I am highly impressed with the manner in which Ghanaians from all spheres of life, especially parents and caregivers, have become proactive on issues of education and the welfare of children. The positive attitude of parents and caregivers on the education of their children gives hope that Ghanaians now see education as the cornerstone to transformation of their children and the country at large.
This was demonstrated in early September when the West Africa Examination Council released results of Basic Education Certificate Examinations. On the heels of the results was usually controversial computerised placements of students who obtained the required grades to enter secondary schools, which since 2017 have become free.
Parents and caregivers took an unusually keen interest in the placement process, judging from the ‘mad rush’ to secure places for their children. Hitherto, only a few parents showed interest in their children’s progress beyond the junior high school; the main drawback being their inability to pay the exorbitant school fees imposed by the Ghana Education Service and some unscrupulous heads of secondary schools.
Personally, in spite of the initial hitches that disrupted the process, I was inspired by the efforts made by parents and caregivers – and in fact the children themselves – to secure placements. This is a departure from the immediate past, when school placement was characterised by despondency and apathy on the part of children and parents.
During the rush, it turned out that most of the issues that caused the panic were surmountable. A chunk of the complaints had to do with change of school due to distance from home and other personal reasons. Other concerns were that despite obtaining good grades, some students were not placed in their preferred school of choice.
While parents negotiated for the placement, some disgruntled elements in Accra incited them to discredit the process. It baffles me why nothing good can be done in this country without I taking on political undertones. Why do some people, in fact those who held public positions in past, wish that nothing good should happen in Ghana under the current dispensation? This attitude of “if it is not us, nothing must work”, is the bane of Ghana’s socio-economic development.
Small wonder that the Minister of Education Minister, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, concluded that some unscrupulous people had been contracted to disrupt the school placement system.
“Some people are bent on destroying government’s Free SHS policy, but it won’t work,” he told the media shortly after agitations started at the independence square. It took the presence of military and police to restore calm. It also took extra time/work by staff of Ghana Education Service to resolve some genuine parental concerns.
As the dust from the school placement grudgingly settled, another hot topic based on education about sexuality captured the national agenda. The government’s plans to introduce or not to introduce the much-maligned Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) into the basic school curriculum tested government’s crisis communications readiness. The communications inconsistency by the Minister, the Director General of the Ghana Education Service, and Public Relations Manager of Ministry of Education only muddied the waters. Whether or not the misinformation was fuelled by opposition propaganda, government and its ministries, departments and agencies need to speak with one voice on policy issues.
According to the policy document, the CSE’s overall objective is to equip pupils – as young as three years – to know and experience their sexuality. The National Population Council (NPC) and the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG), together with UN agencies like UNESCO and UNFPA, are the driving force behind the scheme.
The Executive Director of the NPC, Dr. Leticia Adelaide Appiah, has loudly proclaimed that the responsibility to prepare the youth with enough education needed to make healthy decisions is critical to their development. This has therefore justified the introduction of CES into the school curriculum. CSE has however generated a strong public backlash against the Ministry of Education and its agencies. The public sentiments border on whether it is appropriate to introduce CES for primary school pupils. The fear of critics is founded on the view that the course content of the CSE programme resonates with the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) agenda and advocacy.
The Catholic Bishops Conference, the Christian Council, the Pentecostal Council, the Moslem Council and the National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family values are the leading critics of the CES policy. These faith-based and civil society organisations insist that it is early for children at such tender ages to be introduced to sex education. The worry of critics is that the introduction of words like ‘open-mindedness’ and ‘empathy’ into the guidelines of teaching CES is intended to brainwash children into seeing LGBT as normal living standards – and either practice it over time or accept those who practice it.
Lawyer Moses Foh-Amoaning has become the face of anti-LGBT campaigns, and has won the admiration of many Ghanaians for his consistency against LGBT. On several media platforms, Lawyer Foh-Amoaning has exposed what he calls “a bigger problem with the whole CES programme”. According to him, there is a hidden agenda by the global LGBT movement to gain acceptance in the policymaking and implementation space, especially in Africa where resistance to LGBT has been fierce.
