In recent days, many Ghanaians have been jumping up and down about what many term are abominable acts by a group of female students (adolescents) from “Ejisu” Senior Secondary School.
What are their crimes? They made a video in which they advocated for improper sexual acts, promiscuity, sex for money and some profanity, and posted on social media. Many Ghanaians are calling for the young girls crucifixion because such behaviours are “unGhanaian”, “unAfrican” and very foreign. Many are falsely claiming that such behaviours are unheard of, can virtually be attributed to “social media” and western culture. Definitely not Ghanaian way they claim.
Many are also implying that the kids’ behaviors are an isolated case and not many kids would behave like that. These kids are “bad” kids and should essentially be ostracized. The school, in the meantime, has given an “expulsion letters” to the kids involved dismissing them from the boarding facility despite the fact that they are in the senior and final year.
Meanwhile, their videos with their identities, including their faces, are widely publicized in Ghanaian newspapers, online and on all mass media. Some, including some notable and powerful individuals, authorities and groups are calling for their total dismissal etc.
I have followed this story with sadness, disappointment and in dismay.
- The school appears to be reactive and mostly concerned about damage control instead of seeking the welfare of the children involved or attempting to get to the bottom of the issue.
- The school doesn’t seem to think about the long term impacts on the children but of the public’s reaction on the children.
- The school, opinion leaders and members of the public seem unconcerned about protecting the welfare of the kids but are rather interested in instant gratification and vigilante justice.
- Most seem to be unaware that adolescent sexual behaviour is pretty rampant in Ghana and a need to provide safe spaces for educating the youth about their sexuality, reproductive health and the consequences of responsible behaviour.
- School authorities and the public don’t seem to care about providing help, counseling and education for the girls but are rather interested in punishing them.
But is this really an isolated case? Are these girls the only teenagers engaged in such socially inappropriate acts? My answer is NO!
Here’s why I think Ghanaians are in denial as with many other social issues.
According to many multiple socio-demograpjic sources:
- More than 50% of Ghanaian females marry in their teens
- 10% of Ghanaian have their first child
between ages 15 and 19 years
- 83% of Ghanaian females and 56% of males would have had sex by age 20.
- 30% of Ghanaian youth ages 10 to 24 who marry are at risk of experiencing unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS.
- Female median age for first sex 17.4 years and 19.5 years
- For the youth who have had sex by age 20, 40% of females and 60% male adolescents are between ages 12 and 24
- 40% of youth get STIs such as clymadia, herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea etc.
- As of 2002, 3% of Ghanaian youth between ages15-24 were HIV positive.
- Unsafe abortions are common amongst Ghanaian youth. At least, 16% of Ghanaian adolescent females and 11% males have terminated pregnancies.
- 30% of abortions involving females and males 39 between ages 12 and 24 occurred unsafely at home. This contributes to high maternal mortality amongst Ghanaian adolescents.
Factors contributing to poor adolescent reproductive health in Ghana /Barriers to Policy
- Lack of parent-child communication about sexual health.
- Sexual education in schools is minimal and “insufficient” bits in “biology”, “core science” and “social stadies”. Not much about the consequences of sexual behaviours.
- Cultural attitudes and resistance towards sex education. Even family planning programs fail to provide services and sexual health education including contraceptives for the youth although there is widespread sexual activity happening amongst the youth and outside of marriage.
Sources of sex education/information for the Ghanaian youth
- Mass media (tv, radio, internet)
- Early sex among Ghanaian adolescents
- Irresponsible or unsafe sexual behaviours
- Lots of sexual activity outside marriages
- High HIV/AIDS and other STIs
- High teenage pregnancy rates
- Poor adolescent development especially amongst girls
- Adolescent delinquency
- Lack of information and awareness of risks
All this is happening within the context of fact that sexual topics are common in Ghanaian popular music, dance, drama, conversations, gossip. Last year, all kinds of people fought against the introduction of age appropriate sex education in the educational curricula.
In the meantime, social demographers reccomend a need for an understanding of adolescent sexual behaviors, associated risks and evaluation of existing policies, implementation, monitoring and interventions to protect the youth, their sexual and physical health and socioeconomic development.
Scapegoating the girls doesn’t address the issues. It still ignores the realities facing the youth. It denies them of any safe spaces to learn about sexual and reproductive health. Given the massive influence of globalization and social media, the problem can only get worse with the status quo. Ghanaians ought to change their attitudes and face the truth. Blaming western culture and social media is not going to eliminate the problem. What’s needed for the kids is protection of their privacy, innocence and dignity.
We should rehabilitate children who make mistakes and not worsen their situation by causing further damage. Penalties particularly to kids in school should be focusing on education and discipline, not harm or unhelpful punishments. Punishments ought to be proportional and appropriate for the offense. It’s not about western vs. Ghanaian culture but it is about what’s effective, efficient and supported by best practices.
February 12, 2020
https://www.guttmacher.org › report
Adolescents in Ghana: Sexual and Reproductive Health | Guttmacher …
https://link.springer.com › article
Understanding Adolescents’ Sexual Behaviour in Ghana: Information …