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Kwesi Yankah Writes: Hands Off Our Kids

‘With all the low-hanging clouds, even while we threaten to sacrifice our innocent children for power, we ironically forget that our children themselves could be our teachers, indeed our mentors from whom the world should learn about peace.

June ending, I had a great time with kids at Christland Community School, Accra on my way to Nsawam for a funeral. My duty was to be the special guest of honour at their graduation ceremony, and speak on ‘Fostering a peaceful election: A tool for quality education.’ My initial dilemma was how to handle the theme when Ghana was already beating war drums towards December.

The seats were filled to capacity that rainy morning: invited guests, management, teachers, parents, kids up to 13 years old, etc.  Seeing kids smartly dressed in academic gowns, I wish time could be rolled back to my own childhood at Winneba Zion. In my armpit that day was a Samsung tablet, keeping custody of my speech; but I had to fight back a temptation to drop the prepared speech and instantly compose one with a nicer flavour.

The speech I held was harsh and ominous, but I stuck to the script. My decision was indeed to clench my teeth and candidly tell Ghana: Please panic, for there is cause for alarm towards December! The signs were grim, but I couldn’t look in the eyes of innocent kids in that school, and see them flushed down the drain this December.

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Starting on a lighter note, I confessed to the gathering that I wasn’t lucky to enjoy this type of graduation during our days at Winneba Zion School. If there had been any such graduation ceremony at the time, I would most likely have been wearing a gorgeous academic gown, but without shoes on my feet.

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My experience with footwear started at secondary school. I walked barefoot throughout elementary school days: not even charlie wote!  and it was tough walking on melting bitumen or rather ‘coal tar’ on sunny days.

Come and see me and Ato Austin those days, doing hop, step and jump at noon, evading hot spots at Abasraba on our way to school. Saying this in my speech, I heard the kids giggling along with their parents.  But the fun time was soon over, and it was my duty to paint a picture of disturbing times ahead of the December elections for the attention of parents.

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My plan was to address the plight of kids, youths, and women during times of conflict, and the consequences for our future leaders. My experiences at Dagbonwere there to relate, having been part of the Wuaku Commission that looked into the Dagbon crisis in 2002, and returning there in 2007 as part of a research team commissioned by UN Institute for Disarmament Research, (UNIDIR) to examine the post-war situation at Dagbon.

Kwesi Yankah
Prof. Kwesi Yankah with Christian Community School Kids

The UN research team included Kofi Agyekum, Albert Awedoba, and Osman Alhassan all from the University of Ghana, along with other ethnographers from the US. But I also related horrible post-Liberia scenes in Monrovia which I visited as part of a WAEC visitation team in 2005: the plight of kids disabled by the war, and a heart-rending lecture on the war’s aftermath delivered by Monsignor Robert Tikpor, on the impact of the war on education.

But I moved on and soon painted a picture of early warning signs towards a horrific December: Underaged kids wooed by politicians and parents to illegally join the limited voter registration; partisan clashes including gunshots at voter registration centers; some schools virtually branded in party scholars.

I went beyond schools: the frequent invasion of radio and TV studios these days by gangs and ‘macho’ men unhappy with comments from the studios: and a country preparing grounds by word and deed, for a brutal combat this December.

I am more scared, not hearing much about Peace Councils these days. The last time around, I heard a cash-strapped peace council soliciting for alms so late in the day,  while war drums kept throbbing. It has been a grisly dialogue between the two main parties. One party hums a grim determination to ‘hand over to whom?’

The other side threatens ‘protective custody’  for all ‘corrupt’ opponents if ‘by God’s grace’ their party wins the December polls. The battle lines are drawn, but things have gone even further with cutlasses being brandished at party meetings. Hear my words in a conclusion that left mouths gaping that morning.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, it indeed got more scary when the new executive of a political party swore a rather chilling oath in front of cameras early this year. Listen to the exact wording of this oath of loyalty, which was repeated phrase by phrase to an officiating personality as follows:

By this sword (by this sword)
If I compromise (if I compromise)
And sell my party out (and sell my party out)
For money (for money)
In this coming election (in this coming election)

May I die (may I die)
And may my first born also die (and may my first born also die)

I pledge (I pledge)

So help me God (so help me God)

‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is Ghana today preparing for December 2024tomorrow.

On camera, an oath of loyalty has been sworn by new executives, putting at risk the member’s own life and the life of their firstborn child! The innocent firstborn to be sacrificed could possibly be a pupil graduating here today.

This was indeed one of the most dreadful public rituals I have ever observed my whole life, happening in a peaceful country called Ghana: our preparedness to sacrifice our children for power.

Peacemaking

‘With all the low-hanging clouds, even while we threaten to sacrifice our innocent children for power, we ironically forget that our children themselves could be our teachers, indeed our mentors from whom the world should learn about peace.

The innocent child who plays with fellow kids is completely blind to party or ethnic feuding. Kids at school fight and cry this minute and unite to play the next moment. Children spare no thought for feuding.

For many of us adults, while we are busy castigating political opponents, and brandishing weapons, our children are at play with kids of those same ‘enemies;’ they are friends, they are playmates and study mates while their daddies brandish weapons at each other.

The world of strife and conflict is a strange creature for adults; but we should begin learning from our kids, who by nature are blind to conflict. The Christland Community School being faith-based, let me point out how precious these children are, and how in keeping with Christian virtues, we should do everything to protect them. Jesus loved children.

Matthew 19:14.

Jesus said, let the children come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Ghana, for goodness sake, Hands off our Kids!’

My speech over, I interacted with graduating children and hit the highway gasping towards December.

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Kwesi Yankah
A Special Gift from Christland Community School
Prof. Kwesi Yankah with Christian Community School Kids and Guardians
Kwesi Yankah
Pastor Otabi Wilson congratulates a brilliant kid

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