The extracurricular relationship between male heterosexual teachers and their female students has always been problematic. And this problem is not confined to Ghana; it is a global problem that has to be contextualized as such. And here, one might also aptly add that it is a global problem primarily because it is a human problem – and wherever human males and females congregate for a remarkable temporal span, there is wont to occur the contraction of sexual relations of some sort. This state of affairs is pretty much appreciated globally as a fact of life or nature. What makes the situation patently unacceptable within academic settings, however, is the fact that the context of sexual affinity inevitably and invariably verges onto the political. And by the latter is meant the fact that male teachers, within the context of an academic setting, are authority figures. Consequently, any coital, or sexual, relationship which the latter contract with their female students is bound to be inescapably mediated by the considerable power, or influence, which these male teachers retain over their female students. In such a situation, the relationship may not be justifiably envisaged as consensual. In other words, even where a female student may be deemed to have been voluntarily attracted to a male teacher, such apparently volitional attraction may be reasonably held suspect because of the inextricable political context of its occurrence. And in an academic setting, it may indisputably have to do with the exchange of any number of variables mutually held at a premium by the players or actors involved.
The preceding variables are often broadly categorized as “favors,” and they may either be in the form of undue academic leniency, on the part of the male teacher, or a promise of paradise somewhere in the offing. On the academic side, such favor often involves the teacher having to inflate the grade of a female student of interest to the teacher for work glaringly undeserving of a particular grade; as, for instance, a female student receiving the grade of “A” for work barely deserving of the grades of “B,” “C” or even “D,” for which similar quality of work by other students not on amorous terms with the teacher properly received the grades of “B” or “C.” Indeed, this type of favor is incontrovertibly felonious, being also the most dangerous, because it undermines the very ethos of the teacher's profession. It also compromises the chances of other more diligent and well-deserving students being accorded a fair evaluation of their work. The negative psychological implications are that the diligent student soon loses confidence in the academic process as an equal-opportunity institution in the noble business of preparing the next generation of national leaders and professionals. The shortchanged student also loses the requisite respect for teachers and with it the entire academic profession. But, perhaps, the most deleterious impact is the fact that a student who has been so unfairly treated by the teacher may lose interest in academic work, altogether, and drop out of school. And, needless to say, the latter situation has an irreparable long-term effect on the development of the country, in human terms. For every undeveloped, underdeveloped or abandoned talent sooner or later registers on the debit side of the country's Human Development Index (HDI). And with such bleak state of affairs arises a rash in the rate of violence and crime in society. Thus, rather than envisaging the indecorous relationship between heterosexual male teachers and their female students in such culturally and ideologically diffuse terms as “immorality” and “promiscuity,” it ought to be squarely envisaged in legal and culpable terms and promptly prosecuted by the law courts as anti-social crimes, as well as quality-of-life crimes, in view of the negative long-term impact of such unorthodox heterosexual liaisons on our society (see “Male Teachers Having Sex With Students” Ghanaweb.com 4/5/05).
So far, we have specifically been discussing the subject of heterosexual male teachers engaging in extracurricular, sexual relationships with their female students. But here also, it ought to be highlighted that not all the coital relationships which occur between teachers and students are necessarily heterosexual. A remarkably high level of homosexuality exists in Ghanaian society than any public official, or even an ordinary citizen, may be willing to acknowledge. And it may well be occurring between students and teachers, particularly in same-gender academic milieus. However, in view of the fact that no known major Ghanaian ethnic group or community condones homosexual culture, most of us tend to ignore this factual reality of human behavior. It has not also helped that religious fundamentalism – both Christian and Islam – dominate the national discourse on ethics. But here again, perhaps, we ought to differentiate the sort of religious fundamentalism that is widely known and acknowledged to prevail in the so-called Middle-East and much of Asia from the Ghanaian brand, or breed, which is largely ideologically conservative and far short of the patently volatile or outrightly violent.
