Handling Sexual Education In Ghana
Try not to shoot the messenger, for I am the messenger, the message and the sender in this scenario. I held my tongue throughout this Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE) bruhaha and now it seems like it’s run through its due news cycle. Or maybe the #SexForGrades scandals took the spot. I was waiting to see how all the players on the board move, and they did not disappoint. Lots of action on all sides. The President had to do a 100% full back-pedal, not a bad strategy seeing how the blowback was intensifying from all angles. I mean, what does a man do when the opposition calls you the perpetrator of “moral and cultural terrorism” and it starts to make sense to many.
The Problem they had with Comprehensive Sexual Education
Well, to put it bluntly, Ghana is still catching up to the LGBTQIAPK agenda. Oh you thought it was just LGBT? Nope. The Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer-Intersex-Asexual-Pansexual-Kink community has made tremendous strides within the last decade. But Ghana as a collective people has not moved past the Gay let alone accept a Kink.
Our recent leaders, past and present, have been progressive enough to not deploy extreme measures to demonstrate their disapproval. Last week, Uganda was rumoured to pass legislation that would have gays and lesbians facing the death penalty. The law is popularly known there as “Kill the Gays”. It has the support of the people. This is all true. Look it up... well until the Ugandan government backpedalled over the weekend.
A case study, if I can call it that
Ghanaians have this habit of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Here’s a recent example:
Our national Free SHS Program is not perfect. I doubt the Canadians got universal healthcare perfect on the first try. Transformational policies always take some time to settle in properly. Same with the Free SHS Program. I am not being partisan. I have been just very excited about the chances of Ghana’s literacy rate drastically improving within the next decade. The Adult Literacy Rate in 2000 was 57.9%. In 2010, it got up to 71.5%. In 2015, it was 76.6%, barely moved. Imagine the rate in 2030 after a decade of free high school education for all. It’s so hard to get a housekeeper now; they’re all going to SHS on this program
Now, Free SHS gets a glitch with its allocation system. Those complaining had a genuine grievance. But I was SHOCKED to notice a growing reverb of how the whole Free SHS Policy should be scrapped because they found it ill-thought … THE WHOLE PROGRAM. So we would rather push for the poor to pay-full-fees-or-go-home rather than a free-SHS-fees-with-a-glitch-here-and-there. We all saw the news reports.
This isn’t partisan. It’s all fact. And this is an opinion piece.
The Solution to Comprehensive Sexual Education in Ghana
Take the Bathwater plus the Baby then minus the Bathwater. Take the baby!
Take out what parts of the Course Modules that offend, have offended, or will offend the masses. Then give the children the age-appropriate education they require to have a healthy and responsible life. Children of that age always get their questions answered somehow, so it’s best we put in controls for what they learn and how they get to learn about these sensitive topics. There’s always the internet.
It might be radical, seeing as our region is behind on the LGBTQIAPK agenda, to introduce anything concerning the LGBTQIAPK into a curriculum for our kids. But whoever will revamp sexual education in Ghana will do the nation a great service.
The Problem with the Solution
I remember when I was 10 years old. You older generations thought we were sooo bad, always quick to point out how “spoilt” we were. Movies had just started being gratuitous on their NSFW scenes. HipHop was on the rise and so was the mentions of swear words in the media we consumed. Not to mention the Telenovelas. Oh the Telenovelas. My sisters couldn’t keep quiet about those.
We are now in open denial that some very young girls in Ghana twerk when you’re not watching. We are in denial that very young boys can very impressively hold good conversations on interesting topics and retain the knowledge of that conversation. We are in denial that kids learn about sex way earlier than we approximate.
In Ghana, what’s the norm with having the sex talk? Do we even ever get the sex talk? Does it come early enough? Does it even ever happen? It’s like a forbidden language. For most people, the sex talk came during a class on Reproduction. How many people giggled upon first hearing “cotyledon” in science class?
The problem with sexual education in Ghana is open denial.
How to go about it as a national decision
Well if I were the one making the decisions, which I am not, I wouldn’t need to play it safe because there wouldn’t be an “I” in the first place. There’s a reason why nobody wants to be the messenger for sensitive, potentially radioactive information. These messengers tend to get shot. Whoever embarks on sexual education reform in Ghana would need cover.
