21ST CENTURY KIDS: WHAT TO TEACH AND HOW TO TEACH?

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Written by: Ismail Rotimi Lawal

We have come to the fact that the environment we grew up in as kids no longer exist. The 21st century has taken a different shape entirely and it seems like we are new to this world looking at the direction in which the world is evolving.

The pace at which the world is growing has come with overwhelming challenges when it comes to raising and training children. Our diverse environment has become a challenging factor shaping the lives of our children.

Raising children has always been the most important job and a very tasking responsibility since time immemorial, unfortunately, the 21st Century has made it more difficult for teachers and parents. Thus, it requires a new approach to educate and train children in this era of fourth industrial revolution.

The world is gradually withdrawing from the teachings of God, indigenous code of conduct and African moral values that were set as a yardstick for a child to attain excellent moral behaviour. The code of conduct that has remained with us for ages is now perceived as violating human rights, unfit, and inappropriate in the 21st century.

A quite number of people are throwing their weights behind the Western standards of raising a child while ignoring the dangerous aspects of such standards are having on the moral upbringing of in those societies. The worst is the rise of atheism in the West which many young people are adopting as their way of life, which unsurprisingly is also gaining followers in this part of the world.

Unfortunately, the adherents of mainstream religions (Islam and Christianity) are deviating from their core values and true teachings. It is increasingly evident that profession of faith in God is not a determinant of the spiritual health of the believers. More than ever, the burden of parenting is onerous for many to bear in a world where the gradual extinction of morality is talked about but so little is done to salvage the situation.

Hence, it is crucial for every conscious and responsible parent to pay attention to the moral development of their children in order to reverse the current order and restore the eroding morality that once characterized our way of life.

According to Sue Palmer, Educational Consultant and author of Toxic Childhood, who wrote: “There is no right way to bring up children… so it’s impossible to provide some sort of recipe for child-rearing that will work for everyone, and parenting manuals are eventually doomed to failure.

But in a fast-moving, market-driven, screen-based culture, there are problems to face and questions to answer that no previous generation of parents has ever had to deal with. Recent research from UNICEF, the Good Childhood enquiry, the National Consumer Council and many other organisations makes it clear that parents can’t just sit back and hand their children over to the media and marketers. There’s plenty of evidence that constant exposure to a vacuous celebrity culture and the message that being ‘cool’ depends on endless mindless consumption aren’t good for children’s mental health. So, while there’s no point in seeking a recipe, there are plenty of reasons for listening to good advice and ideas from people who’ve already negotiated the difficult path of twenty-first century child-rearing.

Most parents today have little experience of children until they take their firstborn home from the hospital, and very few have access to the traditional support system of extended family and close-knit community – the people who, in the past handed on ancient wisdom about how best to bring up a child.”

As a matter of great importance, parents and every stakeholder responsible for the upbringing of children need to devote efforts to laying a solid foundation of Islam in the heart of their wards while they continue to pray to Allah the Almighty to always guide them away from the abnormalities in the society.

The teachings of Islam are very paramount in the lives of children as there is no better yardstick to improve a child other than the Islamic value system. Likewise, the value of Western education is not to be undermined, so there has to be a balance between these two important values-based system of teachings so that children will acquire secular knowledge and are able to compete in the global world while maintaining their Islamic faith.

The Islamic value system and the righteous community of true Muslims are the means of retracing our steps from the inglorious journey through the destructive path, which many people unwittingly tread. It is every Muslim adult’s paramount responsibility to correct the immoralities and unfounded practices that have found their way into Islam over the years. This is what we must protect our children from, and we cannot afford to fail in this responsibility.

Every parent or guardian was trained by teachers, without whom these people would not have the knowledge and moral ground to be in a position of training a child. Thus, it is incumbent upon all to be determined and strategize the most suitable ways to train and build the future of every child under their care.

