Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Visiting Public and Private Spaces in Ghana

Our homeschool group was fortunate to visit the “laboratory” of Ghana’s premier engineer, scientist and inventor in the Central Region. Asafo Kwadwo Safo is famous for his ingenious creations. Suffice it to say that it was one of the greatest places to visit in Ghana. The children had a chance to witness excellence at work and personified. They found minds at work on different ways to make our world safer and better. It was one great example of how passion meets science meets creativity.
This laboratory was 125 acres. It included an animal and plant research center and a slew of different animals on the compound. The children saw zebras, ostriches, camels, porcupines, huge pigeons, horses, geese, ducks, lambs, tortoises and so much more. They had greater variety in their collection than Accra Zoo.
And while the place gets visitors on a regular basis, no provision was made for a clean and comfortable toilet. We had to squat inside a wooden fixture. No water. No toilet paper, just a tiled floor used for urination only. Why is that?
It is because not much attention is paid to the customer in Ghana. This notion that customers don’t matter is a national problem. It affects the way information is presented and liaisons are formed between the communities and the private space. The theme that “they will come if they need to” dominate the mindset, from business class to entrepreneurs. No one seems to break free of this hold.
Asafo Safo’s laboratory is not alone. The day after, we attended the Cocoa Festival. This was held at the State House in Osu, where Parliament meets. And yet, we couldn’t find a toilet to save my potty trainer from wetting herself. We finally had to squat, near a 4x4 in the parking lot. We were finally told where to find a toilet, too bad it was too far away for any toddler to actually make it without soiling him/herself.
It’s not a surprise that few people attend such festivals or visit private/public spaces in Ghana. Toilet is always a problem. Ghana Education’s latest research states that girls’ absenteeism highest because of lack of toilets, especially during times of menstruation. Children have to use the bush and girls stand being raped while doing so. To top this all off, there are no hand washing facilities to promote good self care. Most houses in Accra, built in the 1980s, do not have toilets. Tenants have to create “buckets” which are taken out at night by latrine carriers.

I wish those in the media would discuss such matters. Not sure what drives this media…oh yes, I know. Do you?