I had my end-of-term exam last Friday in social studies. Although the exam wasn’t particularly difficult, it ended up being extremely thought-provoking.
The multiple choice questions were all essentially common sense. Here’s a sample question:
36. All of the following are negative work attitudes except:
Needless to say, I didn't have any problems answering the multiple choice. The essays were a different issue...
Yes… I did write that it’s the duty of a good citizen to support their national soccer team.
#3. “List four problems that are created in the society when marriages breakdown.”
I had absolutely no idea what to say. My parents have been peacefully divorced for most of my life, always supporting each other and acting as friends. While my parents aren’t exactly a model of the ‘typical American divorce’, I couldn’t help but think about how the question was intended for a traditional society like Ghana.
I could think of only two (serious) answers:
- Mothers are left without disposable income, and may have trouble finding enough money to get by.
- Divorce may leave psychological effects on children, although these can be minimized.
After the exam, I looked in the textbook and found the following answers:
- Juvenile Delinquency – The children are likely to live out of home, smoke, and become a misfit.
- Teenage pregnancy – The children become sex objects for dishonest and unsympathetic men.
- Single Parenthood – This leads to financial troubles for the woman of the house.
- Drug Addictions – Lack of joy and parental attention may lead children to do and/or sell hard drugs.
- Prostitution – Divorce weakens moral standards among youth, who may turn to prostitution.
- Death – A partner may become so stressed that he/she ends it all by committing suicide.
I immediately deemed the textbook to be biased, and the ‘effects’ complete rubbish. It was so extreme that it couldn’t possibly be true.
That night I expressed my view to my host mom, expecting her to take my side. Instead she exclaimed, “No, no, no; the book’s true! Over here, if parents are religious [as most Ghanaians are], they would never go through that ‘divorce stuff.’ And I bet that over 50% of young prostitutes come from broken homes.”
What I had to realize is that the two cultures have completely different perceptions on divorce.
Divorce rates are hard to come by for Ghana; the only record I could find was that in 2006, 3.7% of Ghanaians in the Greater Accra region were divorced. (Source)
But this study is skewed – since Accra is very westernized, divorce is more accepted in this region. In other regions such as the northern ones, divorce is almost unheard of.
If a couple is having marital issues, Ghanaians typically get the family involved. Usually, whatever they say goes. But if the situation is serious enough to warrant a divorce, the woman will always keep the kids. Like in the United States, child support is obligatory- but here it’s not enforced.
This is the reason for all the effects seen above. Since jobs can be tough to find for their mothers, there will likely be no income or child support for the family. The kids may have no choice but become delinquents to survive.
After talking with my host mom and re-reading what the social studies book says, I have personally come to the conclusion that divorce doesn’t directly causing child delinquency; it’s the lack of money that causes it resulting from single women raising kids in a ‘man’s world’. The lack of money may have originated from the divorce, but by saying divorce is the cause, I feel as though Ghanaian society puts pressure on women to avoid divorce at all costs – even when in some cases it is the best option.