Education is a Foundation of the North German Mission:
Mercy Baeta, an African Lady Teacher for girls
When the European Missionaries went to Africa to proclaim the Good News or Evangelism, they took with them their world view and their conception or imagination of the right way to live. Their view about women was equally so: “The ideal should be and remain that they (i.e. women) are brought up and educated to be the future Housewives and helpers to their Men” This Model should be carried across to the African women on one to one basis – which in most cases did not happen as expected.
An example of the fewer successes is Mercy Baeta (1880 – 1917), a young girl from Accra in Ghana. She was a many-sided gifted, thirsty for knowledge and self-reliant girl who was encouraged by an equally self-reliant Deaconess: Hedwig Rohns (1852-1935) who was one of the few women who in the 19th Century went to Africa and worked for the North German Mission in the areas of Education and Health. As a Deaconess who took the vows of celibacy, she was an exceptional determined person, used to a way of life, and satisfied with her own Income. This attitude, she taught and impressed upon the girls in her school in Keta in Southern Ghana – a contribution she made as an European to the African educational system. In her Biography about Mercy, Baeta, she wrote that the heathens were very annoyed or angered when it comes to the education or training of children. On one side, the real offences of children are overlooked, they go unpunished and instead “Love” is shown to them, but on the other side, the slightest offence of the children are met with a strong anger or fury and punishment.
Hedwig Rohns worked for the North German Mission for over 20 years. She established a School for little children in 1891 and in 1894 she established the long perceived girls’ school in Keta. She even saw to it that an Ivooden House built in Germany for the School was slipped to Ghana – an early Mobile Home.
The Deaconess from Germany saw to it that the girls had their own separated schools from that of the boys. From this small beginnings evolved an independent Women’s Work within the new Evangelical Church in Ghana. The pupils (girls) with the support of the Deaconess formed a “Young Women’s Association or Union” among themselves in order to maintain the unity and also the pure or maidenly discipline that the Mission School had taught them.
NOT CREATED FOR MARRIAGE
The children who later became young women found in this Association an independent forum. Here, they could discuss openly about their personal interests and also about their vocational prospects. Hedwig Rohns encouraged them to allow themselves to be trained as Lady Teachers’. She was of the opinion, contrary to that of Missionaries who were men that, the girls be trained as Teachers so that they could take over in future. She had two reasons for her stand: African children in some future time should be taught by African Lady Teachers, whereby they could earn their own money to enable them lead a self-reliant life. Accordingly, Hedwig Rohns maintained that the School curriculum be fashioned in such way that it should prepare the girls towards a vocational occupation.
The “uncivilized” or “unruly” as the German Deaconess called her pupils, were highly interested in this prospects. The schools grew: In 1891, there were 10 children in the Little Children School, but in 1090, they were 300. The Girls school started with 30 girls in 1894 but in 1909 they were 150 girls. One of the children was Mercy Baeta, the elder sister of Robert Baeta, who became a Pastor and Synod Clerk of the Ewe-Church. When Mercy was 14 years, she began to Hedwig Rohns with the class lessons or Teaching. By this, she revealed herself as a gifted Lady Teacher and a Musician at the Harmonium.
Actually she was to be in charge of the lessons on Silence and Discipline and to discharge the duties of a Messenger but Hedwig Rohns discovered her talents and encouraged her.
Thanks for her ability among all the parties involved – parents, Lady Teachers, school girls – to bring about or facilitate something she was soon to become part of the Teaching work. She developed herself into an Independent Teaching strength or worker in the Girls School. Together with others, she took part in the further training to become a lady Teacher after lessons or classes. She was successful in the following subjects: Didactics (the art of Teaching), Pedagogy, English and Music – a Talent that justified the best hopes. Hedwig Rohn’s Biography swings towards her recognition as well as her interest in Mercy Baeta and the excellent or competent co-operation with her and also an almost seemingly affectionate attachment between both women that developed.
Mercy Baeta later worked at many stations of the North German Mission in West Africa. The Mission work was to become Life’s substance or to her, mission work gave meaning to Life. Marriage was for her, contrary to the tradition of her people, not important. This attitude became her doom: When a Missionary asked for her hand in marriage, it was nobody but the North German Mission that was against this Union. Nevertheless, Mercy Baeta had to marry the “heathen” Thomas Acolatse at the age of 36 years. The following year, she was taken ill and died shortly after her 37 years birthday.
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