buses and trains and leave their litter behind. Gone, it seems, are the days when they would sit down with their kin as a family and enjoy a meal.

Worse still, I hear African parents saying that young people engage in anti-social behaviour because they have nothing to do. The truth is that the minority of young people who engage in anti-social behaviour are not interested in what is available. They crave the kind of excitement that most youth centres and youth provision cannot provide. Sadly, some of these young people are caught up in the spirit of consumerism, the desire for instant gratification and the urge to make a fast buck, and this has unfortunate consequences.

Thankfully, many young people are finding a sense of purpose in volunteering and helping others less fortunate than themselves. This takes the focus off them, and helps them to understand a little about the concept of ubuntu.

Ubuntu is about our interconnectedness and the responsibility we have to each other. It says that we are, because of others. It is not about individualistic greed, consumerism or materialism, but about concern for, and sharing with, other people.

"Ubuntu," says Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "is about the essence of being human. It is...

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