Prohibiting corporal punishment in schools.

· The African child must be loved and cared for, not beaten.

TIS Corporal 2
TIS Amnesty International Club

The invitation by the Tema International School (TIS) Amnesty Club to be the guest speaker and launch their campaign (January 2018) against corporal punishment in schools took my mind back to my own childhood, to a gory incident, which I shared with the audience. I was visiting an aunt in a compound house in Fante New Town, Kumasi, when a woman burst out from her room raging at her maid servant for something the poor girl had done or not done.

In her anger, the woman snatched a frying pan and slammed the side of the kid’s face with it: blood gushed out of the child’s ear. Besides some initial murmurings, people went about their business as if nothing had happened. It was the norm to make children suffer for their offences through any means necessary.

Mindless reasons for child abuse run the gamut from anger to moral outrage, resulting sometimes in the injury to a hapless child from an manic disciplinarian.

The TIS campaign brief          

The TIS campaign brief stated as follows: “As enshrined in Article 28 of the UN Conventions, Discipline in schools should respect children’s dignity. For children to benefit from education schools must employ orderly ways without the use of violence. Therefore, governments must ensure that school administrators review their discipline policies and eliminate any discipline practices involving physical or mental violence, abuse or neglect.”

The brief asserted that “schools should implement proactive policies and efficient monitoring measures that will enable members of the school communities to be self-responsible towards creating [a] friendly, orderly and safe learning environment in order to promote acceptable behaviours and actions.”

The panel speakers included the human rights education and activism coordinator, Amnesty International, Hannah Osei; Dr Wiafe-Akenten Brenya, University of Ghana Department of Psychology; Akua Boateng Duah, child’s advocate, Challenging Heights; and Rosina Adobor, Kpone-Katamanso district director of education, Ghana Education Service.

TIS was represented by Chloe Asiedu, initiator, TIS Amnesty Club; moderato Alistair Kirk; and MC Otuwa Dabanka, president of the club.

Who will throw the first stone?

In a previous column, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” (December 14, 2015), I noted how difficult it was to forgive the absurd reasons I hears when discussing (on radio or TV) the issues of school discipline with grown-ups who should know better than hurt children. The most abusive reason, the one that has become the default mantra or excuse-in-chief, for beating up kids, is the archaic biblical quotation, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Many adult abusers stand ever ready to throw “the first stones” without ever stopping to “remove the mote” from their own eyes, considering society’s own contribution to the overall indiscipline and poverty we see today.

CDN Kumasi
Children’s tennis club, Kumasi, Ashanti region

Throughout history, children have been subjected to domination, murder, abandonment, incarceration, mutilation, beatings, and forced labor – to name some examples from the litany of child maltreatment. Many practices we know today to be brutal and senseless were entirely in keeping with the ethos of the past, but unfortunately some still persist.

Some ideas promoting the abuse of children are stories with deep but primitive religious roots. Two famous examples of the widespread killing of children were those ordained by the pharaoh at the time of the birth of Moses (Old Testament), and by Herod (New Testament) when the birth of Jesus was foretold to him. For goodness sake, if muscular kings themselves couldn’t locate Moses or Jesus, why must children suffer? Children are the softest targets and continue be the victims of misplaced anger.

Another culprit, one King Ahaz, was cited also for barbarous behaviour. He “burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire” for ritual sacrifice [2 Chron. 28:3].  Such hideous unquestioned precepts possibly set the tone for child beatings that have lingered to this day.

Societal hypocrisies

When Jesus resorted to the whip himself, it was not against children; it was against the crooks who had turned the temples of God into “dens of thieves”. Societal hypocrisies are too much with us. In Ghana, for example, were naughty children the felons who put the ghost names on the nation’s payroll, paid out dubious judgement debts, and collected bribes for our learned judges? Children need good sanitation, water, and toilet facilities in the public schools. Such are the basic human necessities which every discerning adult must help to provide in their own communities and beyond!

Creepy interpretations of religions, insidious native superstitions, half-baked literacy, and cold-blooded illiteracy breed some of the spookiest offenders clothed in holier-than-thou pretenses. Silly notions and fallacies are still held and propagated to this day. In parts of Africa, widespread poverty made children an economic liability, and were often abandoned, sold, or mutilated to make them more piteous and effective beggars.

The United Nations’ 3 Ps

Today, in lieu of the abusive, decrepit adage, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”, the United Nations introduced a charter that cut across cultures, nationalities and religions. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) guarantees: 1. Rights of provision (adequate nutrition, health care, education, economic welfare); 2. Rights of protection (from abuse, neglect, violence, exploitation); and 3. Rights of participation (a voice in decisions affecting the child.

