Address on African Perspective of Family

«A Matter of Considerable Importance and Urgency»

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MEXICO CITY, JAN. 16, 2009 ( Here is the text of the address given today by Dr. Germina N. Ssemogerere, economics professor at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, at the 6th World Meeting of Families, under way in Mexico.

* * *

«The Educative Vocation of the Family: An African Perspective, with particular reference to Uganda»[1]

 The Family, Teacher of Human and Christian Values

 1.0 Introduction

The topic we are addressing, «The Educative vocation of the Family», which refers to the special devotion of the family to the education of the children, is a matter of considerable importance and urgency, to both the Church and society, all over the world. This topic is of considerable importance in our time on account of the interplay of the unprecedented social, economic and political forces from, not only the local, but also from the international environment as well, that impact on the family. In the process, such forces, sometimes threaten the family’s very survival; and impede it from achieving its goals: the most critical of which is that of producing and raising healthy, properly informed, well adjusted and responsible citizens, who are accountable to society; and, ultimately, accountable to God.[3]

This presentation highlights two principal propositions.

First, it is suggested that a well-prepared-for marriage, followed by a viable, informed and morally disciplined family, is a good investment for the proper upbringing and education of children. Second, it is suggested that for the family’s educative mission to be properly continued beyond the home, notably in school: it is necessary that there be an appropriate philosophical, constitutional and institutional foundation for moral education; and for an effective participatory role by the family in the education system.

Given the presence of negative environmental forces, this strategy calls for vigilance and a constructive engagement of the family, the political authorities, and other key stakeholders, in particular the Religious and cultural leaders, as well as professionals among the Civil Society.

It is observed that, in this regard, there is, in principle, much common ground between the Church’s position and African culture; although certain practices permissible in African culture, notably polygamy in marriage, may be unacceptable to Church teaching. From both, the Church’s position and African culture, environmental forces impacting negatively on the family, undermine its role and, consequently, affect the children’s education and formation.

  The present concerns.

Our attention ought to be drawn to the current state of affairs regarding issues affecting the family today, as witnessed by the rising numbers, including among the elite and affluent classes: of: same-sex marriages; co-habitation; sterilized families; un-socialized children; as well as of voluntary and/or State-enforced abortions; and abandonment of so called unwanted children etc.

The plight of the traditional family is well captured in the Apostolic Exhortation, «Familiaris Consortio» (On the Family)[4] by the late Pope John Paul II, in these words:

The family in the modern world, as much as and perhaps more than any other institution, has been beset by the many profound and rapid changes that have affected society and culture.

According to Pope John Paul II, families are reacting differently to these dramatic changes. In the Exhortation, he describes three ways in which families react to these changes.

First, His Holiness says:

Many families are living this situation in fidelity (i.e., faithfully) to those values that constitute the foundation of the institution of the family.

  Second, he refers to:

 Others (who) have become uncertain and bewildered over their role and even doubtful and almost unaware of the ultimate meaning and truth of conjugal and family life. (Underlining added).

There is also a third category, the Pontiff added, of families:

… who are hindered by various situations of injustice in the realization of their fundamental rights (to which the family is otherwise entitled). (Underlining added).

The Pope’s findings are well taken; and they are a major basis for the conclusions reached and the recommendations made of a strategy of empowerment i.e., moral and intellectual, as well as economic and political empowerment for the Catholic Lay Movement and institutions.

 Section 2.0 is a presentation on the family as an institution of universal relevance and its educative role, with particular reference to the position of the Church and the African situation. Section 3.0 presents the family’s five-fold role. Section 4.0 discusses the family’s educative mission; and presents the position taken on by the Church as well as its place in African culture. Section 5 examines the principles and legal framework underlying Uganda’s Education system with a view: first, of gauging opportunities currently available for a positive family educative role; and, second, determining prospects for improvement or corrective measures, on the basis of which suggestions for improvement are made in section 6.

This presentation is based mainly on official documents and data; and on relevant literature, as well as personal knowledge and experience.

 2.0 The Institution of the Family and its Educative Role.

The family has always been a well established and entrenched institution in society all over the world; and so has its critical role in the education or ‘socialization» of the children.

