The Minister of Education of the Republic of Ghana, Naana Opoku Agyemang, has stated that “Ghana will very soon change the use of English as a medium of instruction in school.”
Her resolve to uproot a pervasive and unrelenting vestige of British Colonial Occupation of Ghana, from 1909 to 1957, has come under immense scrutiny from policy makers in Ghana and around the world.
Pundits who challenge the policy initiative cite several reasons, none of which hold any substance when held up to the Sun.
Some social science gurus have imploded alluding to the lack of and the “absence of textbooks in chemistry, physics, biology, computer science, engineering, mathematics, in any of the Ghanaian local languages for such a decision to be plausible.” They claim, “It is impossible for Ghanaians to return to using their own languages in the basic education of their own children.”
They passionately even abuse those who point to Scandinavia, as an example, in the effort to assert their disbelief that the local languages of Ghana can in fact be used for instruction at the basic level: “I should think Scandinavians have books in their local languages. How would you say pathologist in Twi, Hausa, etc.?”
Even more, others have intimated that Ghanaian languages used in schools “will turn out to be the final nail in the coffin of Ghanaian languages that will finally establish Twi as the official language of Ghana.”
More yet, those who have even become dreadful of Twi becoming the proverbial lingua franca, plead in adoring terms, that it is “much better to leave things as they are. Ghana can’t afford to get into this sort of quagmire at the present time!”
To flesh out the arguments against the use of native languages for basic instruction in schools, one needs to carefully examine the pattern together with the historical narratives at the roots of the sentimentalities.
The arguments are three in nature.
The first is a matter of logistics. How do we implement, say Ewe, as a medium of instruction in basic schools across the Volta Region? How much would it cost the tax payer?
The second set of arguments are of the tribal kind. These analysts who are fearful of Twi – perhaps for good historical reasons, insinuate that the use of Ghanaian languages, including of course, Ga, Twi and Ewe, would somehow bring about the demise, even extinction of all Ghanaians languages, except Twi.
The third set of arguments rest on something more profound. How would the use of Ghanaian languages actually benefit Ghanaians in ways that English has not?
Taken one by one, the argument of implementation is an age old squabble. It is often used as a segway to derailing efforts to bring about constructive change. Any given social paradigm of discussion lends itself to this sort of political row and it posits to redirect national institutions away from the function of bringing about profits for posterity. There is no golden canon that can substantiate this line of refutation as any candid look at any given problem. At best this is a confutation that refuses to look at the matter in question. At worst, it is an unnecessary argument that can be made before the subject matter of any discussion is even clear to debaters.
The question of implementation belongs solely then to the realm of effort alone, or the ‘Will of Government’ than in any real attempt at arriving at a practical conclusion in policy making debates. It would be no use to discuss its merits, if any, in this regard except discard it into the doldrums of the bottomless abyss of sheer nonsensical vituperation, especially since Dr. Kwame Nkrumah successfully implemented the use of Ghanaian languages as early as the 1950s before the premature overthrow of his government by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – a clear indication Nkrumah was committed to a progressive African cause.
The fear of Twi on the other hand, is an age old historical reality. One must understand how the nation that is today Ghana, came to be bound by such a pregnant peripheral non-matter. The primacy of the old Kingdom of Asante in this discussion should not be overemphasized however. But often, the fear of Twi stems more from the tribal history of old Asante incursions or invasions into other states located within the proximity of the West African sub-region, than any warranted suspicion. Most notably, Asantes had been at war with the Fantes, the Gas and the Ewes even before the arrival of Europeans on the Gold Coast.
That much is no news.
Hence the fear of Twi becoming the dominant language is a historical narrative rooted in the fear of a large and beckoning Asante hegemony. Some pundits have retorted that “English is ENGLISH,” in the proverbial sense that it serves as the buffer to prevent an overarching Asante regime, from Kumasi, from overreaching and dominating the rest of the country. They hope that this buffer, “from this point of view, at least, is culture-neutral, so to speak.”
Some are even more muscular in their assertions iterating in warlike terms: “I have heard Twi averred to just too many times by Asantes as our ‘National Language’, as if no others mattered.”
These proclivities, no matter their lack of nuance, are directed in ways that not only miss the content of the debate at hand, but equally stoke the sense that “an Asante Army is at the gates.” The implications are nonetheless, clear.
Ghana’s immediate past is the historical context: the Asante chant – ya te yen hu – led by sycophants in Dr. K. A. Busia, and his ignorant ilk, against the Nkrumah Regime, is a constant reminder of an Asante that likes to see herself as the most dominant ethnicity in Ghana.
That is categorically false. It was wrong during Nkrumah’s time as it had always been unenlightened in the context of the Gold Coast and West Africa, and it is still yet oblivious now. Asante is not a nation capable of standing on her own if she tried. And the Republic of Ghana is better off with the state of Asante in it than without. These are the realities that do not escape the knowledge of any intellectual in Asanteman or Ghana.
Obviously, that fear is heavily lodged within the whims and caprices of those who do not believe in the intellectual evolution of our Ghanaian languages. Therefore, the fear must be allayed for the sake of Ghana, and for the sake of Asanteman as well.
We have to still confront the undercurrent of rife and distrust in our godly attempt to make Ghana into the strong republic that she needs to be. There should be an irrevocable need for government and policy makers to layout the fears of their electorates in such a way that affords the country the opportunity to confront them in real terms.
It will suffice to give but a few instances.
The Ewes of Ghana, for example, who hitherto were a part, directly or indirectly, of the Warrior Kingdom of Dahomey, may have a problem with their children eventually having to learn to read and write some Twi – that is, should Twi, say in a 100 years, come to be regarded as the lingua franca of Ghana. No matter Ghana, as a composite, may not even be around in a thousand years – nor Twi.
