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Opinions of Friday, 21 March 2008

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Battling Irrationalities in Schools

The banning of the use talismans, charms and amulets by students in Tamale’s Business Senior High School reveals the battle between the rational and the irrational in Ghana’s development process. While schools are supposed to be centres for rationalization, the irrational parts of the Ghanaian culture flow in, creating confusion in the education system.

With the irrational and the rational parts of their culture circling in their minds, Ghanaian students normally give in to the more powerful and enticing irrational components, seeing them “not only use the charms to confuse teachers during exams, but also used them to haunt their fellow students, whom they considered to be performing better in class” (myjoyonline.com/The Ghanaian Chronicle/Ghanaweb.com, Saturday, 8 March 2008).

In most schools during soccer competitions juju-marabout mediums and other spiritualists are heavily employed to defeat opposing schools – hard work, organization and planning is minimized. Tamale tells us that this is spreading to other endeavours. And most students carry these practices to the larger society in all sorts of ways despite the general acceptance that it is evil, as Rauhouf Awudu, Headmaster of the Business Senior High School, said, “since it compelled them (students) to always think evil.” But the juju-marabout mediums who undertake such practice do not think so – the culture has conditioned them not to think so. That gives Rauhouf Awudu and the objective Ghanaian society more work to do to minimize the impact of such irrational practices on Ghana’s progress.

The Tamale pattern persists in Ghana’s development process. In the Tamale, as are elsewhere in Ghana, while the scientific side of the Ghanaian mind demand objective evidence as to why talismans, charms and amulets should be used to confuse teachers during exams and haunt bright students, their brains’ mythopoeic, irrational side entice them to irrational marvels – to the use of talismans and amulets to harm others. Can these irrational matters be addressed with a whole mind, in the context of the Ghanaian culture, as Rauhouf Awudu mount campaigns to ban the use of charms and amulets? Can the two instincts of the Ghanaian brain - the rational and the irrational - formed by the Ghanaian culture, be made to fit together?

The Tamale incident is deep-seated nation-wide, impacting on objectivity as a development issue. No doubt, as Rev. Fr. Dr. Anthony Afful-Broni, of the Department of Psychology and Education, University of Education Winneba, observes, such practices have “damaging effects on human beings and society in general.” The Ghana nation-state, created by the British colonialists, as a development project, faces daunting challenges. One of them is how to comprehend the nation-state in such a way that its traditional values – both rational and irrational – could be rigorously analyzed and used for progress.

Despite high sounding leaders and elites such as Kwame Nkrumah, Dr. Kofi Busia, Dr. Hilla Liman, Obed Asamoah, Nana Akuffo Addo, Prof. Allotey, and Paul Victor Obeng that have emerged, Ghana is yet to see revolutions in ideas that emanate from its traditional values for progress as the Europeans and the Japanese have done. For now, pretty much of the values running Ghana are foreign to the detriment Ghanaian ones – there are no balances whatsoever, and may be the reason why the Tamales have grown in the past 50 years. When a university graduate thinks her sister cannot give birth because of witchcraft and other evil forces then the entire educational system has big problem in the development process.

It makes Ghana look like it doesn’t have elites who are able to think well from within their traditional values and play them up with the global neo-liberal ones as the Japanese have done. More hopelessly, Ghanaian leaders and elites are at the mercy of foreign thinkers. In fact the late Senegalese President, Leopold Senghor, used to echo the Western perception that Africans cannot think well and are good at expressing their emotions than thinking. Senghor used to bring in Europeans when he faces developmental challenges.

The challenge is how to spark revolution in ideas, by Ghanaian elites from within their culture that will refine most of the irrational Tamale practices. The European pre-Enlightenment started in the middle of the 18th century and the activity of thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and François Marie Arouet ("Voltaire") fully articulated the cultural values and consequences of Enlightenment thought in the face of erroneous thoughts, irrationalities, superstitions and a dedication to systematizing the various intellectual disciplines.

The issue is how to demonstrate the usage of good traditional values as well as refining the Tamale ones for progress. For while Ghana’s Founding Fathers – Dr J.B. Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah, J. Tsiboe, Paa Grant, Akuffo Addo, William Ofori Atta, Ako Agyei, Dr Aggrey, George Ferguson, John Mensah Sarbah, King Ghartey IV of Winneba, Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh I and Obetsebi Lamptey – in the face of oddities worked hard to free their people from colonial rule, the challenges today is how to further civilize and rationalize Ghana from within its traditional values in its development process so as to minimize the high incident of the Tamales.



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