 2.1 The family in Africa.

In Africa, the family is a central institution in kinship[5], whereby one’s place in society is established: partly on the basis of one’s identity by family and lineage; and partly on the basis of the contribution made to society in terms of values and various activities.

The importance of the traditional family in Africa is further reflected, by the care and solemnity associated with the entire process leading to, and culminating in the execution of the marriage covenant; by the exacting moral code of conduct expected of the married people, more so if they are parents with children; by the elevated status society traditionally accords to them, and by the love and respect even highly placed adults give to their parents.

In some African cultures, the special love and respect given to parents by their grown-up children, even by the Royalty, is demonstrated, by their public behaviour and official conduct. The Kabaka (King) of Buganda, for instance, is, according to Buganda culture, expected to seek and take, seriously, counsel from her mother (the Queen-Mother) when making important decisions. And the Queen-Mother in the Kingdom of Swaziland commands similar, if not greater loyalty from the King, and authority in the Kingdom, than her counterpart in Buganda.

 2.2 The Church’s position on the family.

2.2.1 Historical global perspective.

There is much in common between the Church and African culture on the position and role of the family in society. The Church has always had a strong and supportive position on matters affecting the family. In his book , Jesus of Nazareth (2006), which he developed over many decades, Jozeph Ratzinger, now His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, stresses the Church’s historical position on the family in these words:

From her very inception, the Church that emerged and continues to emerge, has attached fundamental importance to defending the family as the c
ore of all social order…[6]

A recent evidence of the importance of the Church’s support and defence for the family, was the convening of The 1980 Vatican Synod on the Family, with the findings and recommendations of the synod culminating in a comprehensive Apostolic Exhortation on the subject, (viz., Familiaris Consortio), by Pope John Paul II[7] in 1981. In the Exhortation, His Holiness, describes the family as divinely ordained; and says:

According to the plan of God, marriage is the foundation of the wider community of the family, since the very institution of marriage and conjugal love are ordained to the procreation and education of children, in whom they find their crowning.[8]

  Consequently, His Holiness goes on in the Exhortation, to point out what is required to establish and maintain, in good standing, a viable mutually supporting family community, based on love and the recognition of the rights and responsibilities of the respective members of this community i.e., of the husband, the wife and the children.

 2.2.2 Focus on Africa.

Following the Second Vatican Council, the Church has paid particular attention to Africa; and to the family in Africa. On the occasion of the first visit by a reigning Pope in modern times, Pope Paul VI inaugurated, in 1969, in Kampala, Uganda: the first Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), which has since become the forum for common concert for the Church on the continent.

In 1989, His Holiness Pope John Paul II convoked the first Synod (Council) of the African Episcopal Conference which discussed issues related to the challenges of evangelization; and the family was one such issue. Six years after the African Synod, Pope John Paul II issued a post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, The Church in Africa (Ecclesia in Africa), based on the proceedings of the 1989 African Synod.[9]

On the importance of the family, the Holy Father points out in the Exhortation:

By its very nature, marriage, which has the special mission of perpetuating humanity, transcends the couple. In the same way, by its nature, the family extends beyond the individual household: it is oriented towards society.[10]

  His Holiness continues and quotes from the Exhortation on the Family Familiaris Consortio (1991):

«The family has vital and organic links with society, since it is its foundation and nourishes it continuously through its role of service to life: it is from the family that citizens come to birth and it is from family that they find the first school of the social virtues that are the animating principles of the existence and development of society itself. Thus, far from being closed on itself, the family is by nature and vocation open to other families and society, and undertakes its social role.»[11]

As a necessary step before recommending inculcation of aspects of African culture into Catholic Teaching on the family, Pope John Paul II finds there is a good deal of harmony between the two. He observes in The Church in Africa:

(Africa) is endowed with a wealth of cultural values and priceless human qualities which it can offer to the Churches and to humanity as a whole.[12] (Underlining added).

The Pope then concludes on a note of hope: agreeing with the African Synod: on inculcation of «positive» African cultural values. And he envisages: prospects for the transformation of the African family through the inspiration of the Gospel; and, consequently, such transformation contributing towards world-wide spiritual revival and the development of a more fraternal society.[13]

  2.3 Necessary conditions for marriage and family: the African perspective.

As indicated above: in both the Church’s Teaching and African culture: the family is an institution of utmost importance, with a critical role to play. Recognition of this role the family plays and, generally, of its significance, is also demonstrated by the process leading to the formation of the family itself.

