Rudo Grace Gwata-Charamba Correspondent
History clearly shows that when citizens commit to developing and nurturing strong characters, which entails practicing the values of hard work and honesty, commitment to excellence and courage, self-discipline and perseverance, their nation will always subsist and flourish.
Such character relates to the behaviour, demonstrated through thoughts, actions, reactions and feelings as a result of the influence of values that one holds.
Research shows that individuals with strong characters were happier, excelled in all they do, and generally demonstrated higher capacity to make positive contributions to society.
That is, they make significantly higher contributions towards development, starting with their own, family, community, nation and society at large, hence making them responsible citizens.
On the contrary, failure to develop such strong character, among citizens, often wrecks harmony in most communities and nations.
It was against this background that the US government passed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, aimed at driving both academic achievement and professional success, and starting from a tender age, from founded on moral strength and public benefit.
Basically, everyone has a duty to embody responsible citizenship, which implies playing one’s part for the community, as well as for the nation and carries the duty to love people and the environment.
That is, individuals and groups are expected to always consider the needs and feelings of others, answering for all forms of behaviour, being dependable and trustworthy, as well as using good judgment; also in line with another Biblical instruction.
Philippians 2 verse 4 reads, “Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not (merely) his own interests, but also each for the interests of others.” (the Amplified Bible).
The concept of responsible citizenship, first and foremost, calls for strong patriotism, the love of and loyalty to one’s country, and involves honouring the fundamental guiding principles of the country, respecting and obeying laws, plus assuming a number of social and moral responsibilities.
For example, fully participating in community projects such as cleaning up and volunteering to help in charitable and other national development activities.
In addition, patriotism implies pride in one’s country, and strong desire to see it succeed in all its endeavours.
Consequently, the need to inculcate this notion, beginning from early childhood, cannot be overemphasised.
Responsible citizens typically assume active roles aimed at contributing towards making the world a better place to live for everyone, starting from their immediate surroundings.
This is often achieved through consistently providing solutions to problems faced by society or causing positive changes within the social, economic and environmental sectors.
Accordingly, they nurture values that are esteemed by people within their environments, comprising families, communities, fellow citizens, and often the world at large; and element that helps to strengthen community ties.
Precisely, they primarily focus on making a difference in people’s lives, hence embracing the most basic principle of RBM.
To function as effective positive change agents, these citizens seek and acquire strong understanding of national issues, including history, political processes, current events and, all the while, upholding national values.
Fittingly, they cultivate the habit of public involvement, and recognising themselves as notable participants and contributors to the public good, always on the lookout for ways to offer help in solving identified societal problems.
Correspondingly, as the citizens contribute in solving national problems and championing development, they personify key values, as well as highly positive traits, in line with their strong characters.
Such traits include compassion which manifests as the sustained and intense desire to make a difference in people’s lives, plus honesty.
The latter denotes being truthful with oneself and with others and caring enough not to mislead others for personal benefit, admitting personal errors regardless of the consequences.
Such responsible individuals and groups have self-respect and derive immense satisfaction from appropriate behaviour and winning from hard work rather than relying on possessions or power to feel good about themselves.
They thus view selfishness, recklessness, manipulation and dishonesty as wrong and unworthy of them, again underlining the availability of capacity to effectively fight corruption.
They also show tolerance and embrace mistakes or failure as opportunities to learn, hence embracing yet another basic principle of RBM.
A strong sense of responsibility which entails dependability, honouring commitments and assuming full accountability for one’s actions, rather than blaming others in cases of failure, is always convincingly evident.
All decisions embrace obligations to family and community.
At the same time, these responsible citizens take charge of their lives, making plans and setting measurable goals for nurturing their talents and skills.
They also commit to hard work, excellence, courage, self-discipline and perseverance, demonstrate resilience in finding ways to overcome all forms of adversity.
The notion thus promotes the setting and accomplishment of clearly identified, sound development goals right from individual to the national level.
Consequently, they always succeed, gain immense trust and also derive great joy, confidence and enthusiasm from the resultant improvements in the well-being of their communities and nations.
Fundamentally, responsible citizenship also entails loving thy neighbour, and thus abiding by the golden rule to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” derived from the Bible in Mark 12:31.
Such setting helps to create, drives healthy communities and society in general and is also very much in line with our own African Ubuntu philosophy, discussed in earlier instalments, which stipulates and embodies camaraderie.
This embraces the notion of respect for others which is shown in many different ways, including speaking and acting civilly, namely voiding abuses, cruel remarks and rude language, caring about the rights, beliefs and well-being of others.
It also entails treating others fairly and as individuals, regardless of race, sex, age or ethnic group.
Moreover, responsible citizens display tolerance for people whose beliefs and likes are different from theirs thus helping to build and nurture a cohesive society.
Sadly, most, if not all, of these key values associated with strong characters and responsible citizenship tend to be almost always consistently missing among the majority of citizens in developing countries, including our very own nation.
This is despite the apparent significant value placed on the concept of Ubuntu, which has great potential to nurture strong characters and united communities.
Such shortcoming, which can, arguably, be attributed to inadequate or lack of commitment to the concept, helps to explain the consequential indiscipline and low levels of development.
Explicitly, responsible citizenship entails being selfless, and putting the needs of society before one’s own needs.
It thus implies the full adoption of key principles of RBM, a powerful tool that also effectively steers national development.
The latter has also proved to be an effective means for avoiding as well as fighting corruption.
Besides, the notion generally endorses mutual trust plus equal and honest treatment of all people; key elements for cohesion, in society, as well as supporting sustainable national development.
There is, therefore, need in every nation, to identify strategies for developing responsible citizenship, including building strong characters and problem-solving skills.
Such strategy would also involve inculcating good values in all citizens notably patriotism, honesty, responsibility and accountability, the identification of worthy goals plus the proper means to reach the same among other issues.
Such teaching actually forms a part of the education curricula in many developed countries that often proved to be a worthwhile investment which helps citizens to acquire reliable, lifetime values and skills.
In Zimbabwe, developing responsible citizenship vis the very familiar concept of Ubuntu, and highlighting its great strengths, would go a long way in promoting responsible citizenship, love and harmony and ultimately national development.
Choosing to be role models of responsible citizenship, children, the youths and fellow citizens, can also significantly augment these efforts towards enhancing the chances of building sound communities comprising highly responsible, well to-do citizens.
Dr Rudo Grace Gwata-Charamba is an author, development project management consultant and researcher with a special interest in Results Based Management (RBM), Governance and Leadership. [email protected]