Who in our societies have so much social capital, making them essentially bulletproof to the regular doubt given to us lay men? Which group of people are literally saints and can basically do no wrong?
You guessed it… it’s the Saints. The Pastors. The Clergy.
Send out invites to the Religious Leaders of our land asking for their counsel on a matter very dear to the heart of Mother Ghana, in a totally coded closed-door session. They would accept the invitation. Why? Because last year when the President considered a tax on churches, he called for a similar meeting and they heeded his call. They would come.
Next, invite the Chiefs. Why? Because Presidents will come and go but His Majesty Otumfuo and the learned Chief Imam will remain long after any President. Chiefs and other Traditional Leaders are essential if important policies are to be accepted by all in all corners of the land. Think ‘branding’. Who is a more powerful voice in the Ashanti Region than His Majesty Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II. People listen to their own. Invite their own to join the conversation.
The direct stakeholders of said policy is next. Talk to Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT). Maybe add the National Council Of Parent Teacher Associations Of Ghana. If there’s a Ghana Association of School Prefects, add them too. Basically all other direct stakeholders you can think of.
This is how you avoid being metaphorically shot as the messenger of anything concerning sexual education reform.
Why would this work?
I tried getting the recent numbers from the Ghana Aids Commission but I asked too late; they asked for a formal letter of request and I contacted them last Thursday. I’m writing this on Friday.
I have no doubt that the current statistics of STD prevalence in Ghana will be alarming. HIV/AIDS and other STD’s used to be far scarier than they are now. We are now desensitised. It doesn’t shake us in our boots any longer. I can speculate on why but that’s not the point. The point is that it has resulted in a growing number of people having a lackadaisical attitude towards safe sex.
We also have early pregnancy and unsafe sexual practices at an early age. All these are realities we have to wake up to sooner than later.
Put it to the clergy, the chiefs and other stakeholders. Show them the scary stats. Tell them how concerned you are and the need to take action. There will be no way you wouldn’t get “sexual education reform” as one of the suggestions.
Get their input. Utilise their input. Make it about them from them for them. Nobody gets shot when the one who shoots is also the messenger.
So hold a big flashy press conference and say something like, “Ghana… our beloved country… is free from illiteracy and isolation from progress. It is in this light that WE have…”
See the insertion of the WE? It might not play out exactly as I’ve outlined but you get the point.
Ghana needs formal sexual education reform
Ghana might not need Comprehensive Sexual Education with all those other stuff. But we could use some education reform that would see us having a better approach to sexual and reproductive health for the younger ones.
The benefits far outweigh any concerns.
- Done properly, age-appropriate sexual education could actually delay sexual activity in our kids rather than hasten it.
- Increased knowledge on STD’s lead to increased refusal of sex at a young age and a decrease in unsafe sex.
- Pregnancy among adolescent girls would reduce for sure.
- STD testing will rise.
- Many, many more.
Concern about over-sexualising children often misses the point.
As young people grow, they face important decisions about life and family and relationships and sexuality and sexual behaviour. These decisions have an impact on how they view healthy living for the rest of their life. A fear of over-sexualising children tends to rob them of the necessary tools needed to navigate the sea of misinformation that floods them on a daily basis.
Have you visited Facebook lately? You and I can’t even tell what’s real any longer. How do we expect kids to know what’s good and what’s not if we don’t bring that conversation to the forefront.
Age-appropriate sexual education is necessary for our young ones to have healthy sexual and reproductive living
Do not throw the baby out with the bath water. Push for the reform. Take out the LGBTQIAPK parts if it offends the masses. Make it age-appropriate. Do what you must to make it palatable to the public. Just remember that society has the responsibility of equipping our young ones by providing them with the appropriate education that avails to them the tools they’ll need to make healthy decisions.
These are all facts. And this has been an opinion piece.
Hit me up on social media and let’s keep the conversation going! I read all the feedback you send me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Also, feel free to send me your articles on relevant topics for publication on the Macroeconomic Bulletin. I’d give you full credit, an intro, and an outro. Kindly make it about 1000 words.
Have a lovely week!
Maxwell Ampong is the Group CEO of Maxwell Investments Group, an International Trade and Business Development Solutions Provider. He is also the Property Investment Consultant for Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Ghana. He works with a team of motivated professionals, governed by industry experts with experience spanning over a century. He writes about trending and relevant economic topics, and general perspective pieces.
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