TOUCH NOT THE GOLDEN CHILD: A POLICY OR A TIME BOMB?


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 The 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 patronized 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 overprotectiveness 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 oversees 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 will toil all round doing the sweeping, fetching, 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 wisdom, became fed up and decided to look on while his wife singlehandedly brought up their son the way she alone deemed fit.

In the cool of the day 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 ‘KPLAMAASEWO’ (cultured but not heeded), but I have raised a
‘DZIMAAKPLA’ (born but not cultured). We all are now reaping the bitter fruits of those acts of
irresponsible parenting. I truly empathize and sympathize 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? Yes, the
Whites brought western education but is it everything about it that we should swallow hook, line
and sinker? What has happened to the doctrines or principles of assimilation or acculturation or
even as someone would say, “Africanization 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? In any case, can we conveniently say that the American or British raised is always of the
best behavior? Are there no criminals and prisons in France or Canada? Can those at the ‘top’
today in this country be honest enough and admit that they could have reached there without the
whip?
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’. However, 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 teach those numerous topics in those many 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.
In Hebrews 12:11, the Bible says, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than
pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by
it.”.
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.

Also in Proverbs 22:15, it says that, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of
discipline drives it far from.
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. This the Holy Book also catered
for in Proverbs 19:18 when it says, “Discipline your son while there is hope; do not set your heart
on putting him to death.”. This ideally and morally should be the watchword of every well-trained
teacher and any parent who seeks to correct any child by the whip.
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 edition 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!

By Ignatius Quophy Amaglo

Monday, February 4, 2019.