As Islamic teachers, your work is not limited to Islamic teachings but also involves teaching children good moral behaviour, democracy, innovation, justice and human right. These teachings and training are very essential for the peace and progress of our Muslim Community, country and world at large.

Children are particularly influenced by three places: their homes, schools and the environment. At home, they learn under the guidance of their parents, at school, they learn from their teachers and friends, while they are also influenced by their surroundings. As children tutors or teachers, you have the opportunity to develop the attitude, belief, knowledge and skills of these children because they spend relatively much time under your care.

What to teach Kids

1) Oneness of Allah (Taoheed)

This should be the focus of educating Muslim kids. Educating children about the Oneness of Allah is a prerequisite for the success of any child, and it should be the foundation of all knowledge you want to educate the children. Muslim kids must have the basic knowledge of Allah the Almighty.

They need to recognize Allah through what they can easily understand. You can start from nature; the sky, sun, moon and planets and tell them these things are made by Allah. They love their parents, let them know that the existence of their parents and everyone else are by the grace of Allah the Almighty.

Children love stories, and thus, you should take advantage of this interest to inform them of the Oneness of Allah. Narrate the stories of how Prophet Muhammad (saw) conquered his enemies in Mecca. Faith-lifting stories like how Prophet Muhammad and Abu Bakr was saved in the Thawr Cave when enemies were after them. The story of how Allah saved Jesus from the hands of the Jews is also an opportunity to tell the kids that Allah helps those that worship Him, and that Jesus (as) did not die on the cross. How Hazrat Moses (as) overcame Pharaoh and his hordes is also an interesting story to tell children.

Tell them that Allah is the one that heals them when they are sick and the medicines they use are made of the provisions of Allah.

When children are made to understand that everything in the world belongs to Allah, they subconsciously develop a love for Allah as they grow, they begin to understand better and continue to build on their Oneness of Allah and their faith.

2) Moral Conduct

Hazrat Malik (ra), reported that The Messenger of Allah (saw), said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.”

This means that attitude is very important in Islam. We have to continuously build and improve the moral behaviour of Muslim children.

Attitude is everything. If any child fails to develop excellent moral qualities at a very young age (God forbid), it might become more impossible for them to have a rethink as they grow up and begins to gain more independence.

The moral behaviour in our society is degrading day by day. Many parents are finding it difficult to make their children submissive, teachers are losing control over their students, while elders and young adults make eye-to-eye confrontations exchanging insults. 

The World Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Fifth Khalifa (Caliph), His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad in his Friday sermon delivered 13 December 2013 at Baitul Futuh Mosque, London said:

“In the fitrat (nature) of man, Allah the Exalted has placed a tendency to copy others in our surroundings, which manifests from childhood, as it is part of the nature of man. Hence, the tendency to copy others is in the nature of a child. This tendency is certainly for our benefit, but the wrong use sometimes leads to man’s destruction or takes him towards destruction.

It is a consequence of this tendency to copy and be influenced by his environment that man learns a language from one’s parents, learns other deeds and good things which make a child a well-mannered person. If the parents are virtuous, observe the Salat, read and recite the Holy Quran, live with each other in an atmosphere of love and affection, and abhor falsehood, then the children under their influence will adopt virtues. On the contrary, if the child sees lying, fighting and disputes, making fun of others in the home, not giving due regard to the dignity of the Jama’at or other such bad actions, then because of that tendency to copy or because of the impact of the environment the child learns these evils.

When he goes out, he tries to learn whatever he sees in his surroundings and among his friends. This is why I repeatedly draw attention to the parents that they should keep an eye on the outside environment of the children. And even within the home, they should keep an eye on the programs that they watch on television or their Internet usage.”

Parents and teachers need to partner together to instill both spiritual and moral conduct in children. Children should be taught and encouraged to offer daily prayers in the congregation, practice Islam moral values in their daily lives and should be encouraged to listen to the Khilafa sermon regularly. Training on truthfulness, respect for parents, teachers, elders, rules and regulations and love for the Khilafah should be organized regularly.