First, the Church and African culture, probably without exception, prescribe a cautious approach, characterized by care and seriousness of purpose, in respect of the process leading to marriage. And, second, subsequently when marriage is contracted, the couple’s status in society is instantly enhanced and, together as a family, the couple receive social protection and privileges.

Especially for its own protection and as a deterrent against temptations of abuse of status: notably guarding against permissiveness and incest, marriage is under the watchful control of cultural taboos, with enforceable sanctions. In this respect, for instance, some cultures have strict prohibitions against physical contact within the family in its extended form, between a male member and his daughter-in-law, or mother-in-law.

In conclusion it may be said that the process leading to and culminating in marriage and, in addition, that the observation of a strict, cultural moral code of conduct governing marriage and family, are essential conditions for establishing the family institution as a fountain of honour and virtue in society.

  2.3.1 Preparation for marriage: a serious project.

For both the Church and African culture, in normal peace time circumstances, marriage is not an abrupt or surprise affair: it is a serious project calling for due and deliberate preparations.

Courtship, in African culture, is positively encouraged only between confirmed adults – and adults with approved credentials for starting and managing family life[14]. Ample time is therefore normally provided for the necessary preliminary introductory encounters and information exchange; and, thereafter, for courtship, before formal engagement and, finally, marriage. Throughout this process certain key members of one’s extended family, on both sides, play their part and provide their wise judgement and counsel before the final choice and commitment is freely made: ideally by the two candidates themselves; and each one by himself or herself.

This cautious approach to marriage is, in principle,[15] in line with the Church’s own position, where, normally a specified period is set aside to ensure that the intending couple qualify and fully appreciate and accept the challenges ahead of them; in particular the necessary conditions and full implications of the Sacrament of Matrimony. For this purpose the Church demands a standard minimum four-week requirement and the public announcements of the marriage bans before marriage is consecrated.[16]

The harmony on this principle of due preparation and verification, between the Church and African traditional practice, is demonstrated by the absence of any serious and open protests or representations against the Church’s position; and also by the ready compliance with this four-week preparatory period, by intending African couples who would have qualified for marriage under the traditional system.

  2.3.2 Marriage as a life-long devotion of morally disciplined spouses under a code of conduct.

Apart from the issue of polygamy, which, in any case, has never been a necessary nor universal African condition, there appears to be much common ground, at the conceptual level, on marriage between African culture and the Church’s position.

  Marriage-for-life devotion is respected even under childlessness and after bereavement.

Marriage-for-life devotion is respected, encouraged and supported in African culture almost in the same sense as in Christianity.

  Divorce or official separation after due process is, under normal circumstan
ces, unacceptable; it is only permissible after serious investigation, by representatives of both the husband’s and wife’s families; and when attempts at mediation have proved pointless.

On the other hand, life-long marriage devotion is treasured and positively encouraged and supported in African culture. For instance, even in the unfortunate situation of childlessness, or the death of a spouse, African culture accords due status, respect and honour to the bereaved husband or wife.

In the case of childlessness, the dread of loneliness and feelings of self-pity would, in many situations be mitigated, if not completely overcome, by customary incorporation[17] from the husband’s or wife’s extended family; and even from society at large: from close friends and acquaintances. In addition to incorporation, the African extended family system, along with its liberal policy on succession and inheritance, reduces childlessness to an issue of little consequence during one’s life-time; and even after death.

 Life-long marriage devotion, after the death of one’s spouse, is supported in various other ways: for example by the policy of guaranteed solidarity and humanitarian support; as well as of security of residence etc., to the widow or widower. At the same time the widow or widower is given a continuing opportunity to remain in productive active life, contributing, in some modest ways, to both family and society. This policy contrasts sharply with the modern practice of committing such people to the relatively impersonal life in old people’s homes – a contrast Pope John Paul II captures in the Exhortation as follows:

There are cultures which manifest a unique veneration and great love for the elderly: far from being outcasts from the family or merely being tolerated as a useless burden, they continue to be present and to take an active and responsible part in family life, though having to respect the autonomy of the new family; above all they carry out the important mission of being a witness to the past and a source of wisdom for the young and for the future.[18]