The same is true of the descendants of the traditional States of the Fantes and Gas. They, likewise may express some level of distaste for the proverbial Twi lingua franca that continues to be bounced around in fear. If we were to assume that the Gas still harbor some of the hard feelings about their wars some 100 years ago with the Asantes, then it is unimaginable not to assume that, even more, they harbor discontent for the poverty inherent in the neo-colonial occupations of imperialism in Ga Mashie today.
For this reason, the idea that Twi might become, or not, the lingua franca of Ghana must not only be put in its rightful perspective, it must be completely understood.
First, Twi is not a language over which only the Asantes hold sway. Far from it. The Akuapem and the Akyems, who on more historical occasions than not, have sided with the Kingdom of Dahomey and the Ga State in wars against the Asantes, also speak Twi. The Denkyira, like the Fantes, have historically not been particularly enamored by the Asantes.
Second, the sense that Twi would somehow come to replace Ga and Ewe in their respective localities is as much a fraudulent quarrel as it is a purely tribalistic wrangle. Even if Twi were to come to replace all Ghanaian languages, which will not happen in any foreseeable rendition of the future, what argument is there to make for an English language, which is not native to any part of West Africa, but is now fast wiping out almost all languages in Ghana, including Ga?
English does not only wipe out Ghanaian languages, it destines the very essence of Ghanaian culture and traditions to the unfathomable depth of extinction.
The way to save any language, including Ewe or Twi, from dying out, should rather result in the concerted effort to begin a wider augmentation of their scopes and their intellectualism. The continued writing and teaching of Ga, for example, in more expansive subjects – physics, chemistry, social science, vocational skills, basic technical skills – will only help Ga flourish, not kill it. Maintaining the parochial use of Ewe, only unto Ewe alone as a language to be exclusively studied as literature at the basic school level, however, will be that final nail in the coffin for Ewe.
On this note alone, it will be sufficient to recount some Ewe history for some effect on the different perspectives that are submitted in these kinds of discussion.
The first Europeans who arrived on the Ewe coast to trade were not received with the kind of open arms that we tend to welcome the English and the English language today. Ewes of yesteryear insisted on trading with their German counterparts in Ewe and Ewe alone. That forced the Germans to learn to read and write Ewe, which invariably benefited the Ewe language herself – quite ironically. Ewe, long before Twi or Ga or Hausa, became a widely written and studied language on the West African coast.
The same cannot be said of the state of the Ewe language as a business language today. Nor can we look at Ewes today and candidly see their renowned and fearless ancestors shine through. For how exactly should Ewe children learn to play and dance Atsiagbekor in English? But that is where we are headed.
Much worse, maintaining the use of the English language in Ghana, especially at these basic school levels, is the kind of neo-colonial occupation and imperialism that is destined to wipe out Twi, Ga and Ewe, and even threaten the future of the State of Ghana herself.
For this matter, folks are more pragmatic if they were in fear of English, not Twi; for after all, which one is responsible for the bane of Africa’s continued dance with lethargic poverty and the inequality that has gripped Africa since the coming of Europeans? The fear of Twi – that proverbial undertaker of Ghanaian languages – and the lack of a wider understanding of what is at stake in building a more Ghanaian, a more African and a more formidable educational system, is only a fanciful jadedness at best, and at worst, underscores the brutish willingness of naysayers in Ghana who do not believe that our republic also has a right to dominate world Geo-politics, let alone partake in fashioning out a new constructive direction of the future for a safer, brighter and a more egalitarian world.
Tribalism in Ghana may be rife, and the country can indulge herself in the fear of Twi all she wants, but the forces of neo-colonialism in Africa and the onset of the new age of Financial Capitalism, Capital Imperialism and Material Gluttony are even more powerful and more real. This is what deserves the Ghanaian attention more, in order to curtail and eliminate its ever-reaching tentacles.
The racism inherent in the policies of globalization by western disciples will go unrecognized in Ghana, and Africa for that matter, if folks continue to be stooped in awe of Britain, its language and its tiny queen mother.
The continued use of English as a medium of instruction, especially in our basic schools for our African children – not Britain’s – will not be the way to save Ga, Ewe or Twi. Only Ewe, Twi, Ga, Dagbani, Hausa and for that matter the institutionalization of these languages within the corridors of the elite will save them.
Come to think of it, people who use the fear of Twi, as a caveat to indulging in a neo-colonial mentality are not really in fear of Twi.
A poll conducted by the Civic Center of Accra in Ga Mashie showed that if Hausa, which has no ethnic factions that are native to Ghana, were to be used as a lingua franca, it would equally be opposed. The fact is, these folks are not afraid that Twi might eventually become the so-called lingua franca of Ghana, no – they are in love with English.
It is not that English, as they would claim, is a buffer for restoring The Peace in Ghana. No, it maintains their privilege in Ghanaian society as it is, in the same way as it preserved privilege to a past minority of the Ghanaian few, like the members of the United Gold Coast for the Colonialists (the UGCC – namely, Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, Edward Akufo-Addo, J. B. Danquah, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey, and William Ofori Atta).
What is worse than losing this privilege?
Naana Opoku Agyemang is not only right, she is, like Yaa Asantewaa before her, garnishing the cooperation of all Ghanaians to ‘fight the British on the coast’ today: “Ghana is for us, not for England.” No matter the English are absolutely not interested in saving any Ghanaian language. The West’s only interests rest exclusively in finding the easiest ways to continue in the seeming perpetual exploitation of Ghana.
The minister, who has been part of the Shared Prosperity Forum in Ghana, indicated in strong terms that she is determined to push through the language policy at the highest level so that basic school African children can be thought in their mother tongues.
