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African Proverb of the Month
July 2008

Les poussins apprenant à voler, voleront et y percheront. (French)
Nestling, learn how to fly. Perch. Your companion birds have perched. (Literal EnglishTranslation)
A child of the kwale bird learns how to fly. (Figurative English Translation)

Tonga (Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe) Proverb


Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use

The kwale bird hatches its nestling on the ground. This takes place normally during the rainy season. Because they can perch the parents of the nestling always searches for food for it. Since the nestling cannot perch it is always stationed at the nest and waits for food from its parents. Hence the nestling is dependant on its parents until it starts to perch. This is why the parents urge it's young one to perch so that it can find its own food and thus ensure its own future.

The meaning of this Tonga proverb is that you need to learn to work for your own future self reliance and sustainability. This proverb is used to encourage the youth to work for their own living. It is used to encourage lazy children who always sit at home and never bother to go and work in the fields or never look for employment.

It is now difficult to have everything in one village or one area. One has to go out to get the needs of the family. It is in going out that an individual prepares for his or her future. Therefore our future is taken care of by our present actions. Hence education and learning are very important for any person so that the future can be assured.

Biblical Parallels

1 Corinthians 3: 8: “Each one will receive wages in proportion to his or her labour.”

Philippians 4: 11: “For I have learned in whatever situation I find myself to be self-sufficient.”

1 Thessalonians 4: 11: “Nevertheless we urge you, brothers and sisters, to progress even more, to aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you, that you may conduct yourselves properly towards outsiders and not depend on anyone.”

Ephesians 4: 28: “The thief must no longer steal, but rather labour, doing honest work with his or her own hands, so that he or she may have something to share with one in need.”

Sirach 7: 15: “Hate not laborious tasks, nor farming, which was ordained by the most High.”

Genesis 2: 15: “The Lord God then took the human being and settled him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it.”

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

Zambian society is changing at a fast rate. It is becoming a consumer society and basic needs are becoming difficult to get. There is a great demand for all members of the family to contribute. Nuclear families are preferred and even couples are encouraged to be in either formal or informal employment. This contributes to the self-reliance of the families and also the preparation of the children. Independence is becoming important for families and it reduces the burden on other families. There are also a number of children who are orphaned due to various diseases. This Zambian proverb encourages these children to take up different activities so that they can improve their lives. The Catholic Church in Zambia has depended on expatriate missionaries for a long time. It is now time for the church to prepare itself and work for the self-reliance and sustainability of itself. The church needs to work both in human and financial resources to make itself self reliant.

Bboloka Bubala Nchimunya, S.J.
Hekima College
P.O. Box 21215
00505 Adams Arcade
Nairobi, Kenya
Cellphone: 254-733-926711
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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