I am always excited that I am a Casfordian, belonging to the only male hall (Casely Hayford) at the University of Cape Coast. At Casford, our motto is: ‘Truth and courage’. We believe that truth and courage are mutually inclusive and that one cannot survive without the other. The truth must pair to make life complete. It is needless to have truth without courage and vice versa. Courage without the truth is an expression of an empty brawl and truth without courage is an empty brain. An empty brawl and an empty brain take the wind out of the sail of life.
For the past few days, social media was inundated with a document that was ‘alleged’ to have originated from the Ghana Education Service. The document provides detailed guidelines about an infamous subject Comprehensive Sex Education, hereafter known as CSE. The CSE is predicated on comprehensively teaching Ghanaian pupils about the dynamics in their sexual life. One of the key objectives of the CSE is for pupils to determine and enjoy their sexuality (CSE, p. 2).
The policy is vague on many core issues. But for this part of my series on the CSE, I will pick on pupils determining their sexuality. Sexuality has multiple definitions. But we can infer from the totality of the curriculum that pupils are to exercise autonomy over their bodies. They are expected to do with their bodies as they want (enjoy it). But multiple questions need clarification: how will pupils determine their sexuality? Is sexuality biological or culturally constructed? Are there multiple sexualities? Is sexuality fluid? Is sexuality an ascribed or achieved identity? How are teachers expected to teach about sexuality? At what age can a pupil determine his or her sexuality? How different is sexuality from gender? Is the determination of sexuality part of the right of a pupil? Is a pupil considered individual qua individual or a social being when determining his or her sexuality? How free is a pupil in determining his or her sexuality? What is it about sexuality that a pupil must be allowed to determine and enjoy? How is a pupil expected to enjoy his or her sexuality? How do we measure enjoyment?
Does a pupil have negative freedom or positive freedom in determining his or her sexuality? On what basis will a pupil be able to determine his or her sexuality? From what epistemological basis is a pupil going to determine his or her sexuality? If a pupil is going to rely on information from the classroom, how representative is the classroom in terms of a pupil’s cultural and religious background? To what extent is a pupil’s parents incorporated in shaping a pupil’s sexual identity and orientation? We are told that Ghanaian values will shape the CSE, which Ghanaian values are we talking about since Ghana has a plurality of values? Can we assume that Ghana has a universally-shared homogenous value on sexuality? If it is difficult to construct a supposed Ghanaian value on sexuality, must the state not relegate the function of CSE to parents and religious institutions? Since a pupil is a minor who subsists under the control of his or her parents, can parents dictate the worldview a pupil has about sexuality? If an individual qua individual, does it mean he or she is not independent of his or her parents when determining his or her sexuality? On the other hand, if a pupil is a social being whose existence is dependent on the existence of other human beings like him or her, can he or she circumvent what is ‘generally shared’ by society to determine his or her sexuality?
While these questions are central to any conversation on human sexuality, they are left unanswered in the policy that was framed by experts. Instead of addressing these questions, some people are casting aspersions against those who are against the CSE. The commonest accusation against those not in support of the CSE is that they are homophobic. Well, must one be homophobic to seek critical responses to critical questions? Anyways, as far as I am concerned, I see my Christianity as a constant race of repentance – to reflect the assertion by Charles Spurgeon that ‘Christianity is a race of repentance.’ I am always on my knees asking God to forgive my sins. I do not see myself holding the gavel of God to determine the moral status of those around me. I may have a theological predilection against homosexuality, but I do not support any legislation that seeks to marginalize homosexuals. While I am convinced that the Bible roundly condemns homosexuality, adultery, and fornication, it is not my duty to ask for those whose norms do not conform to be stoned.
Given this, no one can pull the homophobic scare to tame us from critiquing a curriculum that is vague and nebulous. As Ghanaians, we are stakeholders in the nation’s development. We have a major say in fashioning the destiny of this country. The country representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Ghana, Mr. Niyi Ojuolape, claims that all the stakeholders of education were consulted (The document that is in contention is on the website of UNESCO-Ghana). Dr. Leticia Adelaide Appiah of the National Population Council also claims to have consulted all stakeholders before the curriculum was concluded. But the Minister of Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, is vehemently disavowing the curriculum. Some officials from the Ghana Education Service also claim that they have no idea about the source of the document in circulation.
So, who is telling us the truth? Who lacks the courage to own the document? While we cannot trust that the government is ignorant about the document, we are certain that some key stakeholders of education were not consulted. The leadership of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and the leadership of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) said they were never consulted. Religious leaders also claim they were not consulted. For the Ghana Catholic Bishop Conference, they claim they were deceived. So, who were the consultants who drafted the CSE curriculum? What philosophical position inform the drafting of the curriculum?
The unnamed consultants of the curriculum claim that they were informed by the best practices about the reproductive health and sexual ethic of the global world to formulate a policy that will be culturally and universally shared. But did the consultant take into consideration that globalization both provincializes and marginalizes societies depending on their economic and political muscles? Is ‘Ghana's identity’ (I will discuss this in a later article) relevant in an ocean of globalization? How is Ghana's triple heritage featuring in the mores of the global world as far as sexuality is concerned?
Given the strenuous efforts by the Ministry of Education to disown the policy, a docket should have been closed on the matter. But since we are unsure of what politicians tell us, I will be providing a series on some key features of the CSE. My goal is to expose the hidden agenda behind the policy.
Charles Prempeh ([email protected]), African University College of Communications, Accra