Naana Opoku Agyemang is on the right side of history. She might be resonating with a fledgling youth who are significantly in favor of a progressive language policy in Ghana, but she is not disillusioned about who she is and where she comes from. Elderly Ghanaians, according to the Civic Center of Accra Polls, seem to be significantly opposed to the reality, but they are by and large, history – they are incapable of comprehending the nuances of the proposition nor the future the young seeks. Ghana is not here for them to inherit – the youth are here to make Ghana into what they want it to be.
And that is more the truth than the backward attempt at invoking tribal sentiments.
Furthermore, the conscious attempt to paint Ghanaian languages as if they were at war with themselves is patently an ancient colonial act. The Asantes have influenced Dahomey, the Fantes and the Gas and so on, just as much as they have been influenced by these states in turn.
To mention but a few, even the Ga have adopted certain characteristics of Akan Chieftaincy. The speech mode of drumming associated with the Ga court is invariably Twi. The horn language of Ga Chiefs now, with a few exceptions, is mostly Twi. For example, the horn of the Akamanje Mantse sounds like this: “Onipa nni aye; Onipa nni aye, Onipa to nsu mu a ma onko, Aboa to nsu mu a yino kodi.”
How do we position ourselves to teach the future generation of Gas these drum languages?
This is not a case for that proverbial Twi that has curiously become the reason we cannot build a united Ghana. Customarily, the Gas have also cross pollinated Akan cultures to significant proportions that time would not allow for much detailing in a single article. In the same way, Ewes, through Okomfo Anokye himself (from Notsier in Dahomey) became the chief priest of the Asante Kingdom. Without him, there would have been no Asante Kingdom.
The history of the people of West Africa has, as of yet, been told predominantly by colonialists and others who, for want of recognition, toot the colonial rhetoric. They have done a great job in pitching the Asantes against the Ewe, the Ewe against the Akan, and the Fante against the Ga, and vice versa.
However, the more significant parts of our unity as Ghanaians can equally be told through and through our collaborations – especially the ones that gathered folks to fight and send the British colonial forces back home from whence they came – Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey. We are, in essence not very different people. In fact, we share the same protolanguage as much as we are not so distant cousins.
Lastly, it can be shown, that the use of Ghanaian languages for the instruction of our Ghanaian children will be more beneficial to our educational institutions and the returns of investment by the Ghanaian tax payer.
Throughout Europe, for instance, as early as the decline of the Roman Empire, most European tribes sought rather to translate all scholarly works into their mother tongues and teach their children in their local languages. There are many instances where men were beheaded by their own governments for writing and teaching religion and science in local languages and not Latin.
Africa herself should serve the supreme example for our edification. We have to learn from our distant past when we have to. The greatest civilizations that the world has ever seen, Nubia and Kemet, some 7,000 years ago, both instructed their children in their mother tongues – not some foreign language that was alien to the way of thinking and invention of the people. Yet, singlehandedly Nubia and Kemet brought what we have come to know as Civilization to the entire world. They brought us Science, Religion and Philosophy. What greater example can Ghana lean on?
Hence this vehement vituperation against the use of the mother tongues in the instruction of our own children, must be viewed from the standpoint of ignorance more so than a sincere attempt at helping keep The Peace. Since the fall of England, we have been involved in this debate with people who are only sure of bursting into tribal rhetoric at no honest effort to contribute to the matter in constructive terms.
The goal has not changed for most Ghanaians who feel the use of our mother tongues especially at the basic level should rigorously be pursued. The likes of the Norwegians, the Swedes, the Danes, and even the English who were able to accomplish reading and writing in their own languages after Latin had occupied that space for many centuries, should rather be an example. We don’t need to adopt their languages.
The Ewes, the Asantes, the Fantes and the Gas are also just as capable of using their mother tongues as the mediums of instruction in schools, at least at the basic school level, even though we might still live in a world where English continues to be a business language.
It is safe to argue, from a rigorous social science perspective that until Europeans had learned to read and write in their local languages; that until they could perform all the duties of a Human Being in their local languages, Europe never took off as a viable and significant economic, scientific and political region in the world.
For even after Europe’s so-called ‘Dark ages’, when they later had to learn science and literature from the Arabs of North Africa, Europe did not force her children to learn to read and write in Arabic neither; No – they maintained their local tongues as the mediums of instruction in their schools and institutions.
So, why should we?
If Ghana cannot do it, if Ghanaians are not prepared to do it, then there is no future for Ghana. For sure! If Ghanaians cannot do what other men have done, what other nations have done, what other races have done, then Ghana will always remain, physically and philosophically, the colony that she is to the West.
Still yet, if this question may be asked: what is the soul of the nation of Ghana? What should we continue to tell our children about the identity of our nation? That she was only colonized? That we couldn’t wean ourselves off the colonial vestige that is English? That we refuse to return to our cultures, our traditions, our customs and our rituals in all their beauty and even ugliness?
Are we really going to continue telling the next generation, and the one after that, that Ghana had no brave men and women since Yaa Asantewaa, since the Warrior Women of Dahomey, since the Ga Wulomei and since Kwame Nkrumah?
Let’s remember that we have more in common than the imperialists make us believe. You just have to take a look around to notice. So, come on. Abandon the English language. It is not who we are.
For the sake of a more organized debate, rather than the haphazard alliterations we engaged in on the 16th Oct, on the issue of the proposition to use Ghanaian languages as mediums of instruction in schools, I have taken it upon myself to supply the argument for such a case. I invite criticism to the contrary. Hopefully, those criticisms will not be stooped in tribal vituperation. More is at stake than your little tribes in Ghana. I believe that, like Yaa Asantewaa, the minister, Naana Opoku Agyemang, has recognized her moment – to change Ghana for the better instead of leave her in the doldrums and grip of neo-colonial madness. I invite criticism, but I will not tolerate tribal vituperation. I challenge you, if you are scholar enough and you do not wish to see Ghanaian languages as the mediums of instruction in schools then please, supply your arguments. Thanks! Plus: if you would rather like to have the discussion in Twi, Ga or Ewe, I would love to.