Literature and Huzur’s video that deals with social issues should be available to children through libraries in local mosques and at home.

How to teach?

1) Teach from children perspective

It is important that you have the state of the children in mind whenever you want to teach them. Children are still developing both mentally and physically. So, the kid cannot understand or reason like an adult. Acknowledging this fact is a prerequisite to your success as a teacher.

2) Enthusiasm

Teachers need to be enthusiastic about their duties so that children will find you and what you are teaching them interesting. Many great teachers have always been known for their passion and love for their jobs, this makes them teach better and win the hearts of their students. Every teacher must show interest and grow love in teaching children.

3) Patience

Patience is the key when dealing with children. Children are still young and would not always be well-behaved, teachers need to understand when they are not showing a positive attitude and try to remain calm while you handle them. Teachers should try to exercise patience when a kid is not comprehending what they are teaching them. Some people get frustrated and adopt the use of a cane. This is not advisable in raising children.

The Promised Messiah (as) said:

“When a hot-tempered person is provoked and punishes a child, he takes on the role of an enemy in the stress of his anger and imposes punishment far over the wrong which has been done. An individual with self-respect and control over himself, who is also forbearing and dignified, has the right to correct a child to a certain extent as the occasion demands or seek to guide the child. But a wrathful and hot-headed person who is easily provoked is not to be a guardian of children….”

4) Empathy:

Empathy is an important skill of a great teacher. When you are emphatic towards children, they will find you loving, supportive, friendly, and understanding. They know that you value their emotions, hence you become approachable. They are free to walk towards you, ask questions, and contribute to group discussions. They will have much trust in you and believe in all you might have been teaching them.

5) Set Rules:

Children must be aware that there are consequences in wrongdoings. As much as you are nice to them, you should also let them know that wrongdoings are not tolerated. Make a rule and let them be aware of it. Do not punish them for a rule they are ignorant of. You should make them understand that the rules are set for discipline and not to cause them any discomfort.

6) Positive encouragement:

Nobody loves to be insulted, abused, or embarrassed. It is very important to recognize the effort of any kid. Don’t deny children the praise they truly deserve. When you begin to acknowledge their behaviours, knowledge or skills, this will boost their self-esteem and serve as motivation to them to do better. Words like you are smart, you are intelligent, I am proud of you can have great effects on the perspective a kid has towards you. Positive words can have a great atmosphere in a home or classroom and the children for the better.

7) Play with them:

Playing with kids has always proved beneficial for both the teachers and students. Every time you are meeting with children should not always be on classroom education. Fun activities should also be part of your calendar or timetable. Activities like table tennis and football can be part of your programme.

This is a great way to build a strong attachment with the children.

The responsibility of training the children is not placed solely on the shoulders of teachers alone, all responsible adults have to shoulder this call.

The parents have more responsibility and duty of care and the opportunity to ensure that the future of their children is protected. Hence, they should not fail in this regard. Their children should always be protected from wrongdoings, while they avail the kids to the responsible teachers whenever the call to their spiritual and moral training is demanded.

We should always continue to pray for the kids and continue to build on their spiritual and moral growth for they are the hope of the community.

“My Lord, make me observe Prayer, and my children too. Our Lord! bestow Thy grace on me and accept my prayer.” Holy Qur’an chapter 14:41.

Work Cited:

  1. Holy Quran
  2. Social Media: A Selection of Addresses (by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifa tul Masih V (May Allah be his Helper).
  3. The Essence of Islam: Volume III (By Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad)
  4. Respect and Obedience to Parents (by Navida Sayed).

About the writer: Ismail Rotimi Lawal is a graduate of Pharmaceutics. He’s a keen writer and Secretary Media & Publications of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Organization, Nigeria. He is also a member of the Muslim Writers’ Guild of Nigeria and the Assistant Programs Manager of Health Volunteers Naija, a Non-Governmental Organization – committed to enhanced community health in Nigeria.

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