Whole citizens are engaged, active, and objective when it comes to governance and participation in nation-building, regardless of their individual, social, political, or tribal affiliations. Citizens’ apathy or their lack of interest in governance presents a real challenge to our developmental aspirations. I am confident that by empowering a responsible, whole citizenry, we can nurture pathways and provide opportunities for citizens to discharge their civic rights and responsibilities confidently and productively.
So, what are the core values of a responsible, whole citizenry? I believe the values of responsible, whole citizenship sync with those of a thriving democracy, where respect for the rule of law, constitutionalism, human rights, justice, and equity form the bedrock of the society. To have all of these virtues working and in abundance in today’s representative democracy is tough. As citizens, however, we must continue to ask tough questions and demand our government the best possible outcomes to further our nation’s development. Countries in Africa and around the world are making significant gains in nation-building, so I am confident we can. I am also hopeful that we can achieve and attain the status of a developed nation if our society can exude the values and flares of responsible, whole citizenship.
The following list highlights several of the core values of responsible, whole citizenship, which I will intricately discuss throughout this book. I hope that by the time you read the conclusion of this book, you would agree with me that civic education and citizenship are of uttermost importance in shaping and empowering of a thriving citizenry. The core values are:
- Citizenship means inclusion, not exclusion;
- Ethics and morals matter in our society;
- Civility is a precondition for good governance;
- Servant leadership is the right kind of leadership;
- Ethical living and leading takes courage and conviction;
- Transparency and accountability are a two-way street;
- Civic education for all must be a reality;
- Alternative ways to resolve disputes are necessary;
- Character education is an intrinsic human right; and
- Mentorship is giving and receiving.
At the center of building a responsible, whole citizenry is active civic engagement and education. Civic engagement is when individuals or citizens of a country work to make a difference in their community’s civic life. Over time, civic education’s importance in our nation’s education system has dwindled to an unprecedented low. After the primary school level, civics is no longer a required course in secondary and tertiary institutions. This, I believe, is a catastrophic mistake for any nation, including our own. Here and now, I can say that the success or failure of the Free Quality Education Program by the current government hinges on the quality and infusion of citizenship and civic education into the academic curriculum across all levels of education in the country.
Active civic engagement is an invaluable pillar in making a case for responsible, whole citizenship in Sierra Leone. Notably, four key constructs come to mind when talking about civic engagement. These constructs are well known and accessible to all who are thinking and researching the issue. These constructs are:
- Civic action, which entails participation in public service and community volunteering;
- Civic commitment or duty: the willingness to make positive contributions to society;
- Civic skills, which is the ability to be involved in civil society, politics, and democracy; and
- Social cohesion, which offers the sense of reciprocity, trust, and responsibility to others.
With a responsible, whole citizenry, we can rise above our developmental challenges and fulfill our developmental aspirations. Responsible, whole citizenship is the way forward.
Tags: Citizens. Civic Engagement. Citizenship. Change. Sierra Leone.
** This piece is chapter from my forthcoming book-The Case for Responsible, Whole Citizenship: People, Politics, and Progress in Sierra Leone