Akosua M. Abeka. You have come here for real debate now. I am afraid. I knew you were going to come back on this issue in 3500 words! Yesu! I just read your piece. It is beyond me. Well argued, well articulated and clearly thought out. How can anyone argue to the contrary? I absolutely agree that we have to use Ghanaian languages from now on!
Am all for it. It is about time. Even small Norway with 4 million people uses Norwegian in school
Because a large swathe of the population speaks Norwegian. Which language do we adopt in Ghana? In any case in which language did she make the announcement?
Yes – but which are we going to go for.
Do we have textbooks in chemistry, physics, biology, computer science, engineering, mathematics, et al written in any of our local languages for such a decision to be plausible?
We used to in the 60s and 70s. If not earlier- so I ve being told.
This is the logistics for the metropolitan areas where there are many different native languages in the same locale. When a child is enrolling in school, the parent fills out a form where they indicate the primary native language and a secondary native language. When there are more than 25 sudents in a particular native language, then instruction is offered in that language. If not, then those kids can be distributed in the classes of the secondary native language that the parents indicated on the form. It can be done. A group of philogists shoild be brought together to develop a method of transliterating technical and foreign terms into the native languages. Twi, Ewe, Ga, Dagomba, Gonja, Hausa are spoken or understood by about 90% of Ghana’s population. These six languages could be use as the beginning of this program. English should still be taught as a subject. In Scandenavia they study English as a subject in school. Many of them are fluent in English although it is not their official language.
When Latin was the medium of instruction and scholarship in Europe for more than a thousand years, how many ordinary Europeans were literate? Very few. Until they begin to write in the native European languages. In fact Dante Alighieri refused to write his famous work The Divine Commedy in Latin. He wrote it in the Florentine dialect creating modern literary Italian.
But in Scandinavia, I should think they have books in their local languages. How would you say pathologist in twi, Hausa, etc. ?
In Russian which I speak with near native fluency, they say Patolog or in Cyrillic, Патолог. You can transliterate. Did you fully read my post?
I am not interested in translation. We must have indigenous words, nouns, etc for all the technical jargon a: debit, nucleus, pancreas, atomic, etc. we are not going to coin things out of the blue to mimic the English language anymore: Kara for car, Polisi for police, etc. if we cannot be original, then let’s forget it.
I am not interested in translation. We must have indigenous words, nouns, etc for all the technical jargon a: debit, nucleus, pancreas, atomic, etc. we are not going to coin things out of the blue to mimic the English language anymore: Kara for car, Polisi for police, etc. if we cannot be original, then let’s forget it. Kaa for car, skuu for school, etc.
Even in Japan they transliterate and they use Romajii for that. I have spent time there working in the education field so I can attest to that.
By the way, I speak Swahili, and Pathology in Swahili is Ugonjwa. Now, Gabriel Ayisi, why don’t you have one in Twi? Whose fault is it? You or me? Jonas.
My dear friend Gabriel Ayisi, “a: debit, nucleus, pancreas, atomic, etc.” were all coined. Where did you go to school?
I predict that if implemented this will turn out to be the final nail in the coffin of Ghanaian languages that will finally establish Twi as the Official Language of Ghana, which to me would be a shame. Much better to leave things as they are. Ghana CAN’T AFFORD to get into this sort of quagmire at the present time!
Auntie Adjeley, respectfully, why are you afraid of Twi but not English? Why is English not that proverbial final nail?
Because English is ENGLISH and we all know that: From this point of view, at least it is culture-neutral, so to speak. Since arriving in this country 15 years ago, I have heard Twi averred to just too many times by Ashantis as “our Natiional Language”:- as if no others mattered!
I see the tension. I also understand it.
Perverse person that I am, I have to confess that for this reason, I have learned quite a lot of Hausa and a little Ga, but next to no Twi! grin emoticon Since I am quite elderly, I think this can be excused. wink emoticon
I agree, but we must also coin our own before we make such a decision. We must stop mimicking English words. I attended school in , Ghana, Canada, and the States, but what has that got to do with this dialogue?
Do we have the textbooks in Twi? That is my concern,
Gabriel Ayisi, my father was central in writing many of the Swahili textbooks in Biolojia that we now have in Tanzania. How about you? When are you going to start those texts in Twi?
Yes, we need to do that before implementation, and when I ask this simple question, others want to insinuate by asking me where I went to school. I would not mind helping with that.
Gabriel Ayisi, you are now talking LOGISTICS. That is apart from the debate. When this debate is complete however, of which you have made your contribution to it clear – nothing – then we can debate LOGISTICS. When that time comes, if I were the Minister of Education, I would not be hiring YOU. Which says a lot about your understanding of the LOGISTICS. If you want to continue that debate however, we can. But you have to be terribly prepared for what cometh.
I would not need you to hire me Akosua. I have already contributed in my small way to the development of education in Ghana. You may do your worst Akosua.
Well done Gabriel Ayisi. I will support you any day on your efforts as well. We are not against each other. We want the same things. I hope. I am just more bullish.
Akosua, please read. I hope we understand each other now:
“Gov’t reiterates commitment to science and technology training
News Date: 9th August 2009
Mr Alex Tettey-Enyo, Minister of Education, on Friday reiterated government’s commitment to give greater attention to training in science and technology programmes to promote national development.