The UNCRC places an obligation on countries to provide and protect these rights. Ghana was one of the first nations to have ratified it. It’s now time to practice what was signed to protect the children.

TIS Akorlikope
TIS community service for children, Akorlikope, Volta region

Email: anishaffar@gmail.com

God rewards effort and productive work.

· Lazy habits and sustainable development goals will never mix.

Why do poor African countries continue to pray so much but choose to do so little? There’s the gnawing wish list – perpetuated by tithe hungry prophets – for the good things in life: nice cars, designer clothes, gold jewels, wide screen TVs, mobile phones, and the rest; but why neglect to emphasise the relevant vocations and industries that make those wonderful things possible?

 No such thing as a free miracle

It’s so childish indeed, this business of wanting the good things in life without putting in the thinking and the work that goes into making those wonderful things possible. To crown such infantile attitudes, factories and industries have been bought, dismantled and converted for all night and day prayer vigils, daring God to leave His throne and come down to grow crops, provide transport, remove the trash, clean the gutters, fill our potholes, and then proceed to deliver a strong currency for the nation’s prosperity.

Each morning, like so many others, I am besieged on WhatsApp by numerous incantations, prophesies, decrees and spells like this one: “God will reposition you for breakthroughs, miracles, great and notable achievements … He will vindicate from you every physical and spiritual falsehood. Every decision that shall be taken up by any panel concerning your matter shall end up in your favour. Every unrepentant enemy of your glorious destiny shall be perpetually silenced …” on and on.

Meanwhile, the silent prayer between me and God is very simple: “Dear God, my heavenly father, please give me the strength and guidance to do my very best work.” Finished! The idea is to focus and commit to one’s purpose without fear! I often cite for teachers and students, the American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s admonition that “The fear of fear is fear itself”.

In that regard, I restrain both the young and old as follows: “You need to be afraid if you peddle half-truths and malicious gossip about others: You need to be afraid if you run after other men’s wives: You need to be afraid if you run after other women’s husbands: You need to be afraid if you trade in illicit drugs: You need to be afraid if you burgle other people’s homes. But if you do none of such hideous things, the blessings will tend to come to you naturally without some confidence trickster preaching down your neck for your money.”

Hiding behind the cloak of religiosity

In a column, I noted that a leader’s unflinching grit to look at his people straight in the face and tell them the uncomfortable but necessary truths is the stuff of which greatness is made. That courage reminded me of a conference organised by the Methodist University College (in March, 2017) dubbed: “International Conference on Entrepreneurship, Business and Technology” (ICEBUT). In the opening remarks, President Nana Akufo Addo urged Ghanaians “to desist from hiding behind the cloak of religiosity to indulge in habits that have robbed the state of countless hours of productive time.”

He said, “We arrive at work late and then spend the first hour in prayer; we become clock watchers and leave in the middle of critical work because it is the official closing time. Everything comes to a stop when it rains and we seem to expect the rest of the world also to stop.”

The president charged the leadership of the various religions and unions to lead a campaign to change that awful attitude: “We have no respect for the hours set aside for work. We pray; we eat; we visit during working hours. We spend hours chatting on the telephone. We take a week off for every funeral and then we wonder why we are not competitive.”

God rewards hard work

In 2016, I drove through the Silicon Valley to Palo Alto (California, USA) to visit Facebook and Stanford University. Enter Facebook and you witness the very epitome of “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. You start with the gardeners tending the flowers and lawns, and cleaning doors and windows. You see workmen painting the curb and clearing dust and dead leaves into garbage trucks.

Enter Stanford and the pride of ownership engulfs you heartedly. The commitment, the timeliness, and the diligence with which functions are attended to are so deep that they put shallow prayers to shame. The toilets in a library, for example, were so clean that you could see your face in the polished floors.

Miracles are created by God through the work of ordinary men and women who appreciate their godly responsibilities. Miracles are truly in abundance to any person no matter the prayers or religion. As Mahatma Gandhi put it so wisely: “God has no religion”. Spirituality helps those who are awake to make the world a better place.

The sustainable development goals

There was such a hue and cry about Donald Trump calling African nations “S#@%holes”. That brought to mind the three sides of a coin. One side held that the US President had no right to insult Africans; and that is correct. The second side advocated that it’s time for Africans to call a spade a spade and accept the reality where the youth scrambled in droves to escape poverty to places where they are detested and abused; and that is also true.

SDGs
The sustainable development goals 

In considering the two premises, the third side, the edge of the coin, invites the critical thinker to think into the future: to believe, unequivocally, that with or without Donald Trump’s insults or reminders, Africa needs to focus and make the seventeen sustainable development goals happen. That is where the continent’s spiritual responsibilities lay, to ease the pain of the people. Amen!

Email: anishaffar@gmail.com