Feature Article of Thursday, 25 August 2016

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Effective education needed to fight witchcraft culture in Ghana

He is doing quite a lot of constructive social service in Ghana, especially in the area of corruption and outmoded cultural practices.

But when it comes to the traditional belief in witchcraft, particularly where it pertains to the sexist application of such obsolescent belief, there is more that needs to be done besides the closure of all witch camps around the country (See “Close Down All Witch Camps – Jon Benjamin” Heritage / Ghanaweb.com 8/19/16).

It well appears that the belief in witchcraft in Ghana is more entrenched in areas where the literacy level is abysmally low, such as the so-called Three Northern Regions, Brong-Ahafo and some parts of the Asante and Western regions. To be certain, one can aptly say that witchcraft belief prevails throughout the country.

Mr. Jon Benjamin, the British High Commissioner to Ghana, is absolutely right to observe that the global community of the 21st century has absolutely no use for such mythological belief as witchcraft. The factual reality, though, is that even here in the scientifically and technologically advanced West, there is a belief in witchcraft.

Here in the West, there are actually people who are proud to identify themselves as witches and wizards but, by and large, in positive and progressive ways that do not generally pertain to the traditional African world’s concept and belief in witchcraft.

In nearly every African culture, when the word “witchcraft” is mentioned, it invariably refers to people supposedly endowed with sinister spiritual powers dedicated to the service of human and social destruction.

What has often been erroneously attributed to witchcraft, as one specialist recently discussed on several Ghanaian websites, are mental diseases and other problems pertaining to psychological imbalance, especially among adult females, which cause them to make incriminating statements which are then used to publicly humiliate and condemn these vulnerable adults, who are then made scapegoats for perceived crimes and incidents over which they absolutely have no control.

In extreme instances of such woefully misguided acts of scapegoating, the victims so accused may be brutally assaulted. In more than several instances, such savage assaults have directly resulted in the deaths of the people so accused. The most common instance of accusing an elderly woman of being possessed of witch-powers, ironically, is the painful moment of the sudden death of her adult child, often a reasonably prosperous son or daughter.

On such occasions, rather than scientifically establish the real cause of death, aggrieved relatives, friends and associates of the deceased may quickly create a causal scapegoat out of the bereaved parent, usually the elderly mother of the deceased.

What is quite fascinating with this trend of paralogia is the fact that the scapegoat is nearly always a woman. Hardly anybody within the subject/ concerned community takes the time to consider the high level of stress and mental anguish suffered by an elderly woman whose recently deceased son or daughter may also well have been the accused witch’s main source of income or upkeep, thus the rapid mental and psychological degeneration of the victim’s faculties.

In other words, the most effective means of deconstructing the socially destructive myth of the belief in witchcraft is to infuse a scientific explanation of this most sinister phenomenon into the academic curriculum, beginning right from the elementary school, perhaps about the age of ten, when most children are beginning to firm up their social and cultural values and beliefs, as well as establish their emotional and intellectual independence from their parents, guardians and the rest of the larger society.

Personally, unlike Mr. Benjamin, the British High Commissioner, I don’t particularly see our religious leaders, both Christian and non-Christian, helping much in the therapeutic deprogramming of people severely afflicted with such moral and cultural depravity, because superstition constitutes the essence of most world religions.

Which, of course, is not to imply that there aren’t any religious leaders who are pragmatic and modern in thought enough as to evenly balance their beliefs in sound Christian moral values and principles, for example, with the progressive knowledge and insight that modern science provides.