My friend paid a visit to his friend’s mother. After cooking she fell on the floor and started shaking. The family knew exactly what to do. They closed all the curtains so no one could look in and told the house-girl to leave. The grandmother straddled the convulsing women and started screaming for the spirits to leave, in the name of Jesus, whilst spiting water in her face. My horrified friend persuaded his friend to get the grandmother out of there, whilst he helped the convulsing mother to be more comfortable.
The next day he came back with information on epilepsy. The mother read it and said she believed it. He told her she could get medicine to manage her ailment. She went and got it. Her life will now be a little more comfortable and in addition she, and her family, may not feel so embarrassed about her fits.
My friend’s girlfriend was unable to get emotionally close to him. Whenever the relationship developed, she said a spirit took over her and pushed her away. When she was away from him she said the spirit left her and she wanted to get close again. I told my frustrated friend that this sounded like fear of commitment which can be caused by a problematic relationship with her parents. He said her mother had rejected her. It’s hardly rocket science and many of my Ghanaian friends would have recognised this for themselves.
When people are offered information they can make choices what to do with it. Without scientific information we have to rely on superstitious explanations to medical problems. Without having the language to describe, and thereby recognise our feelings, we have to talk about them in the only language we have.
A small knowledge of science and medicine can help exorcise the spirits of ignorance.
The irony is that as continents such as Africa develop their scientific knowledge to improve the lives of its citizens, the ‘developed’ countries are retreating into superstition and reviving discredited practises as ‘ancient knowledge’. Science teaching in the schools is under attack and people’s lack of understanding of the increasing depth of science means they reject it as a way of knowing the world.