He said the imbalance between the two disciplines and humanities in the educational system, posed greater challenge to national development, especially the quest for industrialization.
Speaking at a launch of a book entitled: “Higher Education centred Economic Development and Growth – Ghana as case study,” Mr Tettey-Enyo mentioned Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea as having largely advanced because of massive investments in technical and vocational as well as science and technology education.
He said statistics indicate that the average enrolment ratio of science and technology to arts programmes in the universities and polytechnics in 2008 was 30 is to 70 in favour of latter.
He added that the situation was even worse in private tertiary institutions, which compelled the Ministry of Education to initiate steps to address the imbalance.
Commenting on the book, Mr Tettey-Enyo described it as an affirmation of the policy of Government and the Ministry’s intervention to reposition science and technology and Technical and Vocational Training (TEVET).
He said the book should serve as an encouragement and motivation to others to step up their efforts to contribute to the development of tertiary education in Ghana.
Mr Kwasi Ahwoi, Minister for Agriculture said the book has demonstrated that programmes offered at the country’s tertiary institutions were not congruence with national development objectives.
He also called for the institution of an award for people who make exceptional intellectual contributions and enhancement of humanity in general to the development of Ghana.
The Minister congratulated the author of the book, Dr Gabriel Ayisi and said: “politicians, economic planners and decision makers across board will find it stimulating and useful.”
Dr Ayisi said his study investigated the expansion of the tertiary education sub-sector and how it could be made developmentally-oriented to foster economic growth.
Doubling as the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ideal World Games (LLC) and Motivational Centres International, Dr Ayisi holds a Director of Philosophy (Ph.D) in Organizational Leadership from the Columbia University, USA.
Gabriel Ayisi and Auntie Adjeley, I totally understand your sentiments. I am Asante and perhaps I am talking from a perspective not well-received. But I assure you, the way to save any language, including Ga or Twi, from extinction, is to begin to broaden its scope and its intellectualism. The continued writing and teaching of Ga, for example, in more broader subjects, will only help Ga flourish, not kill it. Maintaining the parochial use of Ga only unto Ga alone will be that nail in the coffin for Ga. It will not be because of Twi. Tribalism in Ghana may be rife, but Racism is even more powerful. English cannot, and will not be the way to save Ga or Twi. Only Twi and Ga and for that matter the institutionalization of these languages within the corridors of the elite will save them. Please, reconsider!
Akosua, excuse me, but I’m overly tired of hearing ‘the Race Card’. In any reasonable debate, ‘LOGISTICS’ MUST be considered. I have just as usual stated my own observation in a very neutral manner as I as an ‘outsider’ have no personal axe to grind. I would hate to see education in Ghana bog down in this particular mire. We just can’t afford the luxury or to drain resources for it from other programs. I stand by my prediction.
Fair enough Auntie Adjeley. You have a legitimate point. The matter shouldn’t divide us. Your perspective is well worth the discourse.
Ey Akosua M. Abeka. You have come here for real debate now. I am afraid. I knew you were going to come back on this issue in 3500 words! Yesu! I just read your piece. It is beyond me. Well argued, well articulated and clearly thought out. How can anyone argue to the contrary? I absolutely agree that we have to use Ghanaian languages from now on!
I have to admit, it is rather long but in no way does it take from the legitimacy that the Ghanaian language has in the everyday education of our children. The length of the article, in a way, expresses more, how seriously I take the debate and how willing I am to show that our Ghanaian languages deserve more than they are accorded by the forces that be! The primacy of the African language in defining our African-nes (in “Whose Black Is It?”) is indefatigable. Yes it is long, but for the equal measure of the nature of the debate we should have. It will be long and it will be a drudgery. But I am up to it. So, let’s go.
Bo hu? Maybe I should change ‘intellectual’ in my Ga dictionary to ‘abekasense’. Powerful. I am on the side of the defenders of Ghanaian language, of Ga to be used in Ningo, for my son to know how to play Kpanlogo in Ga – not English. Later if he wants to learn English, then so be it. But so long as he is my son, and lives with me, he eats Kenkey, not burgers, he eats Banku, not Cheesesteaks, and he speaks Ga, not English. So I agree. You just took all the words out of my mouth. Nothing left for me to say, Adjoa Smart!
LOL! Mi otsɛɔɔ Adjoa Smart ɛ? Owiemɔ shara! Ni okane Naana Opoku Agyemang sane lɛ, klɛŋklɛŋ lɛ, maaba ni onaa nibii lɛ ni he hia bo, yɛ Ga wiemɔ gbɛjianɔtoo kɛ bɔ ni wɔkɛbaatsu nii kɛ bua wɔ he?
Osane wa e!!!! Ga nɛ lɛɛ, inyɛ kraa! smile emoticon
Fascinating piece of writing Akosua M. Abeka! Purely astonishing. The debate on using Ghanaian languages as mediums of instruction in school has just gotten to the level it needs to climb. I wish I could discuss this some more, in Hausa, of course. But I can’t. Still, I am not afraid, if Hausa was to become the lingua franca of all of West Africa. I would in fact love Swahili to replace English as the foreign language/second language to learn to speak and write. I am all for it. So yes, let’s go!!! Let’s do it.
Impossible is nothing! Narmer Amenuti
The last I checked, the Kalmyks, Ingush, Chechens, Buryats, Tartars, Mordvinians and many other ethnic groups in Russia use their languages in school in addition to Russian. It was precisely because the Soviets introduced the deliberate policy of writing those languages and using them in schools that those languages are not extinct today. This despite the fact that Russians are 75 percent of the population. And for a historical perspective, this policy was introduced right after the Russians had come out of a devastating civil war,therefore they had fewer resources then than Ghana has today.
