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Opinions Tue, 15 Jan 2008

Delinquencies in Modern Ghana

Fortunately, the Ghanaian society has been insulated from the negative influences that cause juvenile delinquencies for a very time due to our culture. Modernization is good but it comes along with its unintended consequences.

I would like to reiterate the fact that in any society crime and delinquencies are functional because it creates a lot of employment opportunities for the criminal justice system, sociologists, psychologists and other professionals.

I remember growing up in Ghana in the early eighties, every child was fearful of his or her father so much so that one would avoid being in any kind of trouble. The so called “bad boys” during this era smoked wee (ntanpe), drank palm wine or pito, and stole fowls and their grand mothers’ old clothes to sell. Some of the youth of today engage in armed robbery to fund their expensive enterprise of drug use and they spend big time money on their girl friends or wear expensive clothes. In addition, they buy the latest electronic gadgets, nice cars and mobile phones. One may argue that these are isolated cases but it is really catching on with the present generation youth. Any society with troubled youth would eventually have a problem in the future since the youth are our future leaders.

In the early eighties, the problems in schools were school children chewing gum at school. We will hide it either under a table or hide it behind our ears but now, some children do incredible things like stealing mobile phones which has become the latest lucrative enterprise. What has changed in Mother Ghana over the years?

The culture is under tremendous attack from all kinds of videos that do not have social redeeming values. With change in values comes along with lots of deviant behaviors.

The harsh economic times which have lasted for too long have changed the role of parents to children. There was a time when parents encouraged their young girls to go out more often just in case they can catch a “sugar daddy,” (some grown man that will lavish them with cash and material goods.) Some parents also are too busy struggling to make money that they do not have time for their children.

With the change in the Secondary Schools set up, many young students were not supervised properly. Can you imagine what the teenagers living in hostels did at night? We heard of all kinds of deviant behaviors.

The Criminal Justice system itself in Ghana, as I have stated elsewhere, needs an overhaul. There were cases where children of Police Officers, Judges and Big Men engaged in criminal activities with impunity. Then also the system of rehabilitating youth offenders, like job training, is lacking.

As Ghana gears up for development, we must also recognize that development is not cheap and it comes with its negative consequences such as crime and delinquent behaviors.

When the rich and the poor live in close proximity, it breeds jealousy which escalates into a class struggle in the society. This is characterized by the society’s emphasis on materialism as a sign of success regardless of how people obtain wealth. Too little is mentioned of legitimate means for achieving financial success. To many people, as I have written before, “the end justifies the means,” which is not the right ethos to follow. When deviancy becomes acceptable in a society, the youth grow up thinking that “everything goes.” Thus, the rise in juvenile delinquencies.

Divorce has started manifesting its ugly influence in the Ghanaian society. In this regard, many children of these divorced families do not have any social bonding and so many of them do not care about disgracing their families due to their crime and deviant behaviors. Parents staying married in healthy relationships have a positive effect on their children. My advice to parents is that they ought to solve marital problems instead of divorcing. This may save many children from delinquent behavior which eventually end them in prison.

To escape from punishment, some criminals try to justify their deviant actions by blaming the society for forcing them into criminal behavior. They often use this particular phrase: “Society made me do it”.

A juvenile growing up in a culturally deviant area will be subjected to criminal lifestyles, and could learn deviant practices, patterns of behavior, and norms. What are we doing as Ghanaians to help solve these problems? I am throwing out a national debate on how to solve the problem of delinquencies in Ghana. Let’s continue to brainstorm and ask “Aberewa Tia,” the old lady.

One may ask if as a nation, we can solve the problems of juvenile delinquencies, corruption, armed robberies, prostitution, “connections” and 419 now before they get out of hand? The traditional family system is breaking down and needs to be fixed. There is an adage that says “it takes a village to raise a child” but now the village is sick. There is an upsurge of single family homes in Ghana and this is alien to our culture. All of us should have to join the crusade of intentionally helping to solve these problems and we should not wait for the Government. Together, we can change things. One family at a time slowly but surely we will succeed. All hands on deck and we will be able to reverse some of the trends that cause delinquencies.

I rest my case.

By Kofi Boye-Doe, Criminal Justice Department, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Boye-Doe, Kofi