Today we did some evaluation with our local, large public school. I had taken pics of the kid’s classrooms with me over to Ghana. They were still amazed at what they saw. The floors, the equipment, the lunch room, the playground. It was all unreal to them.
But, the conversations on the way to school were even more telling. It was just me and the two newest additions in the car on the way there. Grandma graciously offered to stay with our Twinadoes and the Diva. We were discussing differences between their school there and their school here. I hit the highlights: no marching, no uniforms, no “field day”, etc. Then GhanaGal leaned over to me and asked if I had paid her school fees. I told her that I wasn’t sure what she meant, but that it was different here, there were no fees. Then she asked me if I had paid her “printing fees”. I told her that I would do that when we registered her later, that they were called “registration fees”. She insisted that I do it right when we stepped into the office. Ok. I did it and asked her why this was so important. Before she could answer, the principal stepped out of her office. She is a cute, funny, sweet little woman (who also happens to be pregnant). I introduced her to GhanaGal and GhanaGuy. GhanaGal asked me to show her that we had paid our fees. I finally stopped and asked her why she needed me to do it right now. The response…”she will beat me every day until you pay our fees”. Ouch. The principal stared at us for a moment, mouth agape. She recovered herself, called the kids and I into her office and explained to them that their new school is a “safe” school. She explained to them that people in America go to jail for beating children the way they were beaten in Ghana. The kids left with smiles on their faces. They visited their classrooms, GhanaGuy took the KG screener and met with the ELL teacher. He actually spoke to them. He nearly died laughing when his teacher for next year hugged him. I can guarantee that he has never been hugged by a teacher before.
On the way home I asked them about the beatings at school. I’m ashamed to admit that I once told someone coming home from Ghana with their child that these practices were “commonplace” in Ghana that “this was how it’s done there”. I made excuses because it seemed to be a cultural practice. I admonished this mom and dismissed the heartache of her newly arrived daughter. I’m so sorry. I mentioned the type and frequency of the “beatings” I saw at my kids school to another Ghanaian on this trip. I was told that these were the type of practices that most of Ghana let go of almost 30 years ago. Awful. I guess I could see “beating” a child for misbehaving. Well, maybe I could, if I tried REALLY hard. But, it turns out that up until I began to pay their school fees, my children were beaten every day for their inability to pay. Are you kidding me?!? We’re beating poor children? I shudder to think about the number of children they had to beat since I would estimate that 80-90% of the children can’t pay their various fees. What’s the point? You can’t squeeze blood from a rock. You can’t beat cedi out of poor kids.
I love my children’s country. But, this needs to stop.
who will step down off of her soapbox now.