Public Health Student Examines Ghanaian Boarding Schools’ Bullying Culture in New Book Chapter

Global; Public Health; Social Work; Students

In Ghana, it’s common for high school students to attend single-gender boarding schools — an element of an education system introduced by colonial missionaries. 

Now, almost 150 years after the founding of the first missionary school, many of these institutions have become harbingers of bullying culture. In Ghana, the harmful practice is popularly referred to as “homoing.” Committed by seniors and older students to control juniors and younger and vulnerable student populations, the methods include domination, verbal attacks, shaming, forced kneeling, and demoralizing tasks.

This damaging tradition is the focus of a chapter co-authored by Brown School Master of Public Health student, Baffour Boaten Boahen-Boaten. The chapter, “Bullying in the Name of Care: A Social History of Homoing Among Students in Ghanaian Boarding Schools,” is a socio-historical analysis of homoing among the student population; the origin and meaning of the name; its roots in colonialism; and how the behavior facilitates certain forms of social exclusion and social inclusion among students.

The chapter is part of the book “Global Perspectives on Boarding Schools in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” which brings together a collection of scholarly works from around the world examining the social complexities of ‘boarding schools’ as a global and transcultural phenomenon.

Boahen-Boaten said homoing is causing substantial social and public health burdens in boarding schools – sullying spaces that are designed to provide care.

“In these places where students are supposed to receive care, it’s important not to create subcultures that become harmful,” Boahen-Boaten said. “When people congregate in a place with its own subculture, it’s ripe for homoing behavior.”

Boahen-Boaten, a former boarding school pupil and native of Ghana, collaborated on the chapter with De-Valera N Y M Botchway, a history professor and head of the History Department at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

After receiving his bachelor’s in psychology degree from the University of Cape Coast, Boahen-Boaten earned a master’s degree in Global Mental Health from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. He holds a Postgraduate Diploma in HIV/AIDS Management from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. Prior to attending the Brown School, he was a lecturer in psychology at Eswatini Medical Christian University in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) in southern Africa. He has been vocal on the concept of decolonization of knowledge and designed an ‘African Psychology’ course as a lecturer. 

He also co-authored the chapter “Suicide in Low-and Middle-Income Countries” in The Palgrave Handbook of Sociocultural Perspectives on Global Mental Health. 

His interests range from psychosocial aspects of HIV/AIDS, global mental health, and building Black/African-centered interventions. Boahen-Boaten is the chair of the Global Health Student Advisory Committee (GHSAC).