By: Ignatius Quophy Amaglo |
Not too long ago, I sat with Rev. Emmanuel Akpor of the Bible Baptist Church (BBC) at Afife in the Volta Region as I usually do anytime my soul yearns for more spiritual food. The Word of God. I have in the not-too-distant past learned so much from this man’s in-depth knowledge of the Bible and his own life’s experience.
It was a sunny and hot afternoon and this time around, he told me a story he watched at a live concert in his youthful days by a group called “Agbedefu Concert Troupe”. Many who are far older than me, I am told, can relate and can confirm that it was one of the most patronised educative entertainments those days in the Eweland.
The story was told of a man named Agbedefu, who lived in a village with his family: a wife, Gbeda and an only son called Akogo. Akogo, from childhood, was loved by both parents to the admiration of all.
During his teen years, Akogo’s parents began to disagree on the proper upbringing to give to their only begotten son. This was because Agbedefu felt that Gbeda’s pampering and over protectiveness was a recipe for disaster someday, especially when their son had just reached adolescence.
To the Father, the crooked branch on a tree can only be straightened while it is still fresh and malleable. This his wife did not buy into at all. To her, Akogo is God-sent and as such will defy all odds including the authority of her husband to protect him from any form of pain or stress or danger.
Her dream was to see their son grow into a successful man who will frequent the overseas countries and carry her some day in the most expensive car.
This dangerous obsession about a son by a mother escalated to a point that Gbeda would always perform absolutely all domestic chores that should ordinarily be performed by a well brought up child in any typical African home.
In the mornings, while he was still in bed, Akogo’s mother would toil all round doing the sweeping, fetching water, washing, cooking and anything related to his preparation for school. He only woke up, bathed, ate and went to school.
After school, while Akogo gallivanted all over the village, the mother would go, look for and fetch firewood in the company of her son’s peers. When dinner was ready, she would take the usual trouble and look for her darling boy to come eat.
What was even more shameful to Agbedefu and most worrying to the villagers was that Akogo’s mother would throw caution, decency and civility to the winds, go to her son’s school and would verbally or physically assault seniors and teachers who, in any way, inflicted pain on her future medical doctor.
Elderly people in the community also had their inordinate share of Gbeda’s venomous attacks any time they tried correcting any improper behavior in Akogo. Her husband, who was known by all as a man of wisdom, became fed up and decided to look on while his wife singlehandedly brought up their son the way she alone deemed fit.
One late afternoon, while Akogo and her mother sat together chatting and giggling not too far from Agbedefu who was sitting in his “akpasa” (lazy chair), looking into the air, apparently pondering over life, a loud ‘agoooooo!’ was heard from the direction of the compound’s entrance. It was a female voice.
The family, in a choreographic fashion, lifted and tilted their heads towards the call and responded in unison, “ameeeeeh!” The giggling chatter of the mother and son stopped abruptly while the father sat straight up. Agbedefu called for a seat to be brought to the guests; a woman and her daughter, but that was declined sharply.
Now it was obvious there was some fire on the mountain. After exchanging greetings, the conspicuously angry woman narrated her mission to the man of the house. Surprisingly, Agbedefu just laughed out loudly for some few seconds and then, in a low and polite tone, asked the woman to send the matter to Akogo’s mother.
Before they took a step, another “agooooo!” in a female voice was heard. Another teenage girl, Akogo’s school mate, was brought by her mother to Agbedefu. Their mission was not different from that of the first visitors.
Again they were directed to Akogo’s mother. Then came another and another and another until it became clear to the family and the neighbors, who had started massing up in Agbedefu’s compound, that Akogo had succeeded in putting those little girls in the family way.
As one would expect, there was a serious back and forth between Gbeda and the parents of Akogo’s ‘victims’. This continued for some tens of minutes until Agbedefu got up and walked towards his family and the visitors.
He raised his hands signaling the call for some silence. He cleared his throat and in a deep voice said, “my dear visitors, you have succeeded in mothering and probably fathering “kplamasewo” (cultured but not heeded), but I have raised a “dzimakplawo” (born but not cultured). We all are now reaping the bitter fruits of those acts of irresponsible parenting. I truly empathise and sympathise with you today.”
He then crossed his two arms at his back and walked quietly into his hut.
This story is largely akin to the educational regime that we are witnessing in Ghana today. The complete ban on corporal punishments in schools is now in full force to the extent that teachers found culpable now risk demotion, suspension, prosecution and even confrontation from the parents of the victims.
This state of affairs, to many, raises several questions and concerns so far as the future of our children are concerned.
Has this policy been well thought through? Have teachers and parents who are major stakeholders been well consulted before the issuance of these directives? Or is it just one of those African mentality and beliefs that anything Western is better than anything African?
What has happened to the doctrines or principles of assimilation or acculturation or even as someone would say, “Africanisation of Western Culture”? Should we necessarily accept recommendations by those nations and international agencies like UNICEF? Can the African child just overnight be transmogrified into the model Western child in the ambiance of African culture?
To me, an outright ban on the measured use of corporal punishment, whether in school or home, defies the principle of natural discipline and the consequences dire, as we are already witnessing today.
On May 24, 2016, the Guidance and Counselling Unit of the Ghana Education Service (GES) published a document titled, “Tools for Positive Discipline in Basic Schools” which is a laudable attempt to make the school environment more “friendly”.
Unfortunately, a careful reading only goes to confirm the belief that we are only good at making impeccable laws that never get implemented. No teacher can adequately use those “tools” looking at the already insufficient time available to teaching the numerous topics/subjects in the basic school curriculum.
This ban also flies in the face of the Bible’s teachings on the need to include the whip in the child discipline equation at all times. [Hebrews 12:11]
Proverbs 29:15 says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with a rod, you will save his soul from Sheol,” so says Proverbs 23:13,14.
The unguarded, unmeasured and extreme use of the cane has been the principal case argued by the policy makers, the implementers and human right advocates.
Every child deserves love, and love must go with discipline which is a critical element of being a responsible disciplinarian. It is evident that the African child cannot be like the White child just by a mere ban on punishments in schools; their two worlds are vastly different.
Ghanaweb’s Thursday, January 31, 2019 publication, carried a news item captioned, “Save yourself from trouble, don’t cane students – NAGRAT tells members” in an apparent response to a directive captured by the same news portal as, “Parents can deal with any ‘abusive’ teacher who beats their child – GES”
In effect, should our teachers take their hands and mouths entirely off matters relating to discipline in our schools for fear of offending this policy? Then I am afraid we as a country are sitting on a time bomb. We are highly likely to breed future leaders who may be educated but uncultured.
NB: Mr Amaglo is a Teacher and a Writer