Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Could the diaspora be Ghana's education answer?

Is it possible to kill to birds with one stone?

Ghana has highlighted a number of problems of within its education sector, including getting teachers. I also notice that there is a desire within Ghanaian diaspora to return to the country. Those who aren't interested in returning full-time do want to go back to help in some way (think about Me Firi Ghana's WAM Campaign) and British and American teenagers are familiar to the culture of going to Africa and Asia to teach. It helps CVs and boost employment chances. They are often faced with huge costs in order to gain such an experience, the majority of which doesn't go to the host families or host schools but stays in the organising company and the country in which the company is headquartered i.e. the UK, and US.

Israel tries to convince its diaspora to visit or relocate to the "homeland" in a number of ways including financing schemes for young returnees. Could Ghana not look at doing something similar? Young people, living out of Ghana, born at least one Ghanaian person could be funded to take part in a scheme, whereby they return to Ghana and volunteer/work to help build Ghana through teaching, or similar work. They are then recognised and endorsed by a leading politician/businessperson/cultural leader and this will boost their employ-ability and encourage a positive relationship with their idea of Ghana. The latter will increase the chances of them returning to Ghana on a more permanent basis, bringing with them their expertise.

I'm sure many Ghanaian parents would jump at the opportunity of sending their child to Ghana at a reduced rate (especially with current flight prices). It solidifies the relationship between the diaspora and the homeland and increases the chances of Ghana benefitting from a brain gain. Ghana should not just sit and hope that people would want to return, they should really make an effort to see it happen.

What do you think? Is this a feasible idea? Leave a comment or Tweet me @thebellower

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Why Ghana doesn't need Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings and the NDP.

'Ghana's former first lady to run for President' read the Reuters headline just at the beginning of the week. Of course its impact on the support that the ruling party command in Ghana despite the Deputy Minister for Sports suggestions, was unavoidable. The Rawlingses have successfully perpetuated a personality cult around their political career and this has benefited the NDC no end. It looked as though the NDC would have to convince its members that they still stand for the principles they always stood for, without the Rawlingses' support and not-so-silent guidance. They also had to complete the herculean task of proving that they were completely different from the NDP, essentially founded on exactly the same principles.

According to the Reuters article posted above, the NDC (henceforth 'the Congress') did not think that the NDP ('the Party') posed a real threat to them in the polls; neither did many political analysts and neither did I, truth be told. I don't think the NDP would have made a significant mark on these elections. I think Ghana has not yet faced the gender leadership question and I don't think they are ready to have that discussion. Therefore, the 2771 to 90 NDC primaries result is not just symbolic of how many people supported then-President Atta Mills, but also of how few people wanted a woman to lead them. This I thought was the Congress' trump card. They didn't explicitly play this card, but I do believe that subconsciously Ghanaians were repelled by the idea of a female President and all other things remaining equal, John Dramani Mahama would always collect the majority of left-wing votes. If the Congress were pushed to the point of needing to close the Rawlings question, their best bet would have been to blur the lines of difference between a Presidency of Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings and the tried and tested Presidency of her husband, JJ Rawlings. Nana Konadu and JJ Rawlings - the value is the same.

Ghana has been at the mercy of the Rawlings family for over 3 decades, both directly and indirectly. Many will recall that JJ Rawlings came into power first with a devastating coup and a military regime lasting 3 months, before handing over to a civilian government that he endorsed. He then collapsed that government and imposed a second military regime for 11 years before winning questionable elections in  1992 and completing his second term before handing over the mandate of power to John Agyekum Kufuor in 2001. All that time his wife was there behind him, very influential and never explicitly pushing for greater human rights, or more democratic accountability. Even as the Congress were no longer in power the Rawlingses as a pair sought to question and undermine the integrity and competence of President Kufuor and then President Mills when the Congress regained power. Can Ghanaians think of one point in time since his first attempted coup in which President Rawlings and his wife has respected the voice of the people and the democratic principles by which we now live?

