Ghana’s ugly “bush allowance”

Our society is reeling from its own canker. When news broke recently about an alleged rape or sexual assault incident, it was not only the merits that came into sharp focus, but the broader problem of sex with children that exploded right in the face of Ghanaians. Coming just weeks after the arrest of a celebrity, this editorial makes no claim as to guilt. What is important is whether we, as a society, appreciate the decades-old problem of older men exploiting young children using their fame, fortune or power. Only a week before the end of December arrest, a related and more troubling story broke. It did not involve a celebrity even though it bore some semblance to this incident. That story found no legs to run on and gained no currency. The public did not even blink. But it should have. To us, this story required immediate attention because it underlies some of the difficult conversations that the Ghanaian society should be having about sex. In that story, it was alleged that elementary school teachers in our villages have couched a term called “bush allowance,” although the term has nothing to do with money, as you might initially think. “Bush allowance” entitles teachers to have sex with school children routinely in remote areas ostensibly as some type of “payment” for the monetary compensation they do not receive for working in difficult areas. Teachers, in effect, believe that they are entitled to the bodies of the children they teach when they are transferred to less developed villages in Ghana, even before these girls have reached the age of maturity, or can made decisions for themselves! Such a practice is illegal. It is called defilement under Ghana law. Elsewhere it is statutory rape and intent is of no moment. Apparently, this is some age-old, mind-set that has always been the subject of humor where a teacher takes a student. I bet you neither heard this story, nor paid any attention to it. Adults in Ghana abuse children with reckless abandon. Officialdom endorsed these actions not only by conveniently ignoring them but by participating and by failing to condemn them. Teachers, to whom we have given the most authority and the most influence on our children, defile students under the warped belief that being transferred to some village must come with this benefit. These abuses of our children should not and cannot be tolerated. Teachers are supposed to teach children right from wrong, not act with impunity. These children are young teenagers, at best, and lack the mental capacity to consent. Horrible incidents involving teachers and school children are reported everyday without any repercussions on the teachers. This must stop. Teachers who sleep with their students betray the trust we have in our educational system. Education is key to the development of our nation and the teacher’s role is too important to trivialize with sex. Firing, prosecuting and punishing teachers found guilty of sleeping with their students is a first step. A logical second step is to stop demonizing victims of sexual assault by protecting their identity and gagging further vilification of victims. Victims of sexual assault, rape and defilement should feel confident to report their encounter to law enforcement and we must get serious about prosecuting and punishing perpetrators commensurate with their crime. While this is not an attempt to pronounce on the facts of the KKD incident, it provides an opportunity for legislation and enforcement of existing laws in a constructive manner. This should not be a missed opportunity.

Posted by on Feb 13 2015. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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