People are often exasperated at the inability of some Ghanaians to exhibit initiative and self-discipline. We witness it in the (in-)hospitality sector and in shops and businesses. Those who run them continually have to monitor their workers and fight against theft.

Personally, I feel it’s too easy to dismiss this by blaming poverty, poor education, or by claiming that Ghanaians are lazy, selfish, etc., as some Ghanaians are want to do.

Instead, I want to assert that the lack of self-discipline and basic morals amongst sections of the population are a result of an authoritarian approach to raising children, abuse of power by authority, reinforced by the particular type of Christianity practised in Ghana.

You will rarely hear the word ‘nurturing’ in the context of Ghanaian education or child rearing. The words you will hear are ‘instruction’ and ‘training’. It is about forcing a child to conform to a pre-existing system rather than allowing them to develop and blossom in their own way. Beating (not just a smack) and fear is a central part of this. The Bronze Age nomadic tribes who were responsible for ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ knew nothing of child psychology and are responsible for the abuse of millions of children throughout the ages. The aim is a moral, respectful, god-fearing, humble, disciplined child. Look at the choice of words. It sounds like the destruction of the human spirit in the belief that forcing someone into submission is an aspirational value. Fear is screamed from the churches, and is reinforced the family and in schools. The result, I suggest, of all the beating, screaming and fear is the opposite of what was intended.

We’ve ended up with people who are terrified of admitting mistakes, who’ve become adept at deflecting blame, who are scared of telling the truth in case it puts them in a position of weakness and have therefore become expert at lying. They are incapable of independent thought or problem solving because any attempts have been labelled arrogant or ‘challenging’. Instead they only act when they are scared into doing something. They have been made incapable of autonomous action. Fear has displaced the love which compels you to consider others before yourself and to do good. External discipline has negated the need for internal discipline.

When we look at the faces of the young girls too scared to look us in the eye, their heads bowed in continual submission, who cower mistaking our movements as a prelude to beating, do we enjoy the feeling of power? Or are we ashamed of our role, active or silent, in this system of abuse. Is it is not we who should humble ourselves in front of these girls and beg forgiveness?

Further Reading:
 How Africans Prepare Themselves for Conformity