Saturday, July 14, 2007
Our dying cultures
By: E. OFORI AKYEA
ARENTING, as I find it in Ghana now, makes my head whirl. The need to make money is pushing our need to bring up our children into the background.
I did not realize that the situation was that bad until we went to see my mother-in-law who was being treated at a private clinic in Accra. In the same clinic, a desperately sick old man was on the next bed.
What we noticed was that every morning, at about 7 a.m., a man would come in looking harassed add anxious to leave. After talking to the young girt staying with the old man he left.
He did not ask of the old man’s health or what the doctor said. He was in a hurry to go and open his store so that he would not lose any clients. The sick old man was irritating and upsetting his rhythm of life.
The poor old man was unable to rake care of himself. His son had engaged an illiterate girl aged about 12 years to take care of his father.
The young girl was not trained to look after people of that age. She was bewildered in the clinic and she did not have the aptitude to do the kind of job that she had been asked to do. She could not do with the situation. The son, a businessman, saw his father as standing in his way of making more money.
The Nursing-sister in charge of the ward told my wife, who was with her mother most of the time, that she seemed unlike a Ghanaian since she was almost always in the clinic attending to the needs of her mother. She added that people were becoming more and more so self-centered that the needs of siblings and parents were not being given any priority. The driving force has become the need to make as much money as possible in the shortest time.
Young people do not hesitate to seek the easiest way out of their perceived predicament.
Anything but honest, hard work will do. Thus entrusting one’s life to a human trafficker to get you to Europe is better than plodding in some work that will five you peace and a comfortable retirement.
The experience in a leaky boat that may send you straight to heaven or into the hands of the police or people that do not like the look of your face do not deter them from under-taking these dangerous journeys.
I see in the papers these days mote and more pictures of young men and women who are wanted by the police for defrauding their employers of large sums of moneys entrusted into their care.
Also younger and younger girls are bringing babies into the world. For me it is a situation in which children are bringing children world and they know next to nothing about parenting.
The same rootlessness and thought that the other side of the garden is greener is driving a lot of young people into becoming “mules” that carry drugs into the country on their bodies and into Europe and America.
Many young, and not so young Ghanaians are languishing in hails in Asia, and in other parts of the world. Many have died in the process. The situation is serious on the human side.
In geopolitical terms the reputation of our country has taken some battering. Our country is being labelled as a transit point for drugs on their way to Europe and North America from South America.
All these things are happening when we have a resurgence of people, especially the younger ones, who continually seem to be born again.
Powerful prophets and a motley of religious leaders have specialized in praying for people to get visas. These holy men and women seen to have been given a special power to influence the issuance of visas from whatever embassy. They are able to control the minds of the visa issuing officers to change a rejection into a positive result.
It is these types who rule the hearts and minds of our young people. Parents should have been in charge to direct the lives of their children but they have abandoned their parental role to other agencies. Parents are ready to accept money and other things from their children without questioning the source.
A mother was in the house when her 18-year-old daughter arrived in someone’s car. They began unloading lunches of plantain, some cassava, ripe palmnuts and an assortment of meat and fish.
The mother without asking the girl of her whereabouts for the past four days, helped carry the foodstuffs into the house. The man in whose care she came, and was incidentally the head of a training institution in a nearby town, was never introduced.
When the car left the mother proceeded to prepare a sumptuous meal for everyone with some of the produce that had just been brought from God-knows-where. About six months later the girl was found to be pregnant. When she was asked who was the man responsible for her pregnancy she named four men including the Principal.
The mother and two uncles went into a conclave to determine what to do. They agreed to name to the son of one of the most distinguished families in the area as responsible for the pregnancy. The young man, when she confronted with this issue, denied vehemently. He had gone to bed only once with the girl and it was only for a short time too.
No one from the girl’s family would hear of this excuse. He was given a spoon to scoop up his part of the pregnancy. He was thus pressured to become the “father” of a child that may or may not be his own.
I see the breakdown of the extended family system as contributing to the present chaos. It used to be that young people would be sent to stay with aunties and uncles. They had as much authority as the real parents would have over the child. With time the dynamics of society has changed and parents are obliged to take care of their children. Aunties and uncles have their own children to take care of.
I have been a witness to situations where the nephews and family members have come to drive the wife and the children away and take over the property.
Additional complications come when there is intermarriage with those ethnic groups where inheritance is paternal. Wives and husbands adopted various strategies to protect the rights of their children.
The passage of the PNDC Law on inheritance has also helped to stabilize the situation which is still evolving. One continues to hear of incidents of family members descending on widows and their children to seize property and rendering the poor family destitute.
Those in charge of our country have not and are not tackling the process of social engineering that would transform our country into the desirable place that we all wish it to be. It is, therefore, not surprising that our young people are caught in a Catch 22 situation.
The education they receive is deficient. They can neither read or write English properly. They speak their mother tongue poorly, that is if they do speak it at all. Those who read the mother tongue are becoming a rare breed.
Major culprits of the paucity of knowledge of our mother tongue are the new FM stations. When one hears them talking one is not sure if you are listening to your language or Esperanto. Many years ago, in 1887, Dr. L.L. Zamenhof, a Russian Physician, invested a European-based artificial universal language which he called Esperanto. Sentences laced with liberal does of English become their stock in trade.
My own view is that in terms of programming and the promotion of the mother tongue, the FM stations are turning many Ghanaians into illiterates who have no pride in their language and its development.
In this, the Akan stations are the guilty party.
Daily Graphic - Saturday, July 14, 2007 Page: 14