The Pope brings out the cultural contrast when he laments:

Other cultures, however, especially in the wake of disordered industrialized and urban development, have both in the past and the present, set the elderly aside in unacceptable ways. This causes acute suffering to them and spiritually impoverishes many families.[19]

True, in the African situation, when the wife is perceived to be barren, there would likely be an inclination for the husband taking on another wife. This would, ordinarily, be permissible; and sometimes the original wife would help in the effort to secure a suitable additional wife. However, even then, the situation that emerges would not, by itself, be ground for divorce of, or official separation with, the original wife; or for stripping her of her rights and privileges.

Consequently, according to African culture: even after the death of one or both partners, marriage, with its marital obligations, social status and taboos, remains actively recognized and respected, most specifically by the surviving spouse, the children and the extended family.

 Positive implications for value-laden education.

A well-prepared-for marriage and a morally-disciplined, child-friendly family environment, as prescribed above, places the family, strategically, on high moral ground to inculcate norms and values in the education of their children.

Unfortunately, the current situation in many African countries militates against such elaborate pre-marriage processes and exacting marital norms as indicated above. First and foremost, many African countries are far from stable with disastrous consequences affecting the family institution. War and various forms of conflict, have become a common feature in Africa: not only leading to broken-up families but also denying intending couples the opportunity for proper preparation for marriage itself.

In addition, proper preparation for marriage and the observance, thereafter, of the prescribed moral code of conduct, are adversely affected by «friendly fire» from the advocacy campaigns for, and the demonstration effect of, modern permissiveness, currently sweeping much of the affluent rich nations, and impacting aggressively and ceaselessly on the hapless endangered African society, at electronic speed, via print media, radio, television and the internet.

 3.0 The five-fold role of the family.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica[20], the traditional family, as it has been known all over the world, our cultural diversity notwithstanding, serves five principal functions, including the educative role. The family caters for:

 Emotional or psychic security, which is very much needed in these exacting and hard times of stress;Conjugal or sexual satisfaction;Procreation, whereby society’s future is promoted;The education or socialization of children whereby parents pass on knowledge to their children, and inculcate values (notably, cultural and religious values) in them. andPhysical security through joint efforts whereby, for instance, needed assets in the form residence and other property can be acquired.

These functions, in particular the first four functions, though separately analyzed, are so inter-connected and inter-related that they may be treated as components of a single continuous process of mutually reinforcing activities. Here again, with the notable exception of the issue of polygamy, the continuity and inter-relationship of the various marriage and family functions, beginning as they do in the conjugal communion, are well appreciated in both the Church’s teaching[21] and African culture.

  Positive or negative influences.

A positive or negative influence on any one of the above functions has a resultant impact on another, if not on all the rest.

A well disposed, loving couple tends to be psychologically secure and, in turn, highly motivated to carefully attend to the requisites for proper child bearing and upbringing. At the same time, the success of a child at school and, later, in his or her profession, has the likely effect of, not only bringing joy and pride to the rest of the family; it is also likely to strengthen the family bond and enhance the family status in society. On the other hand undermining family life is likely to have a negative impact on the upbringing and quality of children; just as a child-turned-criminal or tyrant would be a source of discomfort, or even misery, to both family and society.

 Negative environmental influences and negative influences inherent in the family.

While environmental forces may rightly be blamed for the family’s failure to deliver on its established functions, or even for failure for family life to be entered into at all, it is sometimes the case that such failure may also be due to inherent weaknesses of the family itself; and notably, of the parents in question.

Studies of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, for instance, sometimes attribute the virtue-deficit in both of these leaders, as well as their authoritarian and tyrannical rule, largely to the character of their fathers. Hitler’s father, for instance, had little regard for Hitler’s mother; who was his third wife. And Stalin’s father freely beat his wife; even in the presence of their young child.[22] Hitler and Stalin are not isolated cases of leaders whose insensitivity to the feelings of other people and whose disregard for universal human rights is probably best traced to problems in their upbringing and their parents’ conduct; or the lack of it.

 Protecting and promoting the family functions.

