Monday, 25 February 2013

Stolen phone

Cell phones in today’s Accra are what Jordan sneakers were in the US in the 1990s. Anyone risks potentially losing his life or limbs over a cell phone. They are being stolen by everyone: the house girl, the driver, the usher or the taxi driver. A taxi driver ran off with my phone in broad day light in front of the Lincoln Community School in Abelenkpe last week and here is what I learned.
1.     Always pay the driver when you get to destination and pay him while you are outside of the taxi. This gives you time to browse the seats and make sure that nothing was left behind. But have the money ready before hand.
2.    Try not to wear expensive jewelry in taxis. Taxi drivers will assume you have money if you are heading to an “expensive” part of town, wearing particular clothes, wearing expensive looking jewelry and holding particular phones. Everyone knows the value of phones. A friend took me to Madina market last week and she was annoyed that the beggar on the street was carrying a more expensive phone then she was. People know the brands, the make and the prices of phones so keep yours hidden.
3.    Always have children enter the taxi last and exit first. Just in case this sans ave would like to run off with your most prized possessions.
4.    Always take the taxi number down or the license plate. It can help to trace the madichon.
5.    Always exit taxi in area where there are people. Not down the street from them but exactly in front of them. He will have more people chasing him that way or he would shy from doing so. Exit especially in front of security guards. This is not to assume that they would do something, but their presence might keep the potential malfrendeng from running off with your stuff.
6.    Make sure he drives on main roads or roads that you know. Always look for potential exit in case.
7. File a police report.
8. Take that report to the brand maker/company main store and have them block the phone. Yes, you can!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Mistake Unresolved

The problem with Africa is western education. The fact that development is stalled, access to water, electricity, professional health care attendants and teachers are social menaces all stem back to western education.
Not resolving the problem of education is the biggest mistake of the founding leaders of so many African/Diasporan countries. While many sought political and economic freedom, few thought to unshackle minds from the mental slavery of western education. And fewer revolutionaries realized that western education, already limited in its scope to train colonized minds as opposed to free minds, cannot be tools for Africans to develop Africa.
There are two major problems with western education. One is that it’s western and the second is that it’s in a foreign language. No people can development themselves with models of only how the other operates. Western education in Africa teaches about the west. Exam questions ask children about snow, chimneys and sleds. They know about Luxembourg, but not Johannesburg. Students are rejected from schools and dejected for not having mastered foreign languages and information that will not serve their nations.
Countless children are unable to proceed into high school in Ghana for not having passed an exam written in a language they have not mastered. These exams are also written by “experts” who haven’t either and graded by teachers who are barely literate. See the problem? They don’t. Students are being labeled “dumb” instead. They are being sidetracked into what is constructed as inferior fields because they did not master English.
Where are the English experts? There are no none. Functional illiteracy is a big open secret in Ghana. Few want to discuss it because they don’t realize it. The reason why few want to discuss it is the same reason why many founding leaders inherited western education literally unchanged. And this reason is that few believe Africa’s languages are worthy of bringing development or helping Africa to be part of the global community. Some believe that stuttering with English is still better than being fluent in Twi, Ewe, or Ga at the UN meetings. This is a problem that only Africa and its children share. No other group feel the need to develop using foreign tools that don’t apply to their local needs.
And the founding leaders knew this. They did not want whites to lord over them, but they wanted to control whiteness in their own countries. They wanted to become ministers of western education, renamed but unchanged. They were top students in western geography, literature and philosophy. Others argued, quite eloquently, about Africa’s lacks.
And they were not wrong to assume Africa had no great philosophers, thinkers, mathematicians, scientists and writers. How can they learn about Africa with tools of the west? How can they “read” ancient African literature when they can only “read” English, French, Portuguese or Spanish? What foundational knowledge did they have to discuss, express, analyze or critique Africa’s gains?
Foreignness kept them blissfully ignorant and proud. It worked as a cloud, shielding them from the reality. They obtained degrees from western schools in hope of gaining big positions at home. They studied the west to critique home. They argued there was nothing to study at home. To progress, they had to know was the west. And yet, here we are 50 years later….and in the case of Haiti 200 years later. The foreign languages are not helping us develop. They are creating more outsiders, more drop outs who are made to feel like social pariahs.
And what can be done about this? Educate students in languages they know. Provide materials and trained teachers in those languages. Introduce foreign languages as subjects. Sounds simple enough and yet, it’s the most difficult thing to implement in Africa.
I worked with some of the best mathematical minds in Ghana. These young girls can complete the most complicated math transactions standing in the middle of traffic with loads on their heads. And yet when we tested them on “one plus one” they did not know the answer. And why should they? Would I understand what was needed if I was asked this problem in Japanese, Arabic, German or Swedish? Why are we penalizing our children on how western they are? And why is no one in power in Ghana angry enough about this?