Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

"The way to keep people down is to educate men and leave women" - Dr. Aggrey

Mrs J. Maud Kordylas

This is a paper presented by Mrs J. Maud Kordylas at the International Centenary evening with AGGREY OF AFRICA organised in Accra by The Ghana Association of Writers GAWE 1975. The issues are very relevant today.
I cannot even say I qualify in the remotest sense, to participate in such a great event because I did not even attend Achimota School, the nearest I got to Achimota School and to anything close enough to Dr. Aggrey was through my elder sister who one day came home from Achimota with her right hand wrapped up in a large white handkerchief. Anxious to know what had happened to her we gathered around her.

Gingerly, and meticulously she un- wrapped her hand and in a voice full of excitement and pride, with airs of superiority and a sense of achievement she offered us a glimpse of her hand, the hand that she used to shake Mrs. Aggrey's. We later learned that, unable to contain herself, she had jumped and grabbed Mrs. Aggrey's hand in the air when she was about to wave goodbye to the school crowd from a car.

The pride which Ghanaians have in Dr. Aggrey, the pride which was shown and transmitted to me by my sister was one of my reasons for accepting the invitation to participate in this great event to honour Dr. Aggrey. The man who, during his lifetime was once introduced as "perhaps the greatest living African". A man who was described as "one of nature's noblemen, a high toned christian gentleman, an earn- est student and a well-balanced scholar".

During this International Women's Year, it is right and befitting also for us to honour and remember such a great educationist and moralist, who in his time did not only have the education of the youth of Africa in general at heart, but put the education of the female as top priority, and had visions of what it would mean to a nation to have her women educated. It was he who once said: "The surest way to keep a people down is to educate the men and neglect the woman… " the theme upon which I wish to base my contribution.

That learning should elevate a man above his original status in life is consis- tent with the common order of human events. On Dr. Aggrey's return to his native Gold Coast in 1924, as assistant vice principal of Achimota School and chief adviser of the Rev. A. G. Frazer, his sole aim was to inspire the youth of this country to greater deeds, as well as setting up a high standard of morality. To the youth of this country, he said "Knowledge you must get and when you have got it, know that there is more beyond".

Dr. Aggrey considered it a very vital matter that the girls of this country should as far as possible be brought into line with the boys in the matter of educational facilities. He wished the girls to be trained for industry...

Education to Dr. Aggrey meant a gradual training in the activities and development of the capacities and charac- ter required in life. He believed in an educational institution which could meet the highest and broadest needs of Africans, and one where leaders of the race would receive not only the best "he education" but an education of "heart" and also of the "hand". The a of Achimota, as he visualized it, the fore, was to correct the mistakes which have been made in educational system Africa.

The type of education which considers everything African as heathen, wrong ungodly. The type of education wh taught us that our very names were pagan, the type of education which considers our dances and games as taboos discarded our customs and had all that was best in our system forgotten. type of education, he contested, tended to make our boys and girls cut loose of tribal ties and make them become neither Western nor African, but rather make them lose the best in both cultures and often imbibe the worst in both.

Dr. Aggrey wanted to take the African boy and girl at the age of six, and carry them through the kindergarten to the university, teaching them beside other th courses in technical knowledge, in order to inculcate in them the dignity of lab He wanted the best things in Africa to be improved upon, elevated and taught to African children. Our African fabulous sculpture and art, our drama and culture, our music and national aptitude for song, our wonderful system of drum messages, our psychic and remarkable intuitive power; our understanding of nature: these and more he wanted combined the best in Europe, Asia and America be taught to the African child.

His idea of education meant the "inclusive type" which developed the human personality. Secular education was abhorrent to him, he wanted a practical education that will not only mean simply learning but would have training in mind, morals and hand. The type that will help make the African child socially efficient, encourage origal thinking, encourage research and help educated African to add to human knowledge. Dr. Aggrey considered it a very sad matter that the girls of this country should not have the best facilities. He wished the girls to be trained to industry and faithfulness of duty, as well as to the cultivation of a healthy, moral stamina, combined with a standard of literary work such as is attainable by the boys.

He was of the opinion that the Gold Coast (now Ghana) was not progressing, or had not progressed as it should have, because the men who were far in advance in education were as it were pulled down by the intellectual inferiority or, as it was very often the case, the illiteracy of the women folk, for as they climbed higher the backwardness of the women folk acted as obstacles in the way of the country's progress and advancement.

This was what Dr. Aggrey meant when he said... "The surest way to keep a people down is to educate the men and neglect the women..." Dr. Aggrey further added... "If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, if you educate a woman you educate a family".

It is probable that most of us spend a large part of our lives in families and we carry the stamp of that family with us throughout life in more ways, doubtless, than we realize. The family is the oldest of our social institutions. Part of the instinct for race preservation appears to be an instinct for nurture which is com- mon to all those forms of life, where the offspring has a period of helplessness, for unless it is cared for, the offspring will die, and the instinct for race preservation will be thwarted.

Biologically, the family has been im- portant because it has provided popula- tion. The quantity and to a certain extent the quality of posterity has been deter- mined by families. Although biological inheritance plays its part in making up the quality of an individual, influences of life experiences and environment also play their part in the growth and development of the personality. Quality then is due partly to biological factors and partly to environmental factors.