These family functions are, therefore, of fundam
ental importance; and not only to the individual members of the family, including the children, but also to society as a whole: the eventual destination of the children.

 4.0 The Educative Role of the Family

Educating children, especially inculcating in them norms and values, is at the core of parental responsibilities. The parents are, under normal circumstances, well placed to do so, as they would themselves already have assimilated such norms and values from religion and culture, as well as from practical experience.

The educative role of the family is not a matter of choice or privilege: it is mandatory. The parents bring children into this world: they, therefore, have the primary responsibility to prepare them to live a meaningful and responsible life; and to do so in accordance with morally acceptable norms and values they themselves believe in..

 4.1 The Church’s position on the educative role of the family.

The Church’s position on the primacy of the educative role of the family, is well articulated in the Apostolic Exhortation as follows:

The task of giving education is rooted in the primary vocation of married couples to participate in God’s creative activity: by begetting in love and for love a new person who has within himself or herself the vocation for growth and development, parents, by that very fact, take on the task of helping that person effectively to live a fully human life.[23]

 The Pope augments his statement by quoting from the conclusions of Vatican II, thus:

«since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it.»[24]

The Second Vatican Council added:

«it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children. Hence the family is the first school of those social virtues every society needs»[25]

  It is appreciated that not all education can be carried out directly by the parents and at home; yet the parental educative role has, nevertheless to be continued. In those events, the Church’s position emphasizes the right of the family to have a say in the choice of school for the children.

The Church’s teaching on the role of the family in the education of children is reflected, in teaching and in practice, by the Church in Africa.[26] In their publication, Education Policy 1997 the Catholics Bishops in Uganda, were categorical in this regard, on their adherence to the conclusions of the Second Vatican Council. For instance on the issue of parental duty beyond home, the Bishops’ Conference quoted the Council directly:

«As for Catholic parents, the Council calls to mind their duty to entrust their children to Catholic schools, when and where this is possible; to support such schools to the extent of their ability; and to work along with them for the welfare of their children.»[27]

 4.2 The African perspective on the family role on education

African perception and practice, regarding the family and its role in the education of children, is well preserved in oral history, proverbs, personal and place names, as well as in researched work. In principle, it does not depart materially from the position of the Church. The African family’s right and responsibility to raise children; in particular to inculcate norms and values in their education, is unquestionable. It is also the family’s responsibility, where this is possible, to arrange or recommend for apprenticeship for further value-laden education, as among nobles etc., or for the acquisition of skills in various fields by identifying appropriate authorities, institutions and experts.

Philip Curtin & others are correct when they recapitulate the education system in the African society as follows:

Education takes place in all societies as part of socialization. In pre-colonial Africa, general education began at home as soon as a child learned his (or her) own language. Education beyond that might be quite informal but apprenticeship at home or in a workshop of a crafts-worker was essential for learning technical skills.[28]

Thus, the inculcation of cultural norms and values in the African society takes place mainly at home, early in the child’s life, under «general education» or «socialization»[29]. Unfortunately, it is this formative phase in the African child’s life, along with the earlier one from inception to birth, which suffer the brunt of the impact of the negative forces from the environment, when the family role is disrupted, distorted or even completely eliminated.

  4.3 The necessary conditions for a positive role by the family in the Education of children.

From the above discussion the conclusion can be drawn as to the conditions that are necessary for the family to play a positive role in the education of children:

(a)   First and foremost, the family itself must be viable, and morally and intellectually formed within the culture, in order to be properly equipped for the mission; and

(b)   Second, the country’s education system must be based on a philosophical and legal foundation:

(i)     which caters for the quality of education (i.e., in terms of values, norms and skills) which the family agrees with and supports; and

(ii)   which also caters for effective participation by the family.

It follows, therefore, that a strategy for protecting and consolidating the family’s role in education must be directed towards the fulfillment of the above conditions.

5.0 Protecting and Promoting the Family Role in Education in Uganda.

After considerable sustained constructive engagement, and, on occasions, actual confrontation, involving representatives of the family, the Church, the Laity and the political leadership in the country, an Education Policy, generally acceptable to all, is currently in place.

On the basis of the conclusions in 4.3 above, Uganda can be credited for its positive strategy for preserving and promoting the family role in Education. This strategy should be supported and improved upon.

