Sources of moral development in the Oromo culture

It has been argued that public demand for the moral development of the young is ever increasing. Professional educators and lay people appear to be persuaded that schools and higher institutions can do much more with moral education and that now it is extremely important to direct more attention and energy to this concern. Granted, there is a general agreement that schools and our higher institutions should embark upon more and better, if any, programmes of moral education. However, there remains a great deal of fear, I presume, about what this education is to be and about how moral teaching might best proceed. That is, one problem relates to the content, and the other relates to the methodology/approach or underlying philosophy. It has been at these pressing practical problems that the present article pointed and made only modest suggestions.

A. Proverbs

Oromo proverbs and moral values

Aspect of development
1. love and friendliness

a) Hiriyyaan wal hinamanne, malkaa ceetutti wal kakti

English translation
a) Friends who do not trust each other, do solemn oaths on every spot.

Moral value deduced
a) Unity and oneness is desirable
ii. mutual trust


Aspect of development
2. honesty and truthfulness

a) Qullaa lafa hindhoksan; dhugaa Waaqa hindhoksan
b) Dhugaan aduuma diida teettu tana

English translation
a) One cannot hide his private part from the ground, as one cannot hide truth from God.
b) Truth is that sunlight out there

Moral value deduced
a) Truth is all-pervading


Aspect of development
3. self-respect and esteem

a) Of-hinagarre raafuu lagatti

English translation
a) He who doesn’t’ know himself very well despises cabbage simmer

Moral value deduced
a) To over-judge oneself spoils relation

B. Stories

The following tales are adapted from Margaret Parking’s Tales for Change, 2004. I strongly recommend Oromo Folk Literature as a wide-ranging repertoire where one can carefully select materials to bring into class and adopt to teaching moral education. Margaret Parking’s Tales for Change is meant for promoting organizational leadership and management through stories.

1. Introduction

I’m very often amused when I visit supermarkets and other retail organizations where the staff sport badges saying things like ‘happy to help’, ‘here to serve’ etc when their whole demeanour and behaviour say the very opposite! Just sticking a badge on people does not necessarily change their beliefs. And without that change, it is unlikely that the behaviour will be sustained – as Aphrodite discovered in this next story (although not in a supermarket!).

The Tale

The Cat and her Lover

Once there was a cat, who saw and fell in love with a handsome young man. She went to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and begged her to change her into a woman, so that she might meet with the young man and make him her lover. Aphrodite, feeling sorry for the cat and her plight, agreed and transformed her into a beautiful young woman. Upon seeing the woman, the young man instantly fell in love with her and took her to be his bride.

The first night, whilst they were alone in their bedchamber, Aphrodite, who could not resist her own curiosity as to whether the cat’s instincts had changed along with her appearance, let loose a mouse into the room. The young woman, completely forgetting where and who she was, instantly leapt off the bed and chased the mouse in order to eat it.

Aphrodite, disappointed in the young woman’s behaviour, immediately changed her back to a cat.


We may be able to change our behaviour – but do we really change our inner nature?

Reflections/ Trigger

1. What do you understand as the meaning of the story?

2. Who is represented by the cat in your organization?

3. Has this person changed his or her inner nature – or just behaviour?

4. What ‘mouse test’ could you set?

5. Discuss how the story might have ended differently.

2. Introduction

Someone told me this story in a smoky hotel bar somewhere – so long ago, I’m afraid I’ve forgotten who and the point that the person was making! But I like to use it when groups are engaged in their favourite game of ‘change involves everybody else but me…’ In other words, it seems easier to get others to take action rather than taking action yourself!

The Tale

The Cigarette Story

A man, desperate to give up smoking, read an advertisement in the local newspaper, which reads:


Intrigued and thinking that, having tried everything else, he had nothing much to lose, he duly sent off his money and waited for the miracle cure to arrive on his doorstep.

Sure enough, a few days later, a small envelope arrived and, although disappointed at its size, the man eagerly tore it open. Inside was a small card on which were the words:



We might say we want to change – but are we really prepared to take action ourselves?

Reflections/ Trigger

1. Should the man have asked for his £5 back?!

2. What change are you/others trying to make?

3. What action do you need to take?

4. The story implies that we have to take responsibility for our own actions and not rely on others. Do you agree?

5. How could you encourage others to take more responsibility for themselves?

3. Introduction

I was reminded of this story recently, when I was working with a team of 12 people – but, to be more accurate, it was actually a group of 12 individuals! This story is based on an old Aesop fable. The message is not new – although it’s always worth reminding your team that there are dangers in becoming too individualistic, to the detriment of the team. Particularly during periods of change, it’s good for a team to stick together (no pun intended!).

The Tale

The Father and his Sons

A man had a family of sons who, to his dismay, were always arguing amongst themselves. Unable to resolve their differences, the father decided to give them a practical illustration of the dangers of disharmony, and to this end he asked one of the young men to fetch him a bundle of sticks. When the bundle of sticks was brought to him, he passed it round to each of the sons in turn, saying, ‘Try your best to break the bundle into pieces.’

As hard as each son tried, none of them could break the wood. Next, the father untied the bundle of sticks and, one by one, passed a single stick to each son, with the same injunction, ‘Try your best to break the stick into pieces.’

This time, the task was easy. Each son, with no problem, broke the stick in two. Then the father addressed his sons: ‘Let this be a lesson to you; if you are of one mind, like this bundle of sticks, then no external enemy or agent can injure you. But if you are divided and argue amongst yourselves, you will be as easy to break as these sticks.’


United we stand; divided we fall.

Reflections/ Trigger

1. How can you relate the story to your own experience?

2. Do teams in your organization see themselves as ‘individual sticks’ or a ‘larger bundle’?

3. Can some teams be both?

4. How might this story be used with the team to promote harmony?

5. What might encourage teams in your organization to‘bundle’ together?!–from-Theory-to-Practice/84529

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