There is a well called Stupidity in Ghana. It runs ever deep. Our politicians, civil servants and officials – elected and otherwise – draw from its depths daily. I, like most of you, have never visited this well, because I’ve never had the means or need to. One must be oiled with copious amounts of Greed in order to slip past Common Sense and sip of Stupidity’s waters. However if I had been corrupted by Power and Promise, the trinkets that holding a high office in the land provides, I’m certain that I too might be drunk off Stupidity, as these three women are.
Victoria Hammah, (now sacked) Deputy Communications Minister
Rachel Appoh, MP for Gamoa Central
Bernadette Banongwie, Deputy Director of Education
#Vickyleaks exposed a fissure in the dyke of our supposed sound government, and gave way to a full-fledged #Deputygate. An avalanche of misfortune has begun to tumble. The stories of these women are intertwined, and at first glance will remind one of a sinister Dickens novel, a chapter from The Babysitters Club, or a hastily scripted Lifetime movie… or perhaps even an episode from (((MOM MODE!!!)))
The earth was dry, cracked, and parched. Rain hadn’t fallen in the Upper West District for almost a month now. The once verdant landscape leading up to Nadwoli-Kaleo had been rendered bruised and skeletal, the aftershock of ‘galamsey’ – illegal mining.
Bernadette Banongwie bounced along in the air-conditioned 4×4, wishing she was anywhere but here. Still, duty called and it was her mandate to answer. How she wished she was back in Accra, or even Kumasi! That is where women of distinction such as herself belonged. Imagine a whole Deputy Director of Education being sent to what is tantamount to a remote outpost! She knew why she was being sent: she was the Deputy Director, not the Director herself. When it came down to doing less than pleasant tasks – like speaking at this event in this enclave – she was always sent to represent the government. It annoyed her.
But Ms. Banongwie was a patient woman. She would bide her time and strike only when it was pertinent. After all, she could not hit out at her boss or other superiors; that would be professional suicide! But that didn’t mean that she could not make those beneath her tremble and recognize her power.
Soon, the driver announced her arrival at the site of the inauguration. Girls Club Executives were being inducted that day, and she was there to give the keynote address. She eyed her driver suspiciously, careful not to say too much during the ride or answer any personal phone calls. After Victoria Hammah’s demise just a day before, one could not be too careful with the company one kept. She alighted from the vehicle and shook hands with the Administrator of the Club.
“Oh! Madam Director, you are very welcome!” said the toothy woman in a blue and white cloth.
Bernadette smiled and didn’t bother to correct the woman. Madam Director would do just fine. She followed her host to a rickety seat under a tree and viewed the girls who had lined up to greet her through compassionless eyes.
She despised them for their poverty.
It was true that every government since Nkrumah had left the far North out of its development plans till today, but that didn’t mean these women and girls had to look as though they couldn’t find the means to get by! Feeling irritation rise within her esophagus, she swallowed hard and plastered a synthetic smile on her face. Once all the necessary introductions, presentations, dances and preliminary speeches had been done, Bernadette sauntered to the podium and adjusted the microphone. Again, she looked at the flock of black faced girls through unfeeling eyes.
The theme of the inauguration was “Girls Education: Moving from Enrolment to Retention and Achievement.” She had written the speech during her flight north, pulling statistics from the UN website and some general sources on Google. She waffled on about statistics: 1 in 3 girls are denied and education globally. Boys are selected to be educated if the choice came down between them and a girl. Education is often denied girls because of cultural practices, discrimination and violence.
She looked up from her notes and gave a stern warning.
“Any girl who finds herself pregnant through loose morals will be severely punished,” she hissed in a shrill voice, looking over the sea of small faces. “Government is investing a lot of resources in girls’ education, and if any girl ruins that chance by getting pregnant, she will have to refund that investment! Of course, this doesn’t include girls who have been impregnated by rape…but for those of you who sleep around with boys and men, you will be dealt with!”
She didn’t have to turn around to look. She knew that behind her, the elder men and women in administration were nodding in agreement with her. She cast a roving glance over the faces of her audience. Some were clearly terrified.
“*Ashawo like their type,” she thought to herself.
She left the podium to the sound of weak applause and went back to her seat, wondering what these people proposed to feed her after the session was complete. A dusty bottle of Coke, for certain. Maybe even some rice and chicken stew if she was lucky. God knew how much she deplored tuo zaafi…
“Ei. Did you hear what the madam said this afternoon?” asked Haifa, hugging her arms around her shoulders. “She said any girl who gets pregnant will be dealt with!”
“Yes, it’s good. Some of you like playing with boys too much,” muttered Salma. She was the most bookish of the lot. Her grades averaged 40% on every exam, and while that was well below the national average, it was better than the 23% that each girl earned if they were lucky.
“But what of the boys and men who chase us? Will they be punished?”
“Of course not! It is up to you the girl to keep yourself from getting pregnant. After all, you cannot prove that the pregnancy is for one man or another. They can only say it is you who got pregnant.”
“Hmmm. Do you remember what happened to Aisha last term? Her father chased her from the house after her boyfriend made her pregnant. They said they would also sack her from school. She swallowed broken glass to kill the baby.”
“And she also died… She died very badly.”
There was no chatter after that. The girls walked back to their classroom block in silence, with little hope in their future.
And that is the moral of today’s episode, MOM Squad. While Victoria Hammah PLANNED to steal $1 million, Bernadette Banongwie was successful in nailing Hope’s coffin shut with her utterances. She has stolen the essence of faith from these young girls, and given carte blanche to the men/boys who would facilitate their demise by putting full responsibility on these young ladies. I wonder, has she forgotten what it’s like to be a Black girl growing up in Black Africa? To have so much societal pressure on you, your womb and your vagina merely because you are in possession of both? Would her visit not have been better served if she had talked about options available to these girls whom her job title mandates that she care for? How about abstinence, contraception, or heaven forbid, alternative options for education if you DO find yourself pregnant?
Sweet Jesus, even felons get a shot at a PhD in PRISON if they so desire it… why does a pregnant school girl then have to feel as though her life must come to an immediate end? Are felons more valuable than teen/unwed mothers?
Stay tuned for the next episode of The Pleeeenty Women Ruining Ghana! Rachel Appoh is next!
*Ashawo = whore/prostitute