  5.1 Promoting intellectual, professional and moral formation for the family.

The family in Uganda is well placed to benefit, in its formation and empowerment, from the wide-ranging, formal and informal, educational programmes, provided by the State, as well as the private sector: and the Church, which takes particular interest in spiritual and moral formation; which programmes are freely accessible by many, including adults. The laity (and clergy) can and do take advantage of them.

Uganda is pursuing a liberal education policy, directed at expanding opportunities for learning at all levels throughout the country; and at the same time encouraging private sector initiatives in this field.

The Catholic Church has always played, and continues to play, a lead role in providing formal and informal education in the country, paying particular attention to spiritual and moral formation. Currently, the Church’s efforts in Education are based on its Education Policy 1997, agreed on by the Uganda Episcopal Conference, which is in line with the conclusions of the Second Vatican Council.

This policy is conducted under the aegis of the National Catholic Secretariat; and caters for various initiatives in the field of education: from the National and Diocesan levels, down to the Parish level, where it focuses on the «natural community»[30] at the grassroots (akabondo).[31]

However, given the limitations of the natural community an
d the growing ethnic heterogeneity and social-economic complexity of the African, and indeed of the Ugandan society, it seems to be necessary and urgent to develop and/or strengthen, in addition, a strategy directed at the people in their new and growing social and professional formations, including Lawyers, Medical Doctors, the Academia, and the Political elite, as well as members of the Security Agencies.

  5.2 Value-laden quality education

The formal education in schools and higher institutions of learning, is, particularly in respect of inculcation of norms and values, an extension, or delegated responsibility, of the family’s role in the education of children. The family has, therefore the right and obligation, to pass judgement as to the moral worth of the education system in place and to influence it.

The family may pass such judgement on the basis of the imputed reputation of the system; and also on the basis of the stipulated principles, set out in the country’s Constitution governing Education policy; as well as on the basis of the Education law in place.

 5.2.1 Moral values underscored in the Constitution and provision for religious influence in the education system.

The Constitution of Uganda (as amended, 2006) commits the country to democratic principles; to fundamental and other human rights; to recognition of the dignity of women; and to Educational Objectives, one of which is the role of Religion.

5.2.2 Religion in denominational schools.

The Constitutional provision on the role of Religion in Education accommodates the Church’s position in support of denominational schools, as set out by the Second Vatican Council, and as quoted above by the Uganda Episcopal Conference in their Education Policy 1997.[32] The Uganda position, as given in the Constitution provides for the legitimacy of denominational, as well as other non-governmental, schools:

Individuals, religious bodies, and other non-governmental organizations shall be free to found and operate educational institutions if they comply with the general educational policy of the country and maintain national standards. (Underlining added).[33]

  5.2.3 Religion in grant-aided Schools.

Besides legitimizing denominational schools, and thereby indirectly encouraging emphasis on the inculcation of religious values, the Education Policy also commits Government to the institutionalization of public support, under a scheme of guaranteed grants, to privately founded schools, many of which were founded by Religious bodies, more so by the Catholic Church. Understandably, the Government does have a role to play in the management of such grant-aided schools; but also the Founding bodies do have a significant role.[34]

Besides providing for Religious bodies to establish and manage their own educational institutions, the Uganda Education Policy, as provided for in the current Education Act, specifies that religious studies shall be part of the curriculum. Section 4, subsection (4) of the Education Act states:

Religious studies shall form part of the curriculum in primary and post-primary schools.[35]

  5.3 Effective family participation.

At the level of policy, the role and participation of the family in the education of children is provided for in the Education Policy, where it is stated:

Provision of education and training to the child shall be a joint responsibility of the State, the parent or guardian And other stakeholders.[36]

  It is assumed here that the burden of responsibility conferred on the family in the Education Act, logically also confers on it the right to have a say in the matter i.e., the education of the child in terms of content, quality and administration. In practice, parents are normally represented on the Boards of Governors or Management Committees of the relevant institutions.

  6.0 Conclusions and Recommendations

6.1 Conclusion.

From the foregoing, conclusions may be drawn as follows.

6.1,1 The educative vocation of the family.