The EC has saved the NDC from a sweat inducing campaign where they would have to differentiate themselves from what is essentially their political identical twin and declare independence from their ideological parents as any child (brain child or birth child) would have to do one day. I don't think that Mrs. Rawlings' disqualification works in NPP's favour. If anything it works against them as it takes a very big dark cloud from above JDM's head. Dr. Edward Omane Boamah's declaration is definitely off the mark. But one thing is certain. Where this disqualification benefits the NPP, it also benefits the CPP, PPP, PNC and the rest of Ghana. The Rawlings era, I believe, is now over. The EC created the headstone and it is up to the NDC and the rest of the Ghanaian political arena to recognise it and work towards the maturation of Ghana's politics marked by the strengthening of civil society and real communication between the everyday Ghanaian and his government, not just one family screaming the loudest.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Africa, solving its problems

Sister Deborah vs the US elections

A while ago Deborah Vanessa came up with this song. Now I thought it was funny crap, but I never expected her to have to explain her concept and video to CNN.

I've seen the comments and I think Americans and the rest of the world need to chill. Whilst she says it's not about President Obama, even just a bit, I'll take it with a pinch of salt. I think though that Americans need to remember that his surname comes from Africa, there are other Obamas in the world, there are other Romneys, not all Husseins and Mubarak and Camerons are related to the men who made those names famous. Chill guys!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Universal Suffrage?

What makes a voter.

Ghana seems to be struggling to define this. EC officials on MultiTV's PM Express back in April couldn't confirm or deny if a person born in Ghana brought up in Ghana with a Nigerian father and surname could vote or not. Instead, the official claimed it would nonetheless be a 'legal' issue. 

I don't get this. What makes a Ghanaian? An Indian child, or Kenyan child or :Lebanese or Nigerian child, born in Ghana, living Ghana, speaking Twi, Ga, Fante and Hausa, should not be any less Ghanaian than a child whose parents are both of Ashanti or Fante or Ewe lineage born and living in Ghana. 

It becomes clear at moments of elections, that Ghana is extremely exclusive rather than inclusive. 

The Panafest/Emancipation Day question.

On 12 July one Ghanaian wrote an article asking if things such as Panafest and Emancipation Day are worth celebrating in Ghana. The writer outlined that "The institution of the Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival (Panafest)... was in line with the country's historic role as the torch-bearer of freedom and unity on the continent."

I understand that slavery was a big part of African history and Ghana, accommodating 80% of the slave castles, has become a focal point for many people's reconciliation with the harrowing reality of slavery. However, must Pan-African history and identity be punctuated and defined by slavery. Is there nothing else for us to remember about Africa. I consider myself a Pan-Africanist with limitations. I think it is a problem that when we think of Pan-Africanism we only think about slavery, and the independence struggle. Is there nothing else to define an African but his/her struggle?

I went to Panafest and Emancipation Day in 2007. We attended some events at Elmina Castle and were treated almost like second class citizens because we were Ghanaian. That isn't a bold unsubstantiated claim, it's the truth, we were helped and looked after when they thought we were "foreigners" until one lady heard me speaking Twi to my driver, and then said "Oh you are Ghanaian, you must get up from here and please move to the back" I appealed, saying I was British and that I had attended early enough to get a good seat and would not be easily moved. She then decided to relocate us to the other side of the event. She gave no reason but proceeded to smile and curtsy profusely for the Americans and Caribbeans and even a Dutch mixed race family. In that moment, I felt like there was a difference between me and them at an event where Ghanaians were supposed to be affirming that there is no difference and that we are all family.

If celebrating Panafest and Emanicipation Day doesn't benefit the Ghanaian, in their image of themselves, their image of their country, why should it then benefit others. What is the purpose? You cannot have events like this in spite of the local population.  That's all I have to say on the matter, I have no solution in this case. I just think that if Panafest and Emancipation Day is to continue, it should be in line with the country's image as a freedom fighter and elevator of the African profile on the continent and so far they are able to do that, long may it continue, but if for any reason it doesn't or in fact devalues or orientalises the African in their own back yard, we should reconsider what is important to Ghanaians - tourism money or pride.