Anyemi Jonas. You seem to know Russia ditto ditto. Have you lived there? Your example adds much impetus to the debate. I wish I knew more about the world outside like this. As a Ghanaian who lives in Ghana, I value these perspectives, a lot! The Russian perspective is very poignant! Thanks!
I have not lived there although I speak Russian as well as I speak English or Ewe or Ga or Twi. And I have a lot of very close Russian friends.
Jonas, and the Nzema in Ghana don’t have the chance/oppostunity like those monks of Kalmyks, Ingush, Chechens, Buryats, Tartars and Mordvinians to learn basic akonta in Nzema. It’s a shame! Really. What monks are we trying to produce here in Ghana – English monks?
Another point, in India children study in their local languages until the end of third grade of elementary school. They then begin to use English in grade 4.The last time I checked, it has not prevented the Indians from advancing technologically and even building us a presidential palace. A good Indian friend of mine went through exactly that system and he is a research scientist at Amgen with several patents to his name.
Akosua M. Abeka am starting to really like your threads. On the train to work and saw this but this is where am going to disagree with you my sister. The African continent is completed fragmented and hopelessly split across tribal, religious National and sectarian lines. I don’t think we have to look too far back to see the effects this has had in the continent. Rwanda, Somalia even Nigeria and most recently South Africa. As you know here in the U.S. Despite our many ethnic and national differences, we share a common language, dreams aspirations and purpose which for the most part is a unifying component holding this society together.
African countries let alone the continent as a whole do not share in this same unifying philosophy . In the U.S. As you know it’s taken centuries to develop and evolve this culture. This is something that has to be developed not taught.
Am sure in some countries alone there could be over 100 different spoken languages and dialects. The little unity you have will quickly be evaporated going down this route. It is not practical to teach over a 100 languages in any educational setting.
Like it or not English and in some countries French might be the only unifying thing that most Africans can identify with. Take that away and the unintended consequences might be irreparable.
Keep in mind historically speaking Africans have never been a united homogeneous people. Compare and contrast to the Chinese who despite the size of their population share a common dominant language despite the different dialects which should be expected in a country with over 1billion people. They also share a common culture which uniquely identifies them as Chinese. In some African countries with very tiny populations one culture could be completely alien to another even within the same Nation.
My recommendation people understand economics a lot more than ethnicity. Create a condition where people understand that their economic success in this global market place will be based on their ability to collaborate in order to compete with the rest of the world.
Ares Mars. Disagreement is great – this is the essence of debate. I agree, Ghana’s 46 languages seem a little much to consider for a real transformative piece of legislation in any educational system. Yet, only 9 languages in Ghana are written and studied. Do the rest matter? Of course! But they certainly do not matter now as they will not matter in the foreseeable future. Torogbani is not going to be a viable language for business, like it or not. Neither is the Peki dialect, nor would Jasikan Twi ever see the light of day for use in business or academia. These are the realities. That said, we are left with 9 languages – in fact we have always been left with 9 languages in Ghana. Taken together, these languages have a Bantu Grammatical structure – which means, except for the differences in vocabulary, these languages are essentially the same. They are built on the same platform. This is possibly why little children are able to speak ‘Pidgin’, which is a Bantu language grammar with English vocabulary. Never mind all the other Ga, Ewe, and Twi vocabulary you find in ‘Pidgin’. The question is, do you feel that Ghanaian children do not deserve to at least learn in any one, two or three of these languages? Twi, Ewe, and Ga alone account for over 90 percent of the speaking population. Does the vocabulary really matter? Rather than meander through the linguistics of the importance of African grammar in shaping mentality, especially the mentality of children, let us pause for a second and examine the issue on its merits alone. We are Africans, these are our languages, so let us find a way! We cannot continue to quark in English, or French. These grammars are foreign and antithetical to the ethos of African-nes. That is why we have fallen so far behind. We weren’t this far back in 1900, when the continent was in fact brimming with a million languages. We were just fine in Ghana, Mali and Songhai when the West African sub-region was brewing with 1000s of languages. In fact we flourished! Or didn’t the Malian Kings dominate much of the world as far as Europe? This issue is this important for our advancement.
Plus Ares Mars, didn’t we have empires and kingdoms rivaling the west and the east when Africa was rolling in millions of languages? How did we do that? When examined, African languages are not that grammatically different. Vocabulary itself is as abstract as the ideas they express. The grammar is the key and Africans have always known this, willfully or not. That is possibly why you and I can elope to a mountain and in 3 years we have a different language! But the grammar will still be Bantu. Bet? Look at African American linguistics from Noam Chomsky. Look at Jamaican, Haitian, atc. linguistics. The African, refuses to escape the African Grammar inherent in how our brains are wired!
Akosua M. Abeka to your response on viable languages vs non viable ones, that is the conundrum. Who gets to decide what is viable vs what is not. Corrupt political officials determined to advance their own agenda or the culture/ethnicity that they belong to? Case studies look at what Sadam did to the Kurds and other ethnicities outside his own.
In a nation of 50 languages and ethnicities you would effectively come up with a policy to marginalized or perhaps even condemn to extinction an ethnicity and language.
A lot of people will not agree to this. Unintended consequences.
Ares Mars. Violent Tribalism, Civil Wars, Genocides and Extinction, are all episodes linked indelibly to the coming of Europeans to Africa. Europe had always been the more barbaric society. Accepting their languages, and developing our brains to think the way they do, is in fact the reason the continent is stooped in chaos. A chaos that was never there before white people trooped for gold dust in Africa. Let us put this also in the correct perspective. The biggest wars in the world in recent memory have not been fought by Africans dislike for other Africans! Rather, it has been fought by Europeans dislike for other Europeans! Why inherit this sort of barbarism? It beats me. We have always been the more civilized ones until, en mass, we decided we have had enough of civilization for 6,000 years. That’s long enough to get anyone bored stiff but bad enough to leave it for a more barbarous mentality. Let us get our languages back. We can figure it out without exterminating one another in the way whites exterminated the Native Americans and others!
