I have been following the various viewpoints expressed about the educational reform and RME (Religious and Moral Education) as a subject, and I would like to contribute a few thoughts.
All the recent debate on this issue has focused on the role of schools in the formation of a student's moral compass and value systems and both the Catholic bishops and other religious bodies as well as some concerned citizens predict dire consequences for our nation because the Ghana Education Service has dropped RME as a separate, examinable subject from the syllabus.
First, what are the reasons for incorporating religious and moral education into other subjects, such as Social Studies, English, Life Skills etc? For 50 years, we have been teaching B.K. or Scripture or Scripture or RME in our schools as a separate subject and it has been learnt in order to pass exams, just as one learns Maths and Science, without it, in fact, having much impact on the values or morals of the society as a whole.
If we look at Ghanaian youth and society today, where do we see its impact? After all, RME was only removed as a subject in September 2007 so the youth and adults in society today have all "benefited" from such teaching, so how do we explain the moral and social decay we see around us today?
Apart from the recognized need to reduce the number of examinable subjects, it is clear that for the values we would like to teach our children to have a meaningful impact, we need to make those values an intrinsic part of their lives and studies, not just a "subject". From September 2007, the new educational syllabus began such a process, by making the values society wishes to inculcate in our children an integral part of the subjects they study, rather than an examination subject they can just cram and pass. But the wider question is why do the Bishops and society at large assume that it is the job of our educational institutions to bring up our children for us on the path of righteousness?
It is first and foremost the job of parents to bring up their children, to teach them their cultural, moral and religious values, and to demonstrate these values by example from the way they live and what they do. The church and school are only complementary institutions, to reinforce those values. The churches have their own primary role, which is to propagate their different faiths and to give moral and is it not the height of hypocrisy to blame Ghana Education Service and its syllabus for the malaise that has affected our youth?
Why is it not there a daily outcry from all the churches, apparently the biggest growth industry in Africa, especially Ghana, against these vices?
Children can be coerced into silence by adults but they are not stupid. They watch, they listen, they judge, and they learn far more from what they see in their homes, on the streets, on television and from leaders of society, than they learn from a teacher standing in front of them a subject called RME. However, if the critics of the syllabuses would take the time and trouble to examine the contents, they would find out that the ethics, moral precepts, are embedded in the text and passages the students will read, but if we want to save the children of Ghana from the moral abyss we are presently mired in, we need to look at the messages and signals, we, the adult population, the politicians, the priests and pastors and civil society as a whole, are sending them: the message that corruption, crime, greed and lack of morality pay very well in Ghana, and students are, not slow in learning that lesson well.
Authored by Dr. Mrs. Margaret Nkrumah (LLD) - Principal, SOS Hermann Gmeiner International College, Tema, Ghana.