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28.06.2021 Feature Article

Civics

Civics
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There used to be a subject called 'Civics' on the class time table. I am not sure what it meant at the time. However, I guess it was to manifestly teach civilisation, British at the time, which was hidden in all other subjects. I don't remember anything being taught about chiefs and chieftaincy as an essential of civic life.

These days, the head of the basic school in my community tells me from Class One to JHS 3, there's a programme called: 'Our World, Our People' (OWOP). For Kindergarten pupils, theirs is 'Environmental Studies.' She (the head) recently called asking for permission for the kindergarteners to visit the chief's palace. They were being taught the topic 'Visit to Special Places in the Community.' That was a topic in their broader 'Environmental Studies' programme.

Anyway, my beef, this time, is whether these formal education programmes are enough to produce the honest, dutiful and environment-sensitive citizenry we require to develop and grow the motherland for her daughters and sons. My scepticism is based on the history of citizen education in the motherland and its effectiveness.

In our indigenous education system, raising the citizen manifested in ways such as developing the communal spirit. People were brought up to readily respond to the beating of the gong gong for all to assemble for communal work and activities. Citizen upbringing was embedded in education as learning while working. The two were never separated. And learning was about acceptable, proper, commonality-oriented and in the public interest behaviour and action.

Upon that system was superimposed colonial formal, nonformal and informal mass (that was restricted in practice) education to civilise what the British thought was our bucolic ways of, and attitudes towards, life. It was the British colonial government expanding its frontiers of operandi to focus on seeking merging points for civil liberties and responsibilities.

Ostensibly to teach how to be a good citizen, in reality, it was all about how to co-opt us to live 'britishly,' or a powerful brainwashing mechanism used to 'bewitch' to britishise (what in their minds was civilising) our indigenous values. Superficially, it touched on 'contribution' to community life in acts such as participating in communal labour.

Successive post-independence governments have had their own versions of civic education. Busia had his Centre for Civic Education. Acheampong spent a lot of public funds on the Charter of Redemption committees which aimed at inculcating the ideals of self-reliance and nationalism. The P/NDC had its cadre of workers' and people's defence committee educators charged with 'conscienctising' to revolutionise the nation and her people. The latest version is the 1992 Constitution creation of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE).

In spite of all the effort, we don't seem to have our attitudes and behaviours managed nor our characters adequately moulded to serve the collective community and society purpose. So what is required to complement the home to make the whole citizen, keeps falling short. The basic values cultivation should come from the home, with parents tasked to help form the individual in the realm of individuality. Civic education should not just be about voting as is expressly happening now. It is so poorly handled that public campaigns are made to look like politically partisan campaigns, with preferences subliminally or even expressly displayed.

Our collective sense of 'what is ours' has completely, vulgarly, selfishly, greedily and common good destroying become 'what is mine.' Back in the 1980s in my theory of education class, there was the evolving concept of 'meeism,' unbridled and having gobbled up 'weeism;' with a 'me-generation' of individualism subsuming any sense of being one's sister's and brother's keeper. We have sat by to watch our common good sense to disintegrate into 'let others take care of me when I am in trouble, but I don't care what happens to anyone else for as long as my interest is served.' What's mine dominates work ethic to an extent of hardly any ethic at all. 'Aban dea' (for the government) mentality perpetuates disrespect of what is communally owned.

As if to reinforce 'my person' before 'our persons,' a preacherperson, a while back, attempted a wade into the discussion by evoking morality. He did that by complaining that the lack of teaching religion can be blamed for the perceived rise in criminality. I thought it was about civility and discipline which differ from morality. For example, religion preaches cleanliness is next to godliness which is not the same as cleanliness is godliness. The latter should serve our common cause better.

Prayer warriors, instead, would pray for days and nights to be Godly, caring less about cleaning because prayer will provide everything including cleanliness. By falsely fusing civility and spirituality, responsible behaviour and positive attitudes towards public commonly owned property gets lost or at best subsumed in thought and action.

That's muddying the conversation. Preacherman is confusing discipline and morality as preached by religion because morality sometimes gets applied repressively. Maybe that is why living examples of civility, after all the talk, talk is hard to find. The preaching has not worked. You have to clean to be cleanly. Simply praying would not grant one a clean environment. The order, therefore, ought to be clean before you pray, and to keep clean, clean as you pray.

At this point, if you are wondering where the solution will come from, I have a suggestion. We could launch our motherland and ourselves in a double strategy approach. First, we alert the bottom (ordinary person) that 'Wafa nti me nso mɛfa' is a huge loss for him/her and several times more gain for he or she at the top. So the attitude should be 'Sɛ me fa a ono nso bɛfa.'' In that case the bottom person is morally strengthened to take on the top where the nation wrecking wreaks its worst consequences. When the top steals the bottom is deprived of so many amenities.

Education (formal, nonformal, informal) has a crucial role. It would mean mobilising the home, school, public place of work, worship, leisure), to monitor behaviour, to ensure the errant is punished. These days, it's no longer one-way big brother government spying on hapless citizens. Citizens have their mobile phone weapon which, when willing to deploy, would expose wrongdoing and the malicious to embarrass the offending. That should improve monitoring and dealing with public officer malfeasance fuelled by the 'meeism' propelled stealing from public funds. Public officer stealing, that is, take it from others so you can be full at all times even if it means others hunger must cease.

Then, the NCCE ought to be the fixer of the motherland's challenges of character flaws in politics and public officers stealing behaviours. Once upon a time, I was briefly engaged by them but didn't last long because I thought it was more of a party wing than a national institution. I wonder whether it ever examines itself vis-à-vis the motherland's problems. It could find explanation for how come everybody wants to sell by the roadside and nobody cares about how that action endangers the pedestrian who needs roadside access to be safe.

NCCE can, and I believe ought to, offer the motherland a service of ensuring through education in rights and duties to meaningfully fix of our many intractable unhealthy, unwanted and undisciplined public behaviour.

We certainly cannot continue like this to build a nation. NCCE ought to be the fixer for the motherland's challenges of character flaws in politics and public officers stealing behaviours.

A couple of weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised when the head of our community's basic school phoned for access to the ahenfie (palace) for the KG children. They wanted to know about its place and role in the community. I get the impression, though, that OWOP is still the old story of knowing more about others than ourselves. If that's what the new curriculum prescribes, we could be still going nowhere. It seems we still need a new beginning although terribly, terribly late!

By Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh

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