I will like to raise an interesting point here. Indonesia has hundreds of different languages and dialects. In the 1950’s they gathered a group of philologists who combined many of these languages to create a language Bahasi Indonesian which was taught to kids in school. By the 1960’s most Indonesians could read and write Bahasi Indonesian which is the official language of Indonesia today. It took less than two decades for that to happen. Less we forget, official Chinese is also a created language, created from the different languages and dialects of Chinese by the communists after 1949. In Ghana as Akosua pointed out, we have four major languages, Twi, Ewe, Ga and Dagomba(Dagbani), spoken by more than 90 percent of the population. So our task is even easier than Indonesia or China for tat matter.
I AM GHANAIAN, AND NOTHING GHANAIAN IS ALIEN TO ME. I am ready to learn any Ghanaian language!
Any argument logically presented on this platform carry substance in content analysis. What I ask myself is simple; in every good or bad mission carry both opportunities and challenges, as the economist will put it ;has both advantage and disadvantages.
Could we economically quantify the damages and are the masses prepared to deal with the disadvantages.
If such gap not examine all the argument will push to the thin air.
The problem with debating logistics is thus. Those who worry say, “if it is possible, then let’s try. But I don’t think it’s impossible.” Let me rephrase: they ask if it would be possible given all these other problems. If we can convince them that it is possible, then let’s try? The truth is that POSSIBILITY is a strictly mathematical concept. It derives from the PROBABILITY of an EVENT to occur. Hence, if the event does not occur/happen, there is no such thing as POSSIBILITY. Simply, we have to try in order to know if its possible or not. The correct question then is: How do we try? But that kind of question relies on a complete understanding that we MUST try! The HOW becomes the impetus to generate the needed research to TRY. In this debate, the logic has been missed by some who would rather underscore the impossibility of the event – using our Ghanaian languages as mediums of instruction in schools – from happening. There is no POSSIBILITY without trying. Now, when we examine the civilization of Kmt we notice what is perhaps the proudest achievement in all the annals of human history. We must see in Kmt the knowledge that what African people did, African people can do now. In this way the great deeds of our illustrious ancestors, including the writing of their own languages and the use as mediums of instruction in schools, are resurrected, and ancient history embraces both what is and what can be, and lays the basis for the forward movement of the African people. You see Tweneboah Senzu?
Tweneboah Senzu, the other point is. Folks are afraid of change. Most people are. But in Africa, and Ghana in particular, folks are so afraid of change that they hold on to English as a language. Meanwhile, this is what is really changing them. It’s ironic, but its true.
Bear in mind, not that folks are afraid for change but a general character of our people on the African continent as at now. They fear to take risk yet ready to harvest, where they have not sown.
1/10 will take risk to turn misfortune to blessing. The rest are only good in excuse and complains.
That is why religious programs that promote good reasons for their failure resonant with them as at now. Examples like “the poor will go to heaven”!! “Rich people are evil” !!! Hahahaha.
Tweneboah Senzu, as for our leaders, their IQs are the bottom of the human decadence. That said, we do not enlighten ourselves for them. We do it for posterity, we do it for country, we do it for our souls and in the continuous remembrance of traditions and cultures. And like Imhotep said in his famous “The Point of Life: Don’t wait for your peers; don’t wait for an audience; do not wait for a sign in the sky; and do not wait even for inspiration; dedicate yourself to this gift guaranteed unto us by Amun. Let The Ancestors be your motivation. Let them be your shield. Then you will stand in the hall of The Gods; And the world will know your name; for you will burn with the stars of the night.” For me, this is the whole point!
I think you have to let people use your language. If Ghanaians continue to use English, it makes English stronger but weakens the power of African languages. This is why the Ewes had the Germans learn Ewe to trade. Children should also learn to play and dance and sing and write in Ghanaian languages because that is part of the culture. If children are growing up in Africa, then an African language should be the primary one. Anything else is just comical and short-sighted. It doesn’t so much matter right now which language, only that people are committed to investing in a Ghanaian language and in turn dropping English.
Consumption of western goods in Africa will only continue to thrive unless Africans and Ghanaians realize that they are African and Ghanaian first and only.
Ghana should stop sucking on that British English queen tit.
I am standing outside the gates looking in; and what I see brings a smile to my face.
Keep doing what you’re doing. You guys don’t need any advice from me…
Perhaps these people might be interested in helping. God knows Ghana can’t do it alone! But no matter, I predict the project will stop at Twi for lack of funds. Indonesia’s was a better solution and it worked for everybody http://www.fesghana.org/
Thanks for the link. Will check it out. We can do it alone if we renegotiate those stupid mineral resource contracts that our Maccaca monkey leaders sign where we get less than 10% of the revenue. If we renegotiated them and got at least 50%, we could do it. Even poor Mongolia when it comes to PSA(Production Sharing Agreements) takes 60%. They operate on the principle take it or leave it. But our maccaca monkey leaders will take less than 10% so that they can be invited to play golf and attend the same useless meetings with their white masters smile emoticon
If you’re an African country saying “Take it or leave it!” you’re playing by a different set of rules! Just take Libya as an example.:…… frown emoticon Otherwise I quite agree with you.