Bottled houses

The below videos are old but I don't want the innovations that they display to become old news too. It seems despite what we are being told about the need to be eco-friendly we aren't really doing enough. These bottle houses are ingenious and I'm hoping there can be some advancement on them to make it a real dignified viability. 

Be Inspired.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Biggest Challenge

originally written 12 August 2012

I've just ended one of the most fulfilling jobs I think I'll ever have the pleasure of working. I worked as a Senior Mentor for an organisation called The Challenge Network who operate the National Citizens Service and are backed by the government.

It's an awesome job. When I first heard about it last year when I was in Singapore I was just excited by the prospect of getting paid to become G.I. Jane and to be honest that's hows I described it to my mates when they asked what I was doing in my summer of graduation.

My greatest fear going into this job was that me and young people just wouldn't mix. I have so many cousins who are younger than me and they are immensely frustrating. So many personal possessions broken, so many telling offs acquired because of my younger cousins. I know you feel my pain.

Going into this job I just thought, 'Oh Lord, I cannot be arsed for the frustrating pettiness of young people. I do not have time for their over inflated self-confidence and belief that they are God's gift to man.' But now I have come to the end of two sets of 3 weeks, with 2 sets of young people. I have mentored 21 young people in total. I can truly say, as my mother did in church today, that young people truly ARE God's gift to man. They have such bright futures and such brilliant minds. Underestimated minds. Underrated hearts. I have seen 21 young people defy all the descriptions that our media will confer on them. Whipping out banter with adults with the right balance of humour and respect.

There is not much I can say, because it's difficult to articulate the pride I feel having taken part in the The Challenge Network. Just remember next time you see a young person and you feel they've become an annoying waste of space, they are just YOUNG people, seeking direction, trust, and affection. Some of them didn't get any of that before they met us and you'll be surprised the difference those three ingredients can make.

Challenge Yourself, to respect Young People, and see how this world is turn upside down for good!

Ciao, Sardinia, Ciao!

Travelling again! Well, briefly.

My sister and I took a "before it all gets hectic" break to the beautiful island of Sardegna, Italy. It's a nice little big island. Honestly, it is much bigger than I thought it would be. We were based in Olbia and it took an 1 hour and a half to get to Porto Cervo by bus. By the way Porto Cervo by bus will set you back only 5 Euro. It was 4.50 Euro to get back, but I don't know if that was due to the time of day or direction of purchase. I didn't want to ask the driver just in case I alerted him to the fact that he could have pocketed an extra Euro off of us.

Ok so let's start with the beginning and Olbia. We touched down in Olbia Airport, Costa Smerelda in the afternoon and bought a bus ticket for a Euro each to get to our hotel. The Hilton is a bit out of the way and not on any busy streets. It's kinda like in a clearing with the only landmark next to it being a roundabout. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how unhelpful that is. In Italy of course, as you would expect through most of Europe, they speak their own language and have no desire of learning a more "internationally acceptable" one like English, so my sister and I had to work out from pointing hands and basic understanding of similar latin based words where we should go. It did not help that the pavements are practically non-existent and so the correct directions lost credibility very quickly.

Arriving in the Hilton Olbia we were greeted with big smiles and a welcome cookie. That most definitely made our day! Following a little rest trying to understand Italian TV and searching but failing slightly to find BBC World News we headed into town with our trusty Lonely Planet book in search of quirky shops and unique restaurants. If you order the "Sensation" at La Lanterna, you will definitely get what it says on the tin. It was sensationally too much for the both of us. Great with some dishes, awkward with others, but the culinary rollercoaster was worth it to really experience Sardinia in a fun way.

The food helped us put behind us the awkward hostility we experienced from one particular antique  shop-owner lady. She didn't seem to want to let us in and whilst I won't come out and play the race card, the incident did lead to my sister and I having a conversation about how black people are treated when they go places so I guess it had touched a nerve with us along racial lines. The woman  did eventually let us in after our pretty shameful "Inglesi, can we come in?" attempt at communicating with her. She looked at her husband (or some fella who clearly has influence in her life) and he said it was ok. I really do hate the "I'm British so I just say things louder and slower in English and you in your own country can attempt to understand what I'm getting at" behaviour, but sadly we had not yet sat down to practice any phrases and had to make do with what we knew.

