SOCIALIZATION

SOCIALIZATION

Infant Care. Young children are treated with affection and indulgence. An infant is constantly with its mother, who carries it on her back wrapped in a shawl throughout the day. At night it sleeps with its parents. Breast-feeding occurs on demand and may continue until the age of two. Toilet training and early discipline are relaxed. Babies receive a good deal of stimulation, especially in social contexts. Siblings, aunts, uncles, and other relatives take a keen interest in the child and often assume caretaking responsibilities, sometimes on an extended basis.

Child Rearing and Education. Older children receive considerably less pampering and occupy the bottom of an age hierarchy. Both boys and girls are expected to be respectful and obedient and, more essentially, to take significant responsibilities for domestic chores, including tending their younger siblings. They are also expected to defer to adults in a variety of situations.

Coming of age is marked within many Ghanaian cultures by puberty ceremonies for girls that must be completed before marriage or childbirth. These are celebrated on an individual rather than a group basis. Boys have no corresponding initiation or puberty rites. Most children attend primary school, but secondary school places are in short supply. The secondary system is based mainly on boarding schools in the British tradition and resulting fees are inhibitive. Most adolescents are engaged in helping on the farm or in the family business in preparation for adult responsibilities. Many enter apprenticeships in small business operations in order to learn a trade. The less fortunate take on menial employment, such as portering, domestic service, or roadside hawking.

Higher Education. Only a tiny percentage of the population has the opportunity to enter a university or similar institution. University students occupy a high status and actively campaign, sometimes through strikes, to maintain their privileges. Graduates can normally expect high-paying jobs, especially in the public sector. Attendance at overseas institutions is considered particularly prestigious.

 

—BRIAN SCHWIMMER