“The strategy is not always open for you to see; it is very subliminal, and they come in all sorts of ways…they have noticed that in Africa our culture and our religion are very strong…so, they are going through education. Education is strong because if you win the mind, then you can win the heart.” I agree with Lawyer Foh-Amoaning’s view that if the Europeans want us to accept LGBT, then they must also accept the African culture of polygamy. It is unimaginable that the west rather sees polygamy as evil, and LGBT as a right and a choice.
Correct me if I am wrong, but the International Court on Human Rights has ruled LGBT is not and should not be considered a human rights issue – and that no country or institution should force it on another country. The choice of gender (or the sex of anyone) is not a matter of choice. It is decided by God at conception. Only God has the right to decide who becomes boy or girl, so any attempt to change sex based on the advancement of science or grounded in the ‘age of enlightenment’ amounts to saying God is fallible, when indeed God infallible – He does not make mistakes.
The theme of the CES blueprint, ‘Our Right, Our Future’, is rather curious viewed against the background that CES sensitisation was sponsored by the governments of Sweden and Ireland. Since the 1980s when Ghana turned to the west for aid, our economy has become a test case for aid and tight conditionalities.
The saying that ‘there is no free lunch anywhere’ applies to the CES case. That is why we must all support our government’s new economic development paradigm of ‘Ghana beyond aid’. The success of this paradigm is significant if Ghanaians and Africans at large are to assert ourselves and protect our cultural and religious values. I strongly hold that parents, guardians and caregivers have the God-ordained right to teach their children about sex based our religion and culture.
It is not the duty of a ‘super-state’ and its agencies, masterminded by development agencies, to take over the onerous role of parenting from parents. What’s needed is to build the capacities of parents to play their roles dutifully, and strengthen families as the building blocks to a stronger society. There is no doubt that the state plays the biggest role in education (a basic right), because the state takes our taxes. That doesn’t give the state the right to influence the sexual orientation of our children through formal education.
Amid the storm, the Minister of Education, Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, assured Ghanaians that government had not approved the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) document to be taught in basic schools.
“The ministry would like to state categorically that…the curriculum framework for KG-P6 which has been approved by Cabinet from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment [NaCCA] for use in the development of school curricula does not include anything on Comprehensive Sexuality Education,” the minister said at a press conference. The minister insisted that the [NaCCA] had also not submitted to the ministry any document relating to the CSE which has invoked strong public sentiments.
When pushed on the published CSE guidelines purported to be coming from the Ghana Education Service (GES), the minister replied that there was no document from his ministry that had been approved for teaching. The Minister’s stance, however, contradicts the position of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which insists that the guidelines – the Minister had denied knowledge of – were developed by Ghanaian education experts.
Court of public opinion
The general feeling of Ghanaians is that CES will not be countenanced in our schools. The Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC) has asked the Education Ministry to go beyond suspending the controversial CSE and expunge it from the basic school curriculum.
President of the Council, Rev. Prof. Paul Yaw Frimpong-Manso, at a press conference stated that while the Council welcomes government’s explanation that CSE has not been approved for teaching in public basic schools, it should make a firm statement to assure Ghanaians that the programme will not be re-packaged and reintroduced later.
“We are saying there should be total withdrawal, annihilation [and] destruction. Expunge that idea. It should be out of the vocabulary of the Ghana education system. We do not want it. It will erode the long-held traditional value system in the country when implemented,” he said.
I wish the clergy had the same courage to condemn CES in 2015, when it was conceived and documented by the John Dramani Mahama administration.
That said, I support public opinion that the policy should be completely withdrawn and thrown into the dustbin. What is good for Sweden and Ireland cannot be good for us. Attempts to smuggle CES into our basic education curriculum is inconsistent with President Akufo-Addo’s highly publicised declaration that Ghana will not tolerate let alone make LGBT a national priority. If for nothing else, we owe future generations a duty to preserve our cultural heritage. Our pride as Africans is our high regard for God based on respect for natural and proper sexual human rights. The saying that “the voice of the people is the voice of God” is still relevant in the CES context. Thank God we have a listening government.
(***The writer is a Communications and Development Management Specialists, and a Social Justice Advocate. All views expressed in this article are my personal views and do not represent those of any organisation. (Email: email@example.com.