I have talked about funerals often over the past year, but then they are an ever present feature of life here for Ghanaians. The cost of them to individuals and organisations is immense for people who largely have precious little money to spend.
Recently, I have learned why the issue of teachers’ funerals is discussed at the District Education Office so frequently. Evidently, when you sign your contract with Ghana Education Service as a teacher, you agree to teach in any school in the country to which you are posted. In return, the GES undertake to repatriate your “corpse” to your home village in the unfortunate event of your death in service and pay the expenses of that process. Now I have a greater understanding of the role of the Welfare Officer. Organising collections and the logistics of repatriating teachers’ corpses is a significant responsibility for him.
Last week a teacher from a school in this district died. His home is near Lawra, some distance from here but within the Upper West Region. His “corpse” rested in a mortuary until the funeral on Friday and Saturday, when it was the responsibility of our District Officers to collect it with a family member and transport it in a coffin in an open backed car to the man’s village. Large numbers of teachers, headteachers and office staff accepted the duty to travel to Lawra to attended at least one day of the funeral to pay respects to the family and give the man a good send off. This duty is accepted whether you knew the teacher or not. A collection is taken to enable a reasonable sum to be donated to the grieving widow and, of course, there has to be some refreshment, usually pito, for those attending. The family have the enormous expense of providing food and some drink for those who travel there.
Tomorrow, I expect the focus for Morning Devotion will be the events of the weekend’s funerals. It usually is. Some weeks there are more than others. This weekend it was one of their own who left, but his family will have appreciated the sterling efforts of many fellow teachers to mark his passing.