The family has a critical role to play in the education of children:

–          that this role is well entrenched in Church Teaching and various cultures, African culture included; and

–          that the execution of this role is largely determined by the constitutional and institutional framework in place and by the state of the family itself, which, in turn, may be affected by positive or negative influences from the environment.

 6.1.2 The state of the family today.

The state of the family today is a matter of concern mainly due to the many negative influences from the rapidly changing socio-economic environment, with the effect that: while some families remain steadfast and undeterred in their role; others are losing confidence in the execution of their role; or are being rendered totally incapacitated and unable to do anything.

 6.1.3 The Church’s position.

The Church presents us with a theological foundation, in the Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, Familiaris Consortio, as a guide for appropriate policy and practice on matters related to the family and its role in education. It is important to note that in this Exhortation, and in a subsequent one on The Church in Africa, Ecclesia in Africa, His Holiness the Pope, points out the compatibility, in many respects, between Catholic Teaching and various cultures, African culture included.

 6.1.4 The African situation: the Uganda case.

The constitutional and institutional framework of a country is a good and practical reference as to the extent to which the family’s role in education, as set forth by the Church e.g., in her education policy, is accommodated; and as to what strategies may be designed or improved upon for the purpose. In this regard, using Uganda as representative example, it may be concluded that a standard democratic constitution, with an entrenched Bill of Rights, provides a reasonable framework for the purpose.

6.1.5 Vigilance and constructive engagements necessary.

The Church and Laity must not take things for granted: they must be vigilant and participate in constructive engagement with the State authorities:

–          First, to ensure that a proper constitutional and institutional framework is in place; and

–          Second, to counter any negative influences from the domestic and international environment.

6.2 Recommendation.

Taking the Uganda case as a representative example, the Church and the Laity must be commended for the effective role they have so far played to secure a hospitable constitutional and institutional order; and to counter negative influences directed against the integrity of the family and its positive role in education. However, in order to maintain and improve on the achievements so far made, the following are necessary.

First and foremost, it is necessary to safeguard and enhance the morally based traditional family by encouraging the devout; by building confidence among those in doubt; and by removing or overcoming institutional impediments to family life as it has all along been promoted by both the Church and culture.

Second it is necessary to evolve a strategy for greater effectiveness, overall, by the Church and Laity in public affairs; and more specifically in matters related to the family and education

The following recommendations are made towards achieving the above objectives.

Promoting active participation by Catholics in matters of public interest; Greater empowerment, in terms of spiritual, moral and intellectual enrichment, and capacity building for both the clergy and laity, through appro
priate training; and through membership and establishment, at the local and the international level, of Catholic-friendly Professional Associations e.g., for Medical Doctors, Judges and Lawyers, University Academics and Teachers, as well as for Political leaders and Leaders in the Business Community; Greater participation in, and/or establishment of, institutions, e.g., Foundations, which are directed at influencing public policy; More systematic mobilization, at the local and international level, for practical support, for Catholic institutions and Catholic-inspired programmes. 

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[1] The interpretations and opinions expressed in this paper, unless otherwise stated, are solely those of the writer; and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Church or any organization.

[2] Dr. Germina N, Ssemogerere is a Graduate of Duke University, N.C., USA. She is currently Assoc. Professor, Faculty of Economics & Management (FEMA), Makerere University, Kampala Uganda.

[3] There is no denial about God’s reality in the African society. God is present in Africa under various terms e.g., as the creator («Katonda» ) among the Baganda; the Great Potter («Kibumba») among the Basoga; the Great Fixer («Ruhanga» ) among the Banyoro and Batooro.

[4] John Paul II (November 28, 1981) Familiaris Consortio – Apostolic Exhortation ( For a summary, see: Catholicism – The 1980 Vatican Synod on Family And Familiaris Consortio, (file////

[5] See: Diop, Cheikh Anra (1959) The Culture Unity of Black Africa (Chicago: Third World Press).esp. pp.34-41. See also Diop’s other work: Civilization or Barbarism.

[6] Ratzinger, Jozeph, Pope Benedict XVI (2006) Jesus of Nazareth (Random House, N.Y.: Doubleday).

[7] John Paul II (November 28, 1981) Familiaris Consortio – Apostolic Exhortation. For a fair summary, see: Catholicism – The 1980 Vatican Synod on Family And Familiaris Consortio, (file////

[8] Familiaris Consortio, ibid. para.14.

