Kindly indulge me to start with a poignant quote. One from an intellectual luminary Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the author of the book from whom I borrowed the title for this piece. In that book, he posits:
“If you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action, when you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself from what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself”.
The truth of this statement has played itself out in our part of the world for as long as the Western conquerors established their first institutions of cultural/psychological laundry. Institutions we have come to know and accept as “churches” and “schools” since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These institutions have been the sole agents for training and acculturating the fertile minds of the young and the future of our pristine society ever since.
The famous Achimota School may not be the first school the western “missionaries” established here on our rich soil. But it is one of the first institutions of higher learning in our land after the Presbyterian Training College in Akropong, Akuapem. With its proper name of “The Prince of Wales College and Schools” the school was formally opened on January 28, 1927, in Achimota, an area the white man referred to as the “Grey City Of The Outlaw’s Hill”. With the blessing and largess patronage of the local elites like Chiefs and the quasi-bourgeois class of our society, it progressed steadily.
According to legend, the area had its name from the Ga language “akyi mota” which means “to speak no name” of the area that was a haven for rebels and runaway slaves from the new alien marauders who were ravaging our land with their mercantile enterprise disguised in the name of “missionary”.
This is the land that Guggisberg opted for the establishment of the cultural mill that will churn out the minds of the indigenous bureaucrats that would perpetuate the imperialist agenda without any sense of qualm or guilt from the unsuspecting local populace.
This prestigious institution lived up to its purpose by churning out first-rate students who became active members of the colonial infrastructure that had usurped the power of our traditional ruling class. Relegating them to the confines of clients to the mercantile imperialist system, with these new bourgeois class as their middlemen to facilitate the business between the alien masters and their indigenous clients.
It was purely business and a survival strategy to train the children of the client indigenes anywhere the white man went to in the pursuit of happiness or wealth, in the form of gold, oil, diamonds, and priceless human resource, etc. There is nothing ‘Godly’ about it, not even the proselytization that was inseparable from the novel of western education that was at its apogee in Achimota College.
The western imperialists knew that in order for the experiment of colonialism to succeed they needed not to waste their time on the older and culturally calcified generation. They rather invested in the training and acculturation of the fledgling younger generation along their exotic and diametrically opposed culture.
This was the beginning of the establishment of churches and schools which were to function as the cultural and psychological laundry to white-wash the minds of the indigenous children. These churches and schools were to be fecund for any and everything western, thereby making their human resource beneficial not to their parent culture but to the alien system inadvertently and perpetually.
The children who passed through these institutions to acquire training in skill and culture were mandated to conform to western standards. This included accepting the western dogma of “God” or the Creator of the universe, accepting and adulating western language to the peril of the native ones. It also included aaccepting the western style of dressing and outlook, like cropping the curly and nappy hair of the African.
They were also required to accepting the western culinary taste that will make them connoisseurs of western food and victuals. Accepting the western fabrication of history to the detriment of the narrative of our renowned past was also a part of the package delivered to learners of those institutions. This made them liable to the overall acceptance of the inferiority complex of the African towards western culture.
This was the purpose and impetus of the white conquerors to educate or for a better word, ‘miseducate’ the children of the “third world”. Children who would keep the engine of imperial colonialism running without knowing or realizing where it is destined to go. This has been the self-perpetuating culture and agenda of the school system in Africa even after we have supposedly gained independence of steering and directing the future of our own culture.
In some cases, as in the case of our country Ghana, the educational system has even got worse and porous than the ones we inherited from the colonialists after independence.
In order to make a cogent point, we had to go into the background of how the system we live in was intended to be by their Frankenstein orchestrators approximately 200 years ago. The prestigious Achimota School, which has churned out illustrious students for the past 94 years, most of them becoming renowned and historical figures of our land.
In fact, about six of Ghana’s presidents and leaders were old students of Achimota, from the great Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to Edward Akuffo-Addo, Kofi Abrefa Busia, Vice President Kow Nkensen Arkaah, John Evans Atta Mills, and Jerry John Rawlings.
