Gikuyu story-telling as a method of the communication of moral values
Gachiri, E. W.
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In this study, the function of communicating moral values in the traditional story telling activity of the Agikuyu is researched. Six variables integral to the functioning of a communication process are used to construct a framework for the study. These variables are the storyteller, the listener, the message, the activity of story telling the consequences of story telling and the feedback. The study uses the qualitative research method of cultural anthropology. This paradigm emphasizes a participatory approach to the study and attempts to produce contextual and descriptive in-depth data from observations and interviews. The research was carried out in two Gikuyu communities in the central province of Kenya. These are; Kiriko in Kiambu and Gikondi in Nyeri. This research work was prompted the realisation that the influx of new cultures and mentalities left many Kenyans frustrated with regard to what was an acceptable moral behavior. It was also motivated by many experiences of situations in which indigenous traditions still commanded loyalty and exerted psychological pressure on Kenyans. These together with the belief that aspects of traditional education such as the traditional education such as the traditional story telling of the Agikuyu, communicated the acceptable moral values to the youth in the society, culminated in the present undertaking. The study discovered in Gikuyu story-telling a method of communicating moral values that involved fully the effective faculties of the learner, the educator, the community and the environment. This method utilised in a deliberate manner the emotional participation of the listeners in the shaping of attitudes and moral behaviour. This aspect of the method came out in the present study, as the greatest strength of Gikuyu traditional story-telling activity. The study therefore proposes and recommends that this and other aspects of the traditional Gikuyu story-telling activity that are relevant to education be incorporated into the Kenyan system of education today. Among these aspects are those that concern the storyteller as educator. These include wholesome relationship towards self, towards the listener, towards the community and towards the environment. Present-day storytellers are challenged to create stories suitable to modern youth. They are urged to use all available means to promote story telling in schools, homes and institutions of higher learning. They are also challenged to evaluate and critique current stories to which young people are exposed in books, radio, and television and in other means of the media. As regards listeners, the study recommends that they be of mixed ages, mixed sexes and mixed abilities in order to create the atmosphere that can reap the benefits of traditional Gikuyu story-telling. Other aspects recommended for the audience include openness to leisurely learning, community spirit, healthy competitive attitudes and the freedom to accept, reject or modify the moral characteristics in Gikuyu stories. The moral values in the studied Gikuyu stories (self-control, wisdom, prudence and so on) are judged to have a universal appeal and so are commend to any community. The study also challenges each community to create stories with the moral values it considers worthwhile communicating to its youth. Two general characteristics of story-telling that the study considers especially important are (1) adequate preparation for and introduction to each session (Gikuyu traditional story-telling has nearly twenty variations of opening formulae), and (2) selection of the most appropriate times, locations and external atmosphere for the activity (it is important that the voice, images and fantasy, the non-verbal features, reward and punishment be carefully utilised in order to achieve maximum effectiveness). These features of Gikuyu traditional story-telling contributed immensely towards the involvement of the senses during the activity. The study concludes that traditional Gikuyu story-telling presents an activity that has relevance for contemporary educational methodologies. Its special strength is in its involvement of all the senses of the learner: for when the senses are engaged to attract the child to acceptable behaviour or to repel him or her from what is unacceptable, the individual is more easily moved and shaped by these moral values. The well developed method of story-telling found in the Gikuyu communities studied is recommended in this study as a worthwhile tool for educators especially in their attempt to communicate moral values to the youth. The data in this research is organized under the six headings above. These are the necessary components that qualify story-telling as an activity that communicates moral values to the youth. The six are treated in Chapter Four. Chapter Five, the conclusion to the study contains the summary and recommendations that the researcher deems appropriate for parents, educators, and the educational planners in Kenya. It is hoped that this study will make a helpful contribution to the science and art of education.