The next day we realised that the only black people you see on this island, or at least in Olbia, are Senegalese hustlers - that needs its own blog post though. Perhaps the lady believed us to be one of them and not tourists - that too requiring its own blog post but until that arrives see my First Impressions post. Our second day took us by free shuttle bus supplied by the hotel to Bados Beach which also has a little bar/restaurant called BarBados. You can get your deckchairs and umbrellas there and at a discounted price if you quote Hilton Olbia. ;) (our little secret).  The water is nice, the sun was shining, you really can lie back and convince yourself that you're in Barbados if the budget won't allow you to get to the real thing. There are beach hustlers offering everything you need from sunglasses to sarongs and jewellery. It's up to you to buy. We didn't and I don't feel bad.

The third day we went to Porto Cervo with a little stop off before hand at a beach place I can't remember right now. Four fairly small but extremely popular beaches and we were there in low season! Essentially guys you're looking for sand, sun, sea. So call me ignorant but you can find that anywhere and if you're taking the recommendation from a travel book or hotel staff, be sure that many other people have done the same. We got a recommendation from a friend, but I'm guessing they may have done the above. Not saying it was too crowded, but I much preferred the space and roam that Bados afforded me.

The final day we just got to know Olbia better. There isn't much focus on the cultural and historical gems Olbia has to offer, but it is definitely worth taking a break from the beach to see. So that was Sardinia. Finished with a hotel provided taxi to the airport and then really chaotic airport check-in that you may only really expect in a film about a war-time African country, but altogether a beautiful island, a lovely vibe.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Watch them do their Azonto!

If you have not seen this yet, then I don't know where you've been.

FUSE ODG (you'll know his songs cos they begin with "it's fuse!") has started a competition to find the best Azonto videos this world can make. The first entry was good and being a Londoner I loved that it was shot on the Underground and Southbank. But this second one, filmed on yet another one of my stomping grounds - Manchester - was just taking it to another level. There are a few more, the Americans have done a robot inspired one and the French had a flash mob, but so far this takes the biscuit.


Will this be the demise of Ghana's STC?

How has it come to this? I read nowadays about this crisis around the STC (the bus service serving the country). There are rumours of lack of payment to benefactors and workers alike and as of this morning the government has decided to halt the auction of STC even after think tank IMANI has called for the company's outright sale.

Now I'm not going to claim to be a seasoned businesswoman. I am driven by principles of serving the people, not money or the bottom line, but surely it cannot be so hard to create a working, functioning, profitable transport system and maintain it. The market is there for it, we know that because when we think transport in Ghana we think of the throngs of trotros screaming "KaneshieKaneshieKaneshie!... AmasamanAmasaman!" Many people don't own a car but still need to get to the market, their kids need to get to school. So with that in mind. How have we come to this day, where it looks like the STC system is on the verge of folding.

I can only assume that our MPs and Directors and various 'important' people, chauffeured around in 4x4 have forgotten what life was like when they had to catch a trotro or negotiate with a taxi driver. The success of mass transport does not concern them because it does not affect, as with most things in Ghana. But this year is Ghana's coming of age. This year is a turning point. The presence alone of Ghana Decides to encourage registration and informed voting is a sign that Ghana's elections will really stand for something when it comes to buying all the false promises and myopic visions.

So my dear voters, when you think about who to vote for, do me and yourself a favour and don't vote simply on party lines. Think about who can keep the country moving, metaphorically and physically. Think about who has a plan and the acumen to avoid situations like this. The STC created jobs, and a real growing network would create even more jobs, so when MPs and Presidential candidates come to say they will create jobs ASK THEM HOW? Make them become more specific and clear. Challenge their vagueness and elusiveness. If they don't suggest reversing the ill fate of something as crucial as the STC network, then perhaps they are not the best person for the job. Having more people working in factories or as teachers makes no sense if no one can efficiently get to work.