NQOBA’S STORY

My name is Nqoba Langa. My first name translates to “overcome or conquer” while my second refers to both “the sun” and “day.” I rather prefer to go with “the sun” because that surely gives weight to my first name. I was born in the sprawling Tshabalala high-density suburb of Bulawayo, the second largest city of Zimbabwe.

My children delight in referring to me as “half a century and two not out” when asked about my age. Any keen sports follower will know that this is the cricket scoring method. Besides cricket, my children are passionate about basketball, athletics and rugby. They also love pets. This opening almost gives me away because I have yet to find out why my parents gave me such a name as Nqoba, a name that is associated with being a conqueror. For, I am an old-fashioned male, who grew up on a diet of old-school religion, football, music and book reading. These still make up the bulk of my world today.

Could my name have been an illustration of the confidence that my parents had in the successful conclusion of the long struggle for Zimbabwe’s independence from racist settler colonialism? I raise this possibility because I was born at a time when the liberation war formed a great part of social and political discourse. As many readers will know, African names tend to be deep-rooted in meanings and yearnings. Was my name perhaps a hope that I would participate in the war? The dreamer in me notes that the liberation struggle ended as I celebrated my fourteenth birthday, which was just about the age at which many youngsters left the country to join the freedom fighters. Perhaps, I still will find out what inspired my name.

I am, however, aware of my dislike for the so-called rage of the digital age. I cannot fathom how something that is supposed to improve our lives is simultaneously giving us endless problems all over the world. In literally every news bulletin I follow, there is a report of some harm or misfortune visited upon humanity by technology gone wrong. Central to what annoys are the unstoppable tentacles of social media. No, I am not about to cry about “fake news,” “alternative facts” or even “photoshopped pictures.” My concerns will always be much simpler. We are losing long-cherished, some would say, time-honoured values and moral standards because while the social media creators pretend to put safeguards in place, they have failed dismally in attempts to protect us from unhealthy materials.

I cannot remember the number of times I have set up and de-activated accounts on various social media platforms after realizing that the language and images in use are anathema to my old-school values. A TIME magazine article in 2015 asked whether employers could be justified in monitoring social media accounts of their employees. The writer gave engaging arguments in favour of, and against, the practice. Sadly, today, it is not enough to limit the question to employers and workers; the monstrous question must also be raised with regard to our homes and schools.

Some may think I am in favour of curtailing free expression. No, I am not. I have issues with the fact that parents and guardians are losing the capacity to control what this vile and broken world exposes our youngsters to. Tellingly, in response to the circumstances we find ourselves in, there is a desperate rush to adopt unreasonable corrective and remedial measures. At places, some of the prescriptions leave one with a huge and shocking sense of bewilderment.

As far back as 2008, The Telegraph newspaper of Britain reported on a proposal to make sex education compulsory for children below the age of five. The report said “one in three secondary schools now has a sexual health clinic to give condoms, pregnancy tests and morning after pills to children as young as 11.”

In April 2009, The Guardian reported that “government had announced plans to make sex education compulsory for pupils aged five to 11, dividing faith groups and safer sex campaigners.” The lessons would be supposedly graduated in intensity with 9 and 10 year olds  getting to know about “the responsibilities that come with being in a romantic relationship.” A clear indication that these are desperate measures was captured in the lame provision that “but faith schools will also be free to preach against sex outside marriage and condoms.” It seems to me we know what is right!

Earlier on I referred to the dreamer in me. However, I must say this world beats the living day lights out of me. How is the latitude (or is it freedom) given to faith schools expected to work in a world that is drowning in unending calls for inclusivity in a globalizing world? I believe my angst is shared by many other parents and guardians. In December 2013, Michelle Kaufman of LifeSiteNews.com wrote that “a new graphic sex education program aimed at 5 to 12 year-olds has been launched in New Zealand, drawing sharp criticism from parents who are shocked at the material covered.”

My use of old sources is deliberate. It is my attempt to demonstrate the long road we have travelled to the messy juncture that characterizes humanity today. Issues of child abuse, alarming domestic violence , drug abuse and the gun culture add on to the problems children are confronted with. The ubiquitous social media is not helping in any way to address the problems. In one breath, we say it helps to keep people connected (and that’s good). But soon afterwards, we complain that it promotes feelings of isolation and leads to emotional problems. If anything, there is a way in which what we continuously celebrate as freedom to choose, creativity and trail-blazing thinking simply foments the crises facing the world.

Accordingly, a man called Nqoba the “overcomer” gets cold shivers when he thinks of what the future holds in store for the youth. For this reason, I shelter in my old-school values and hope that they may still be hope.

I note with interest that some people have cleverly cautioned against seeing “a half-full or half-empty glass.” Rather, they counsel that one should celebrate and be grateful that the glass contains something.

I derive lots of hope from the optimistic view.

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