Breaking the Love between young and old
In the traditional culture children benefited not only from continuous contact with both mother and father, but also from a way of life in which different age groups constantly interacted. It was quite natural for older children to feel a sense of responsibility for the younger ones. A younger child in turn looked up with respect and admiration, seeking to imitate the older ones. Growing up was a natural, non-competitive learning process.
Now children are split into different age groups at school. This sort of leveling has a very destructive effect. By artificially creating social units in which everyone is the same age, the ability of children to help and to learn from each other is greatly reduced. Instead, conditions for competition are automatically created, because each child is put under pressure to be just as good as the next one. In a group of ten children of quite different ages, there will naturally be much more cooperation than in a group of ten twelve-year-olds.
The division into different age groups is not limited to school. Now there is a tendency to spend time exclusively with one’s peers. As a result, a mutual intolerance between young and old has emerged. Young children nowadays have less and less contact with their grandparents, who often remain behind in the village. Living with many traditional families over the years, I have witnessed the depth of the bond between children and their grandparents. It is clearly a natural relationship, with a very different dimension from that between parent and child. To sever this connection is a profound tragedy.
Similar pressures contribute to the breakdown of the traditional family. The Western model of the nuclear family is now seen as the norm, and Ghanaians are beginning to feel ashamed about their traditional practices. As young people reject the old family structure in favour of the modern, the population is rising with all sorts of social vices. At the same time, traditional life is losing its status, and the respect for our traditional rulers is decreasing. This too contributes to the many often bloody clashes between indigenes and settlers in our villages like the most recent one in Hohoe.