Ol’ Whipper.

All these foul mutterings in the background following me wherever I go, the background music to which I can’t quite make out what’s being said. It wasn’t always like this. In fact it used to be the complete opposite to what it is now. In fact back when things were good it was the best time of my life. Everybody loved and cherished me. Up and down the country my name was spoken of as fond as a sentimental elder speaks of their prosperous youth. It’s funny how it’s in one’s downfall that one finds out who their true companions are and who is there just to ride along the train of success and popularity. I’m one of the more fortunate leaders who have fallen however, the ones who still follow and who still utilise my teachings are ever loyal and go against their new government in my name. They realise that I am still a significant player in this country and with the support of the up and coming generation I will stay that way. No matter how hard the new big dog’s try they will never get rid of me; especially when the majority of my faithful believers are teachers. With the vast majority of teachers being on my side they will accustom the next generation of my ways and instill my teachings upon them leading to my revival. The big city players have been plagued and poisoned with the influence of the outside world and that’s beyond bad news for this place. We are in a country that is overflowing with culture, they are not, for goodness sake one of those ‘better’ countries don’t even speak their native language anymore, do we really want to go that way? We are blessed enough to still have our culture flowing through the country in full force. Our culture is something that we pride ourselves in, something that we use as our main attraction for tourists to visit and contribute to our economy. Me, what I do, I am part of our culture and getting rid of me is the first step to getting rid of the rest and turning into the blank, boring, culture-less canvas of the western world. And do we want to be like that? No we do not. What they don’t realise is that I am needed here and it’s evident enough by just looking in the contrast of behaviour between the two cultures. I see the grimaces upon their faces when you ask some of the Outsiders of their culture; I hear the apprehension and embarrassment when they can only mutter off a handful of weak traditions. I see their eyes drink up our culture; I see their jealousy and guilt of how their country doesn’t uphold their traditions as we do ours; and most of all I watch as how they flinch and cower when we ask them to join in due to their shyness and unease to let go. It’s not good. We don’t want our people closing up; we don’t want to lose the carefree sense of enjoyment, we don’t want the constant smiles sagging underneath the anonymity of the western world. We don’t want this and yet it’s happening. It’s happening in some corners of our beautiful country. In our capital Accra more and more new schools are opening and are emitting me from their curriculum. The kids there will never be touched by my teachings and because of that they will spoil. They won’t know how to behave properly, their behaviour will become uncontrollable, their education will be affected negatively by them having no knowledge of my rule over the country and they won’t be whipped into good practice like the kids were in my time of power. They will grow to be reckless and disrespectful and won’t listen to any of their elders and chiefs. A few days ago I was relaxing during first break and I overheard one of the white ladies describing one of the schools she had visited whilst being in Accra; she said that when the children came to asking questions they would yell out, some without raising their hands, talk amongst themselves loudly and were all confident characters. Overly confident if you ask me. And you see, that is the result of my teachings and influence not being present. The pupils think they have more authority than they really do; they begin to believe it’s ok to talk over their teacher and to do things the way they want to as opposed to how they’re meant to. She also said that the school was more like the schools back in her home country and confirmed my fears of the western culture infiltrating our country. And who knows how this will progress, a lot of the young people here in the villages aspire to move to Accra because that’s where the jobs are, and if they succeed, get married, have kids and send them to these boisterous schools they soon will try and come back and impose these new ways upon the villages. The very villages where my influence is most abundant. They will want to banish me and if they banish me then the upcoming generations will be ruined. This cannot happen, I refuse it to happen. Everything that I have done for them will be thrown right back into my face, all the conditioning, all the discipline, all the shaping, all the good I’ve done for them and they just want to throw it away. No. No, I mustn’t think like this because it won’t happen. I’m not threatened. I may be underlying in the capital but the capital’s only one part of the country. There’s the rest of the country too and that completely outweighs the capital. There are more constituencies that keep me close to their hearts than those who do not. I have nothing to fret, I’m part of the culture; I’m part of the Ghanaian way of life. I’m the leading father, especially in the education sector, and I will be continually celebrated and my teachings will continue to be practiced. Of course I will, no doubt about it, because I’m corporal punishment; I’m the cane that gets caressed by wise hands and my lash will sculpt the youth into becoming respectful adults and my country needs me.

   ***

For my year overseas with the charity Project Trust to fulfill the requirements for a  qualification in global citizenship I had to produce a community report. For this I could pick absolutely anything which peaked my interest during my stay in the community. I chose to write on the use of the cane and corporal punishment in schools in Ghana and the difference in culture between Scotland and Ghana; a thought triggered by a lengthy conversation with the societies teacher at the local secondary school. Some of my fellow volunteers detested the cane and would go as far as taking them all from the school they were working in and snapping them all. As much as I agreed that corporal punishment wasn’t the best, nor the most effective, form of discipline I didn’t think that degree of intervention was necessary or sensitive. I acknowledge that different countries do things different ways and coming in dictating and forcing another method upon the institution, especially since Ghana was still under British rule as recent as 60 years ago, felt completely wrong to me. It’s treading on toes and unprofessional. The teachers which I interacted with were very open for debate and loved discussing topics with one another. Especially from a different country’s point of view they were always interested in what we approved and disapproved of, offering open ears to why they should drop certain practices from their culture. From my observation I saw that although the cane did bring discomfort and pain to the students at times it was treated like a somewhat joke and jest between the students and teacher – students would encourage the caning of their peers and there would often be laughter following the act. Alongside other things, I found the stereotype of students being extremely beaten in schools was false.

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