Opinions Fri, 14 Feb 2014

Re: Statement, return public schools to the churches

Dr. Opuni-Frimpong has called for objectivity in the debate over whether or not public schools must be returned to the churches. This whole argument was based on blaming others for the woes of our public education. He cites lack of maintenance of school properties as one of the reasons for the change. He is asking that buildings and lands – some of which are high value prime estates – be handed over to the church. Good quality education has been delivered in more humble environments. It is, rather, the divisive tendencies of the Church, exemplified by prayers like, “may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace”; this declaration clearly erodes confidence. It totally discriminates against those who have died without accepting the Christian faith.

Dr. Opuni also claims, the handover will “restore the once moral values and qualities that were seen in those who attended those schools”. Where has Dr. Opuni been living? Over 90% of the educationists, politicians, traditional rulers, senior police and military officers, members of the bar and the bench, senior civil servants, teachers and headmasters of our public schools, and some members of the clergy, were educated in mission schools. If, even 10% of their number maintained a modicum of honesty, integrity, devotion to duty and truthfulness, the state of affairs in Ghana would be different.

God gives what you pray for; for those who pray for “bread”-material things- He gives bread. As one is never satisfied with material wealth, greed takes over. That is why the Christian Western world, with their great material wealth are still waging wars for world material control. At the local level, the missionary educated Ghanaians have taken hold of political power to run the nation, manage our economy and our finances. They have interpreted “love thy neighbour as thy self” as: love “self” first, “bread” second and, if there is time, “thy neighbour”.

The ethos of Christian education in Africa as articulated by Rev. Richard Sibbes was to “force non-Christians into submission to Christianity and its conterminous Western culture” which he saw as a “necessary stage in the process of conversion”. Is this what Dr. Opuni seeks to return to?

The Christian educated Ghanaian has been forced to forget that long before the birth of his generation, a beneficent code of morals and a precious collection of guidelines in the realm of the spirit had been preserved and handed down as heritage through the efforts of selfless god-men, seers and sages. These sages have handed down precious quantity of knowledge about nature, about consciousness, and also about the means of testing and enlarging that knowledge. Their footprints mark the lines of individual and social progress.

He has even abandoned the knowledge acquired by his forbearers regarding the ways of adoring and worshiping the Supreme Deity. He has adopted alien religion, developed by a people with different heritage, but has the bad manners to disregard the discipline that goes with it. He is happy to go to church every Sunday but, contrary to the rules of his new religion, he has enacted a law that allows him to marry more than one wife.

Instead of drawing inspiration and knowledge from the previous generations as others before him have done in the regions of ethics, law, mysticism, sociology, religion, etc; he is neglecting and discarding this knowledge as invalid and worthless. Instead of preserving and fostering it and using it with reverence, he has ignored them as superstition and mumbo-jumbo. His Christian missionary education has destroyed his faith in the system that has been extolled by his ancestors for millennia.

His training has ensured that he develops hatred for this past and anything connected with that past because, in his acquired mentality, that past reminds him of his ‘primitive’ ancestry. He has fallen under the impact of alien ways of thought that highlight material comfort, physical luxury, sensual liberty and exterior display. He threads the path of exploitation and violence, idleness and pompousness. He is afflicted with crave for fame and authority.

He has adopted the language, laws, religion and ethical values of the former colonial master as his own; and so becomes an easy prey to manipulation. Because of his relentless desire to imitate the ways of the colonial master, he has developed inferiority complex. How can anyone who is ashamed of his own past and constantly pretending to be someone else, muster confidence in himself?

Missionary education ensured that for him, knowledge is that imparted by the colonial master in books and other instructional materials; practical knowledge, experience knowledge and traditional knowledge, culture and spiritual practices, native wisdom and experience of his people, all count for nothing.

On account of the inferiority complex he acquired during his training, he lacks originality and feels threatened by any sign of originality emanating from people he feels are less ‘educated’ than him. This manifests in his constant search for jobs. The university graduate without job is not ashamed to parade this fact. Does he pause to think, how the majority of his generation who do not have university education, fare? He is happy to use his educational qualifications and certificates as begging bowls.

In fact, he sees education and the certificates he collects as begging bowls to secure jobs to earn money for comfortable living, as the end of education. Collecting bigger bowls in the form of higher University degrees has become fashionable. He is not ashamed to beg for a job from the less educated. Uneducated foreigners, including paedophiles and sexual deviants, who come to Ghana to seek their fortune are, actually, helped by the educated Ghanaian to exploit his people. For him, garnering food and catering to his physical comfort is the reason for education. Look at how missionary educated traditional rulers are happy to encourage the rape of farm lands by “galamsey mining!”

Among most products of missionary education, there is total lack of moral virtues, honesty, integrity, eagerness to serve and readiness to renounce. Rather, they are enslaved by the glittering fancies and fascination of other, mainly western, cultures. How else would Dr. Opuni explain to the nation the retirement package, which consisted of the regular pension and four brand new luxurious cars to a Headmaster of a mission school? Did the headmaster spare a thought for the finances of the school he was leaving behind? In my school days, the Rev Headmaster and another priest combined their savings to build a chapel for the school. And they shared the use of one car. They were foreigners!

Literacy has a new meaning for the missionary educated Ghanaian. In other cultures, literacy is the ability to read and write one’s own language. For the Ghanaian, this is different. The educated Ghanaian is one who is able to read well, and speak fluently, the language of the ex-colonial master. Very often, he is not able to read and write his native language. This is not a source of embarrassment and shame for him; in fact, he takes pride in his ignorance. His ability to speak the colonial language gives him a sense of superiority over those who speak the native language only, or even those who speak several non-European languages.

Morally, he is a law unto himself: he picks and chooses, at his convenience and whims which moral values to apply at any point in his life. He has abandoned the ethic of his people that one has to work before one eats. He searches for, and eats breakfast before he looks for his work clothes.

If the record showed that people with missionary education turned out to be honest, truthful, hardworking, feared sin, desired to earn honest living, eschewed bribery and corruption, I would join Dr. Opuni in his crusade. As it is, I feel that Parliament could spend their time better than to debate this non-issue.

If there is need for value-education, and I believe there is, the answer does not lie in the transfer of physical assets from one group to another. Rather, there is the need to re-emphasise the ethical and moral values handed down as heritage by generations before us.

Kofi Bempah, Ph.D

Formerly, Lecturer in Chemistry at UCC and deputy minister of education.

Author: Akan Traditional Religion, the myths and the truth.

E-mail: fenomin@hotmail.com.

Columnist: Kofi Bempah, Ph.D