[9] Pope Paul II (1995) The Church in Africa: Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation (Yaounde, Cameroon; published by Daughters of St. Paul: Nairobi , Kenya).

[10] Ibid. paragraph 85, p.66.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid. paragraph 42, p.33.

[13] Ibid. paragraphs 42 & 43, p. 33.

[14] Some ethnic groups e.g., the Baganda depended on an a discreet intelligence exchange system involving senior and close members of the extended family of the boy and girl in question to reach an informed judgement in this regard. Others e.g., the Gikuyu in Kenya, subjected boys and girls to a taxing process culminating in «initiation» as a sine qua non for marriage.

[15] It is here stressed that acknowledging the principle behind the initiation process does not necessarily mean wholesale approval of the specific activities carried out under it; nor a failure to see the need for modification and improvement. On the Initiation process among the Gikuyu from a cultural perspective, see: Kenyatta, Jomo, Facing Mount Kenya (with an Introduction by B. Malinowski); (New York: Vintage Books)

[16] The latest formal reaffirmation of this position by Kampala Archdiocese was reached in their Synod in 2006, and conveyed » to the general public, under the theme, «Okweteratekera Obufumbo, in the Archdiocesan publication: Obutume bw’Omukatuliki Mu Ssaza Ly’e Kampala.

[17] African customary incorporation, as used here, differs from legal adoption. Customary incorporation by itself, unlike legal adoption, is neither necessarily a condition nor an occasion or opportunity for severance or alienation of the biological relations that prevailed before. In its broadest sense, customary incorporation may even be applied to accommodate people from outside one’s ethnic group. The biographies of the Uganda Martyrs tell us, for instance, of officials in the Kabaka’s Palace i.e., in the mainstream of Buganda politics, whose origin would be traced to tribes outside Buganda. For example, the Martyr, St. Donozio Ssebuggwawo and her mother Nsonga, originally from Busoga, were incorporated into the family of Ssebuggwawo, at the time a noble in the Kingdom and a brother of the then Katikkiro (Prime Minister) who belonged to the Musu ( edible rat ) clan.

[18] Familiaris Consortio, paragraph. 27.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Encyclopaedia Britanica,15th ed.; 1943-1973 (Chicago/London/Toronto/Genecva/Sydney/Tokyo/Manila/Seoul/Johannesburg: William Benton Publisher and Helen Hemingway Benton Publisher) no.7 pp.155-173, esp. pp. 155-166.

[21] Familiaris Consortio; ibid paragraphs 18-27.

[22] For a comprehensive study of these leaders see, Bullock, Alan (1l992) Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (New York: Alfred A. Knoff). Note, however, that the author does not himself completely attribute Hitler’s and Stalin’s unacceptable conduct in public office to the wrongs in family upbringing… Opinions on this do differ as the author reveals; but we are persuaded to believe that such bad behaviour by the two men could not, but have had a negative ;impact on the psychological and moral formation of their children.

[23] Familiaris Consortio; ibid paragraph 36.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] See, for example: The Uganda Episcopal Conference (1997) Education Policy 1997 (Kampala , Uganda: Makerere University).

[27] The Education Policy:1997 ibid.

[28] Curtin, Philip & others eds.(First published 1978, 10th impression 1992) African History (Longman and New York: Longman Inc.) p. 532.

[29] «Socialization» as «general education»: see, Encyclopaedia Britannica in fn. 14 above.

[30] This «natural community», focused on in Uganda, is a neighbourhood community based on geographical contiguity and Administrative convenience.

[31] See, for example: Obutume bw’Omukatuliki mu Ssaza ly’e Kampala: Okunnyikiza Obukristu Mu Bulamu Bwaffe (Grassroot Evangelization); (Kampala Archdiocese: Marianum Press, Kisubi), 2006.

[32] Op. cit

[33] The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (as amended,2006) op. cit.: National Objectives and Directive Principles of Policy, XVIII (iii).

[34] The Uganda Government, , The Education (Pre-Primary, Primary and Post Primary) Act, 2008: sections 7 and 8.

[35] The Education Act; ibid. section 4 (4).

[36] The Education Act; ibid. Section 1( i ).

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