Nonetheless, the preceding brand of religious fundamentalism is equally pernicious to our societal development, for like the proverbial peacock, it feeds unimaginatively on denial as a solution to a significant problem, particularly in the age of HIV/AIDS. For our adamant refusal to recognize homosexual culture as a significant national issue – even in terms of contingency – as forthright scientists would readily acknowledge, would not drive this problem away. And needless to say, the problem is not the act or culture of homosexuality itself – for whether one likes it or not, it is a part and parcel of our society – but the necessity of recognizing its existence and promptly dealing with its contributory component to the raging HIV/AIDS pandemic. And I know this for a fact because while a student at St. Peter's Secondary School, at Okwawu (Kwahu) Nkwatia, several students were expelled after they had been caught engaging in anal intercourse or sodomy. Back then, the full implications of this strange act did not dawn on me until I arrived here in the United States some two decades ago. Then it became clear to me that most of the homosexual students expelled from St. Peter's were actually “Bisexual,” for some had girlfriends at such coed institutions as Mpraeso Secondary School, Abetifi and Nkawkaw secondary schools; and also at Abetifi Teacher-Training College. The subject of bisexuality was one of profound culture-shock to me – and for quite awhile I considered it to be an obstreperous lecher's way of having it both ways; and so I branded it as the tentative culture of eating one's cake and insisting, nonetheless, of having it. It reeked of the luridly experimental. But then when I thought of the fact that America had been widely described as a cosmopolitan human experiment in progress, it began to make sense to me that bisexuality would openly and prominently exist in these parts.
Interestingly, in a quite disturbing manner, in Ghana, the discourse on the morally indecorous relationship between Junior Secondary School male teachers and their students is not generally treated with the utmost seriousness that it deserves. For instance, in a recently published study on the preceding issue, “While some…male teachers blamed their colleagues for lack of ethics and indiscipline, [others]…attributed the problem to the high level of promiscuity among female students in recent times. In an interaction with some of the female students [by the researchers?], they [i.e. female students] affirmed the fact that some of their friends have two or more sex partners” (see “Male Teachers Having Sex With Students” Ghanaweb.com 4/5/05). In other words, in a classical “blaming-the-victim” situation, these male predator-teachers preferred to fault their vulnerable prey rather than themselves. Matters were not meliorated by the fact that some of the equally vulnerable peers of the victims weighed in on the side of their predators. The report does not tell readers under what circumstances the students, who faulted their classmates for being promiscuous, were “interacted with” or interviewed by the researchers. But what more than rankled this writer was when these “interactive” students were prompted – or more scientifically, induced – by the researchers into blaming “some of their colleagues [classmates/peers?] for enticing the teachers with their deeds” (Ghanaweb.com 4/5/05). And here, the well-meaning reader can only disconsolately sigh and demand just why the Ghanaian Ministry of Education (GES) would set such rascal teachers bereft of any judgment – or moral responsibility – on these vulnerable young women. And here, we are talking about fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds!
And needless to say, as we have already intimated elsewhere, it is only intellectual and mnemonic toddlers who would believe the myth that predatory teachers - an– also headteachers – only began to luridly exploit their female wards “in recent times.” Indeed, during the early 1970s, in the Akyem-Abuakwa town of Asiakwa, an elementary schoolteacher from Akwapim-Larteh (whose name escapes this writer) brutally raped a 12-year-old girl. And guess what? For condign punishment, the perpetrator – who looked to be in his late 30s to early 40s – was hastily transferred to another district, where he was highly likely to continue preying on female minor students!
Indeed, no one ought to be surprised or flabbergasted in the near future when a flaky theorist issues his or her research findings insisting that it was Ghanaian, junior secondary school female students who invented prostitution. Of course, coital relationships between female teachers and their unsuspecting and equally vulnerable male students ought not to be ignored. In both cases, there can be lasting psychological implications. *Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is on a Sabbatical Leave from Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of ten volumes of poetry and prose, including the recently published volume of essays titled THE NEW SCAPEGOATS: COLORED-ON-BLACK RACISM (iUniverse.com). Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.