This remnant of colonial prestige has kept up to the purpose for which it was established, the continuation of western principles within our culture even 64 years
after independence, like all the educational institutions in the country today, in the 21st century. I say so because of the recent infamous scandal of the prestigious school refusing admission to two brilliant Rastafarian students, Oheneba Kwaku Nkrabea and Tyrone Iras Marhguy for wearing their natural nappy hair as part of their identity and culture as Rastafarians, an Afrocentric sect that upholds the pristine nature of the African, especially our symbolic hair.
In the 21st century, it is not right that the school system in Ghana and Africa still discriminates against our African identity. It is not right that school authorities will proscribe our Afro/nappy hair and sideline our indigenous languages in our schools to the uncomfortable domain of “vernacular”, just as it was in the days of colonialism.
This is the system that raises girls through school from childhood and sanctioning them against keeping their God-given hair, nails, et cetera, and when they complete the second cycle schools, they go on to buy artificial hair and nails to wear on their head to conceal their African identity, to show that they have come of age.
One would think, in the 21st century, African governments would finally wean themselves off such spurious European biases that proscribe the keeping up of African appearances and identities, especially in our institutions of acculturation and education of the young.
These things should not happen in our schools today because we are finally in charge of our destiny as a people. This should not be since Achimota of all schools is still holding on fast to the shameful biases and complexes of their masters, even close to a century after it was established for its exotic purposes and agenda.
It would be safe to say that the prestigious school would never dare to refuse admission to its caucasian/foreign students if they wear their natural straight hair which they deem as their culture and identity to keep. So why would they proscribe the African students who are wearing their own natural hair in its pristine fashion? This is the context the afore-quoted statement evinces that a people who have been taught to accept their vomited inferiority will do anything to perpetuate their thrusted inferiority even years after the master has departed them.
This is the remnant of the old racist institution, like all the schools we have today that have refused to self-serve the African culture. A system that still holds on to the ideals of their masters to deny the admission of the child of a colonial rebel like Ras Aswad Nkrabea, a Jamaican who decided to renege his country of birth to trace his roots to Ghana, the country of his ancestral origin.
A maverick who has been true to his cultural identity by relocating to Ghana, to abandon his “slave name” to adopt an indigenous name as Nkrabea when Africans in our own land are naming their children after European/westerners when they have never been subjected to the abominable ordeal of slavery should not be treated the way he has been treated.
It is a shame for a reputable institution such as the Achimota School to refuse entry to African students based on their African looks. If it were any western institution, they would have embraced the opportunity to set a record of being the first to set the historical example that will mark the milestone that the New African is finally gaining his/her precious mind.
That has been drained to serve foreign oppressive masters other than him/herself for so long. Again this is an opportunity for the African, especially the Ghanaian who has been the beacon of Pan-Africanism to set a new record in the annals of history. It would have been a small step for Achimota but a milestone for African independence in the 21st century.
I shudder to think that any of the authorities at the Achimota School, including their Old Students Association, would refuse any doctor with dreadlocks to save them if they were dying today. Such is the fate of the brilliant Rastafarian students in the hands of the authorities at Achimota school, an institution the white man nicknamed the “Grey City Of The Outlaw’s Hill”. I regret to say they have not acted to the merit of their name Achimota, the haven for rebels and institutional mavericks, but rather serving the purpose of colonial toadies.
For the school and their authorities and any other school of training in our country, I will tell you what the illustrious Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first institutional maverick of that prestigious school told us more than half a century ago: “Only free men can change the destinies of their future”.
After 94 years they must act like a free institution that can change the narrative of the future, in the 21st century. They must set an auspicious example by accepting the African students with their unsullied identities. Such is the right thing to do, that is their human right, to tell the African diaspora that indeed we are ready for their return to the motherland, where they will be accepted without conditions.
It was great news, a gospel news, when I heard the two students were suing the Achimota school, through their parents, for the breach of their human rights. They sued the school, the Ghana Education Service, the Attorney General, et al at the Human Rights court in Accra on March 31, 2021, to seek relief from the court, to reverse the school’s decision.
On May 31, 2021, the court ruled in their favor, ordering the school to admit the two Rastafarians without discrimination to their appearances in a landmark case against our public education system. This is a step in the right direction, I think finally we are waking up because the rooster has come home to roost. Because “only free men can change the destinies of their future”.
By Barima Kwabena Yeboah|3news.com|Ghana