From the moment of birth, the child begins to respond to the world of people and things with which he is surrounded. He learns about life and develops attitudes towards it. In the first five years of life, the child without doubt does more learn- ing than he does at any other five-year period, and most of this learning is done within the family setting inspite of the increase in nursery schools.

The child speaks the language the family speaks; he knows certain things about the world which his family knows. His family is his source of knowledge. If the family does not know, the chances are, the child also would not know. The family culture tends to be the culture he accepts. If the family speech is correct, he will tend to be correct. He catches from his family certain attitudes towards life, towards himself and towards his fellow men.

Thus at five years of age, we may speak of a child, for example as self-reliant, generous, kindly, sympathetic, respecting the rights of others, respecting property, respecting authority, or we may use descriptive adjectives with very different meanings. How did the child get that way? The answer seems to be - his family has largely been responsible.

The family, therefore, has been and perhaps still is the most potent educational influence in terms of specific training; personality formation; and cultural trans- mission and interpretation. The school may take the child for part of the time, nevertheless, the family remains as an important educational force in the child's life.

Women are the ones who nurture tradition. Custom and society have burdened them with this important function of giving children the right head start in the world; from the physical, mental, social and spiritual point of view. Motherhood, is, therefore, an important function, one which calls for skills of the highest type. Crises with little children may arise at anytime during the day, and they call for intelligence and wisdom of a high order if they are to be met in such a way that the child is not harmed.

In spite of the many changes that have what she knows? taken place in the home, the woman, besides her duties as a mother, still has a value as the one in charge of the house- hold. Management of a home has an economic function as well as the person responsible for earning the money.

A home which is economically run, where money is wisely spent, is the home where someone is in charge of this matter and buying cannot run itself. Waste and unnecessary repairs are avoided because there is someone in charge who feels a responsibility and competence for such matters. Such and a lot more that are too numerous to name were the reasons that prompted Dr. Aggrey to lay emphasis on and put education of the woman as a priority

I am sure that at this stage, some of you are itching to congratulate yourselves and to point out that, hundred years after Dr. Aggrey's birth, Ghana can boast of having taken heed of his educational desires for women, and that we have amongst us today: women doctors, women scientists, women economists, women top civil ser- vants, women architects, and women in almost all the professions that men are in. I would not for a moment deny this or quarrel with it. But I am also sure that some of the men or rather some of the husbands, would again like to argue that although we have these professionally educated women amongst us, the full impact of their education is hardly felt in the homes.

For, rather than attend to their homes, some of these women shirk their house- hold duties and the care of their children. Almost all of them prefer to work at their professions and pay someone else to care for their children and the home and some, usually, are seen busily running about doing everything else, but the things that need their attention in the home. I would not wish to doubt this, neither would I wish to deny it.

But let me ask ladies and gentlemen, who must we blame for this? Certainly not the women, because they are only trying to put into practice the things they have been taught or educated to do; just as the men alongside whom they trained also practice what they have been taught to do. Certainly, no one blames them for practising what they know, so why must the woman be blamed for wanting to practise

The blame must therefore be given to our educational systems. The educational institutions which gave the woman a nar- row education and specialized her only in a specific field and neglected to give her in addition to her field of specialization, courses in child psychology, to prepare her to spot signs of insecurity, signs of neglect and other signs of psychological and emotional maladjustment in her children.

The educational system that failed to give every woman courses in child development, to prepare her to watch for, and to see maturity indicators in a growing child which could tell her when the child is ready to learn to acquire a given experience. The educational institution that also failed to incorporate into its curriculum, courses in home management, home economics, household equipment, applied art, interior decoration, art appreciation to name a few.

The educational system that gave a secular education to the woman and neglected to provide her with the necessary educational tools with which to carry out her other womanly duties. The education- al system which failed to give the woman an all-inclusive education and failed to fully develop her personality, but yet, required of her to develop the personalities of others. These are the systems, the institutions which deserve to be blamed.

We have seen the enthusiasm with which a trained professional woman practices her profession. If a woman has been entrusted, by virtue of her natural endow- ment, the care of infancy, the training of childhood, and in a certain sense the guardianship of the public morals, what wonders for the advancement of society might she not accomplish if she were fitted for these duties by a wide and generous cultivation? Nor need we on the other hand, give heed that an enlarged intelligence will divert the attention of women from the interests and employments of domestic life. Beyond question, these are the employments to which her sympathies naturally and usually point.

For, the special preparation added to the general culture will dignify these duties, render their performance easier and more systematic, and leave time for healthful recreation and rest. Those who- leave these pursuits, which, guided by cultivated capacity, beatify and beautify the home, will be exceptional cases; compelled by exceptional causes; or prompted by exceptional abilities. To the wider and grander work, that such may do for the world let us extend the means for thorough preparation.

It is said that when men are intellec tually greater than others, we learn from their utterances, when they are morally better than others, we learn from their lives. In a tribute paid to Dr. Aggrey after his death by Sir Gordon Guggisberg he said: "And so old friend rest in peace, you have laid the foundation for the road along which your beloved Africans are march- ing". Are we really marching along this road?

talking drums 1985-12-09 educating women for progress