That is why we really need a few nuclear warheads mounted on 60 mirved ICBMS which is what China had in the 1960s as a deterrent. South Africa had a few atomic bombs but without the ICBM delivery capability. Ghanaian and Nigerian physicists should be visiting South Africa regularly. Four or five Russian Buyan class missile ships river/ship category (Small Ships)each costing about $25 million dollars apiece is doable. That will provide the nuclear lollipops withe delivery capability especially if they are stationed somewhere on the Niger or the Congo reducing risk of interception by we know who smile emoticon
Wouldn’t that just be so nice?! Dream on, my Friend! grin emoticon Why do you think the biggest building in Ghana is You-Know-Who’s Embassy?! Think he’s asleep at the wheel? Not likely.
Yes I know the who who cannot be mentioned. They might do color revolution or outright “democratic” assassinations. We have enough fools who will take the money and do it. Maybe we need to wait for the moment when the balance of power which is taking place now shifts toward China-Russia, there will be a chaotic period of transition, then we can strike like Castro did in 1960 when he bolted for the East or the Assads in the 1960s. We will wait patiently like a black snake in the grass smile emoticon
Off topic .It reminds me of the mentality of the people who cannot be mentioned. When I was a grad student in one of their funny elite schools, when they heard me speaking Russian in a corridor after one seminar meeting to a professor from the Moscow Steklov Institute, their attitude changed toward me, they professors became hostile toward me. It got so bad that the dept head who is of the “tribe” would always walk past my office and stare at me. I always had my office door open. One day, one of them told me bluntly, you cannot come here and do whatever you want, There are rules of the game here. To cut a long story short, I was marked as being unshapable and so I left the department with an ABD. I know these people and I have scores to settle nothing personal just geopolitical steel cold calculation.
I have been studying the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979, how they got rid of the Shah and the American influence. Once I have a better idea, I will write a report and share it on Nubian
Auntie Adjeley, you know the problem with Ghana, West Africa and the entire continent can perhaps be captured simply: it is not because change we want cannot be achieved with ease and measurable speed. It is because the leaders are as toady as they are nincompoops. We have to demand both – CHANGE and ACCOUNTABILITY. We should not be disheartened that because our leaders are so CORRUPT that we shouldn’t demand the FINEST things in LIFE. Tweneboah Senzu, it is our right as Human Beings to demand anything that we think will make our lives better. That demand, on its merit alone, cannot be cornered by our measure of what is POSSIBLE and what is NOT. I understand your complete understanding of the state of leadership in Ghana and Africa, but let us still keep our eyes on the PRIZE. We, as HUMAN, as the English, as HUMAN as the Americans, as HUMAN as the SWEDES, also deserve that our children learn in the SAME languages that they speak everyday! I don’t speak English everyday. I speak GA! My children deserve better too!
We need a stronger English curriculum because we DO need it for commerce, BUT yes. A lot more people would be educated if we studied in our local languages
And our languages would be better known by all.
Yaw as an economist that has been my line of thinking all this while because the choices of language used is not because of any paracqueal interest but the one with majority of speakers and understood wide in easy connectivity and transaction. If you understand 90% of business transaction and growth success depend strictly on communication process
However, the language popularity of English and French were earn as part of the benefit package in the battle of colonisation whether concious or unconcious that is benefit of the voyage they embark years ago to posses the globe.
However such effort of that time in the dark ages can not be repeated now to cause new language to win such popularity again due to level of enlightenment existing presently.
So all this parameters need to be considered towards our global syncronisation.
I’m confused here.
Let’s relax for a bit and think this whole thing out. What is the essence of language? Forget whether it is foreign or local. What is the point of learning a language? Is it for cultural satisfaction, is it to be prideful of one’s self? I personally thought it was just a means of getting information across to one another, a form of communication spoken between people which makes life easier. Sadly, as we love to play politics with everything,we found a way to come up with more than 5 different local languages and are battling on which to make our national language. Hmmm, when common sense is replaced with senseless emotion and useless historical facts and stories. There is a worldwide spoken language called English, whoever claims it as their mother language should not be an issue and not of any concern as far it is getting the job done. The question here is what way of communicating will get the message across the best, that should be the purpose of forming a language, not to identify a people, because, what at all would that do for us that we need so bad. Finally, I just want to ask all those who think we need to change the language we use here, what problem are we trying to solve? Is there a problem at all and if there is, is this the best way to go about it?
Lol! Thought he would be touting the fact that we are polyglots and can learn multiple languages. Why I scratch my head as to why some kids in Ghana today cannot grasp literacy in a native language the solution is to eliminate the goal of speaking, reading and writing second and third languages.
Considering I have never met an African who spoke fewer than two languages, surely this would be a retrograde step…
In a world that is quickly shrinking and where the ability of any economy to thrive rests on effectively competing on that world stage and, by translation, communicating and negotiating fluently in one of the pervasive languages, which includes English, someone chooses NOW to argue for abandoning English as the language of instruction instead of figuring out ways to further improve English literacy/fluency?! The argument is practically whittled down to considerations about tribal/ethnic tensions which have been belabored ad nauseam (and frankly done Africans in general no favors) to help decide which ethnic language should potentially hold sway, something that would only stoke those tensions further? In a country where providing constant light source 24-7 appears to be an insurmountable task, someone thinks upending something of this nature is worthy of consideration? Obviously I am dumbfounded.
Needless to say, Ghana is no China; no one will be rushing to learn Ga/Twi/Ewe as is happening with Chinese or publish evolving knowledge in any of our languages to keep our students current and viable on the world stage unless of course Ghana plans to be an island sufficient onto itself.
English is the globally accepted international language. Regardless of where it came from, it is now the language the world uses to engage. Mixing politics & human communication is dangerous ground. By taking english away from these children we are retarding their communication with the world. Many will argue, debate & even get angry, but this is not about imperialists, colonising or control. Those things are another matter all-together. This is about preparing our children for a successful future. A future in a world that is becoming united. English is their passport into the world.