Friday, 27 July 2012

Telling the truth about history @ Olympics 2012

I was looking forward to the Olympics for many reasons. This is the first Olympic game that my 6 year old would watch and remember. I planned to chronicle this moment of his story. This was going to be a great few weeks for our family; like a vacation via the television. This Olympic was also going to be an opportunity to view some of the world’s best athletes. I was going to use that opportunity to discuss good competition and how working hard always ends in best results. But most importantly, the Olympics was going to provide me many geography and history lessons. I was going to show how Africa, the Caribbean and other nations were colonized and enriched the United Kingdom. It was going to show how the world was connected via the Global Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Imagine my disappointment at the lie presented as national history at the opening ceremony of the Olympics in London. The story the organizers chose to tell was that of the rise of the Industrial Revolution and the modernization of the United Kingdom. However, no mention was made of how and what boosted that revolution. No mention of the Atlantic Slave Trade, Slavery in the Caribbean and the Colonization of nations around the world which meant the legal seizure of their resources for the total benefit of British people. Why is it OK not to tell the truth? Not even a sentence or a picture of sugar, coffee, indigo, and gold sacks heading to the UK? Not even a picture of the world’s first global economy? Were there no historians on that panel? Or were they OK with the silence as well? We know how dangerous silencing critical and crucial aspects of history can be and yet, in 2012, in a country where people have access to information and are home to intellectuals, this blatant lie can be live coverage. The only statement alluding to the fact that non white people were in the country was when the commentator stated a group of “others” from the Caribbean “also made their way” to England. Is that all? No mention of the Brits going “there”? The world should be embarrassed at this blatant denial. This is not ancient history. These facts are relatively recent. If we are OK with this silence now, can our children expect to learn the truth later? Telling the truth about history should be the standard. Not telling the truth should be considered a crime against humanity for the perpetual denial will truly help repeat itself.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Hurray for Ghana National Fire Station at Legon!

Today was a great day. We went on a field trip to the Fire Station to learn about fire safety and how firefighters work. It was a great day because the Fire service personnel actually gave us a show! It was fantastic! Instead of telling us about what they do; they allowed the children to experience it for themselves. I particularly enjoyed the trip because it helped redeem the image of Ghana’s bureaucratic and unproductive institutions in my mind. I am so glad the children did not see what so many of us assumed. School children do not take many trips in Ghana. This is because the adults in their lives assume there is not much to see. And the few places where they do go; those adults assume there is nothing to tell. Those trips end up being fatiguing for the children and the teachers who might have spent weeks scheduling/rescheduling/calling/rehearsing/and smooching to bring it all to fruition. I am glad to say that this was not my experience today. The Ghana National Fire Service proved that institutions here CAN work. And when they do, great things are to be expected. There is protocol for visitors. There is protocol for receiving children and activities planned for them. We were not the first group of children they had seen. Nor were we too small for them. We were visitors and they welcomed us with open arms; in true Ghanaian Akwaaba style. Here are some highlights. The children used a fire extinguisher which they sprayed for themselves. They then played with the cool gas like agent. After that, the firemen, dressed in full regalia, demonstrated how they prepare to fight fire. The children climbed the truck. They were driven in the truck with alarm on at full speed down the street. They then experience holding the water hose turned on at full speed. They realized how heavy and dangerous water can be if not properly managed. The Ghana National Fire Service gave us all the pomp and splendor deserving of these trips. The parents were more excited than the children; even clapping and cheering after each activity. But why were we so excited? The sad truth is that we had not expected anything better from the Fire Station. We had assumed what we all do after living in Ghana for a while. We thought they would have brushed us off with a lazy and bored speaker too tired to engage parents let alone children. We had thought they wouldn’t have prepared for us. We thought the speaker would have pointed at equipment and then chide at the children for wanting to touch them. We assumed that the firemen would not be too interested in their jobs let alone the children to discuss it in any length. We all thought this because that is the sad truth of institutions in Ghana. Ghana’s National Museum is one place where children should have the best of time while learning. Yet, the Museum and its curators are too boring for the parents. You go once and would not return if not for the sake of visiting a National Museum in Ghana. Same can be said for the Slave Fort museums. We visited the National Zoo a few weeks ago. It took us over an hour to find the Zoo, while inside the zoo. There were no signs, no paved roads and no guides. The Zoo was a big secret. No one knew they were there and no one dared venture in unless the misguided and bold. Although we eventually enjoyed our tour of the animals (we saw a camel, ostrich, monkeys and so much more), the time wasted trying to find the entrance in about 10 acres of a forest could not be forgotten. Thank Goodness for the Ghana National Fire Service. They proved that institutions in Ghana do have modus operandi. Although few want to follow it; we all win when they do.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

© UNESCO/WWAP/ "According to UNESCO General Conference Resolution 12, the requirements of global and national participation, and the specific needs of particular, culturally and linguistically distinct communities can only be addressed by multilingual education." ___________________________________________________________________________________ How long until African institutions in Africa (and Haiti) begin to pay attention to this data? There are few countries in Africa where children are taught in languages of their communities. Instead, they are forced to take exams in a language with cultural biases foreign to them. And the statistics in Ghana; most of the students fail the State and regional exams. Those who pass do so by a very slim margin mixed with luck. Is it surprising that African children will not be able to compete on the global level with other children trained and educated in languages of their communities? How secure is the future of the African continent and its population if education continues to fail the majority? What use is development if this gross mishap in education is not dealt with? Could American children pass State exams written in a foreign language? Who would pass that law? Such injustice fail the children and Africa in general.