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Corrupt role models

McQueen Zaza says, “Corruption in Zambia is celebrated and the corrupt are becoming role models for our young people.”

“We have created in the minds of many young people that corruption is the way to go. Many young people no longer think that hard work and education are the only equalisers to a brighter Zambia. Each time they watch television; all they see are corrupt government officials and their accomplices driving luxury cars and custom tailored suits,” says Zaza.

Role models play an exceptionally important role in the life of a young person. Young people relate to, admire, and in many cases, imitate their role models during the most impressionable years of their lives. In Zambia, poor conduct by some among the political elite has left many young people disillusioned by politics. For others, however, corrupt and self-serving behaviour is viewed with approval and aspiration. This paints a concerning picture for the future of our country. But is the political elite solely to blame for the lack of positive role models in Zambia? What role is the rest of society playing to ensure that young Zambians develop into better people?

Human beings learn by modelling others, by observing others’ behaviours and attitudes and taking from their experiences. As children grow older, they begin to replicate the actions of parents, teachers, family members and peers. This is also how children identify what is socially acceptable behaviour, and what techniques they need to master in order to reach a specific goal. Rising levels of corruption, crime and violence have meant that young people are often exposed to bad behaviour from the very people they are meant to look up to and trust.

While it is up to young people to choose whether they will emulate good or bad behaviour, viewing them in this light fails to acknowledge the challenges they face, which often includes the people they spend most of their time observing and eventually modelling.

In a country like ours where the many obstacles that young people face could easily condemn them to a life of hopelessness, role models such as parents, teachers, family members and peers play a powerful part in moulding the youth’s attitudes and behaviour.

Good role models guide young people and go a long way to ensure that they are able to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals despite their difficulties. Young people with positive role models not only perform better at school, but also have better self-esteem. Zambians need to encourage good role models in all walks of life – not only among the political elite, but also from the individuals who young people are exposed to on a day-to-day basis. The number of role models that our young people can look up to is decreasing. How many people in our public life can you be proud of for honesty, courage, commitment and hard work? And that number is dwindling.

Our young people don’t have role models to look up to and therefore and sadly because of corruption, some of the people who are doing exactly the opposite, dishonest, deceit, ‘deals’ and all of that, are becoming more and more powerful, they are becoming wealthier. Therefore, our young people are getting the wrong signals. They think maybe this is the way to succeed. We don’t blame them. Zambians put personal interest ahead of society, which has caused enormous damage to the country.

So we don’t believe there is a real mystery in the behaviour of young people today. They are doing what society around them is defining as “cool” and “in”. They are impatient and want their thrills quick and easy. The issues confronting parents are that life has become very complex, there are many distractions, and changes are taking place incredibly fast. We need to understand these changes and develop safe behaviour for ourselves and for our young people. We have to learn to be role models in a changing world, preserving a value system that is honourable and lasting. Our young people are looking up to us to provide this leadership by example – let us not disappoint them lest they in turn disappoint us.

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