Advice to youth: Don’t take away the respect for elders

Elderly residents of Sumbawanga Municipality follow proceedings during a past meeting addressed by the then Rukwa Regional Commissioner Said Magalula. It is important society cared for its elderly members and improve their welfare. PHOTO|FILE

How people treat the helpless, especially the aged, the children and the sick talks a lot about their collective moral character. Yes, if you don’t work, you should not eat, but we also know that we must provide for the children and elderly who cannot work, out of their age. That is what humanity is all about.

When we were young, one would always leave a seat in public transport to allow any old man or woman to sit. Not so easy any longer. In Dar es Salaam for instance, whether one is using a daladala (minibus) or mwendokasi, rapid bus services, young people will sit comfortably without considering the elderly.

In the good old years, children and youth went to great lengths, not to disrespect the elders. Today it is a different song. We have harrowing stories from towns and villages of youths who verbally keep on abusing their parents and elders.

In most of the African traditional society, elders played many important roles in providing guidance to the family and community. It was a must to respect them. Of course, there were wise and foolish elders, but whichever the case, the younger generation was required to treat them with decorum. In our Tanzanian culture, the traditions of the land, law and order and initiation ceremonies were entrusted to the elderly. It means the elders were pivotal for the general well being of the people.

In all major faiths in the world; Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism among others, it is a virtue to respect parents and elders. It’s paramount for building up a good society. In some developed countries, nursing homes for the elderly are a huge business. Grown-up children are not able to take care of their elderly parents at home and so they send them to such facilities. In Africa, our elders are our blessings and we love to stay with them and take care of them at home.

According to HelpAge, only about 4 percent of older people in Tanzania receive a pension, which means the large majority have to depend on their families. The government has a few homes for the elderly/aged, where there are no families to cater for them.

The thoughts about our elders came as I read a story in the media of the government approving payment for retirees in police, prisons and Immigration. It is great that our President, Samia Suluhu Hassan has approved Sh3.877 billion for the payments of retired officials, some of whom have been waiting for some time now. The announcement about the approval was made by the Home Affairs Minister George Simbachawene in Parliament in Dodoma.

As we know, in dear motherland, compulsory retirement age is 60 years. Yes, it is old age and after all, is life expectancy not 65 years in the dear motherland? So, if you delay the pension for 5 years that person, God forbid, could die, before ‘eating” his/her pension!

After someone has worked for her/his country for most of his/her life, it’s only prudent to expedite all their payments, so that one can start a new life. It is unimaginable, the pain some retiree undergo as they wait for so long. Some of them have to borrow money, sometimes, good health is no longer guaranteed.

All the same, the retirees who get a pension in Tanzania are lucky, because the majority of their age-mates, their “pension” is at the mercy of their children. Thus, their children have to take care of them, and when they don’t, it is a huge problem!

Our neighbour Kenyans came up with ‘Inua Jamii Senior Citizens’ scheme social pension’ offering universal pension coverage for all citizens of Kenya once they reach 70 years of age. I think this is a good thing. Kudos to them!


Saumu Jumanne is an Assistant Lecturer, Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE)