In an effort to gain more context, I have been observing classes at Pokuase schools during the day (before my classes) as frequently as I can.  Thus far I have seen five: a kindergarten class (at a government school) where the teacher delivered canings in a matter that seemed random and rather out of control; a junior high school class at a government school covering patriotic behavior; a Primary 5 class at the same school where the lessons were sparse and the kids seemed genuinely happy to be there; another Primary 5 class at another government school, where the teacher was gloriously supportive and thoughtful and strong and I got to watch a spelling bee; and the most recent, a JHS Social Studies class (Social Studies here covers all forms of social behavior, not just history) at a private school on Adolescent Reproductive Health.

 

Two of my students, Alex and Naana, are members of this class.  It being a private school, it was much smaller than the government-school classes I had witnessed: most of them had about fifty students in the room, where this class contained only about twenty-five.  A young male teacher asked them to define “adolescent,” which took a couple of minutes, and then said that adolescense was a time of “physical and mental change for boys and what?  Girls.”  He asked them to list physical changes in males.  These included broadening of chests, growth of hair on private parts, growth and thickening of penis and testes; for girls, the list included the beginning of menstruation, growth of hair in private parts, growth of breasts.  The technical terms were mentioned by students without giggling or embarrassment, just a simple desire to give the right answer: this was a cultural difference I appreciated.   He called on students with waving hands.  Both Alex and Naana spoke frequently, which filled me with slightly irrational pride.  He mentioned the emotional differences that come with adolescense, in temperament, in ego, and in curiosity that “can lead to what?  Teen Pregnancy.” 

 

Teen Pregnancy became the next focus of discussion.  He listed five causes and then discussed each of them in detail; I will list the details before the subsequent cause.

 

1. Peer Pressure.  “Peer Pressure means what?” he asked.  There were  a couple of wrong answers I couldn’t understand, and then someone explained that it meant the influence of bad friends.  There was little discussion on this point, from teacher or students; the teacher said simply that you should stay away from bad friends.  If he should see you in the company of bad friends, even outside of school hours, he planned to take you aside.

 

2. Watching Pornographic Films.  If you have been watching pornographic films, the teacher said–he named what I assume were the Jenna Jamesons of Ghana–then “naturally, you will become curious, you will want to try this for yourself.”  There were giggles of recognition at this point, particularly from the boys.  If you do not expose yourselves to such temptations, the teacher explained, you will be more likely to avoid teen pregnancy.

 

3. Broken Homes.  This one raises my hackles, in whatever country it is mentioned.  When parents separate, the teacher explained, often neither of them is able to offer full financial support on their own, leading girls to seek what one might in the United States refer to as “Sugar Daddies,” a fairly common setup in Ghana from what I understand.  If the parents are not able to work together to pay attention to the children, it is more likely that they will be doing things the parents are not aware of.

 

4. Financial Problems.  In a poor family, said the teacher, girls may feel compelled to turn to prostitution, which often leads to teen pregnancy; or, by the same token, they may feel compelled to get a sugar daddy, to buy them the things they desire.  Desire for material things was also listed as an emotional system of adolescense, particularly among females.

 

5. Rape.  This, as will become clear, is the one I am thinking about the most.  The teacher explained that rape is forced sexual intercourse, and that a girl who is raped may become pregnant.  And what are the causes of rape?  One of them was women wearing provocative clothing.  If he saw any of his students wearing provocative clothing, even outside of class, he was going to have to speak to them.  They might be raped, and that could result in Teen Pregnancy.  He explained the definition of rape once more.  Several hands raised, and the teacher called on Alex.

 

“Please, sir,” he said, “if I am married to a girl–”

 

“A woman,” the teacher corrected, netting a few laughs.
“Please, sir, if I am married to a woman, and I force her to have sexual intercourse with me, is that rape?”

 

“No, that is not rape!” said the teacher.  “Because a married man and woman have a responsibility to satisfy one another what?  Sexually.”  He said the word with just a trace of lasciviousness, and the students laughed.  “No.  When you are married, it cannot be rape.”

 

He reviewed, again, that the five items on this list were the cuases of teen pregnancy.  And what were some of the effects?  He did not write these down, but one of them was dropping out of school.  The boy who gets you pregnant may stay in school, he explained, but a pregnant girl is likely to drop out.  Your parents might kick you out of the house, as well.  And you might get an abortion, “but abortion is against what?  The will of God.”  Every soul conceived, he said, was precious to God.  Therefore, if you had an abortion, it could result in damage to your womb, “and then you would never be able to have children.  Not even when you are older and when you are married.  So your husband might choose another woman, who can be responsible for bearing him children.”  It could also result in illness, because it was against the will of God.  Did everyone understand that?

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

After the lesson the headmistress, who has been very kind to me, asked what I thought.  I said it was interesting, that I appreciated the use of technical anatomical terms, and that my culture’s view of rape was so different that it was hard for me to enjoy the lesson.

 

“He was teaching a lesson about rape?” she said.
“He listed it as one of the causes of teenage pregnancy.”

 

“Ah.”  She seemed relieved.

 

It is probably a good thing that I did not pursue an academic career as an anthropologist, in spite of my college major.  Academic detachment and observation, even at that level, hurts my guts.

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