Friday, 24 February 2017

International Mother Language Day by Joseph Kofi Avunyra


Article 39 clause 3 of the 1992 Constitution enjoins the State to foster the development of Ghanaian languages and pride in Ghanaian culture. The State must also ensure that its citizens feel proud of their languages and cultural heritage. One wonders whether the State has been adhering to this constitutional requirement. In November 1999, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed February 21 as International Mother Language Day. The day which was first observed globally on February 21, 2000, was to promote linguistic and cultural diversity, multilingualism and to highlight greater awareness of mother language education.

In Ghana, the celebration of the International Mother Language Day has not been given the due attention it deserves compared to other International Days instituted by the United Nations. Students who study Ghanaian languages even at the universities are mocked at and branded as “unintelligent” by their colleagues who pursue different courses. This worrying situation does not augur well for the study and development of our local languages. One interesting characteristic of language is that it is a living organism. This means that language grows and dies. Available statistics indicate that 50 per cent of about seven thousand languages spoken in the world are likely to be endangered within the next few generations, and about ninety-six per cent of these languages are spoken by just four per cent of the world’s population.

In Ghana, the neglect of Ghanaian Languages in the 60s, resulted in the number of students studying such Languages in the secondary schools steadily fall from 51% in 1960 to 24.5% in 1968. This unfortunate situation of neglecting Ghanaian Languages seems to be rearing its ugly head again in Ghana's current educational system. Students offering Ghanaian Languages at the universities have been on the decline over the past decade. This situation paints a gloomy picture of the future of indigenous languages. One sure way of promoting a language is to speak it and reduce it to writing.

However, in Ghana, many people appear to feel shy to speak their own mother language. The Bureau of Ghana Languages established in 1951 as the only government department mandated to write and publish books exclusively in Ghanaian Languages, in order to promote the local languages, is unable to deliver effectively because of understaffing, insufficient funds and logistics. The Bureau of Ghana Languages has been operating in the eleven Ghanaian languages, which are Akuapem Twi, Asante Twi, Dagaare, Dagbani, Dangme, Ewe, Ga, Gonja, Kasem, Mfantse and Nzema. However, the once buoyant Department engaged in the promotion and development of Ghanaian Languages, is now a pale shadow of its former self. The theme for this year’s International Mother Language Day, “Towards Sustainable Future through Multilingual Education,” would not have come at a better time. To foster sustainable development, learners must have access to education in their mother tongue and in other languages. It is through the mastery of the first language or mother tongue that the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy are acquired. Local languages, especially minority and indigenous, transmit cultures, values and traditional knowledge, thus playing an important role in promoting sustainable future.

To reverse the trend, the existing Ghanaian Language Policy needs to be reviewed to make the study of Ghanaian languages compulsory in the senior high schools. The current Ghanaian Language Policy states that Ghanaian Languages should be used as a medium of instruction from kindergarten to primary three (3). The junior high school students are learning one Ghanaian Language and the teacher trainees are also made to study one Ghanaian Language under the policy. This has created a vacuum in the senior high schools and it is making the study of Ghanaian Languages difficult for most of the teacher trainees who do not study Ghanaian languages in the senior high schools.

To add insult to injury, some of these teachers end up teaching the subject in our basic schools. How can these teachers be adequately equipped to ensure the success of the policy? As we join the rest of the world to celebrate this year’s International Mother Language Day, let us ponder on the future of our indigenous languages and take the necessary steps to promote them for national development. Let us give prominence to our mother languages as we have given to some foreign languages like English, French etc. Bureau of Ghana Languages should be adequately resourced to deliver on its mandate. The call goes to the Ministry of Education, Ghana Education Service, policy makers, traditional rulers and other stakeholders to rise up to the challenge and save our mother languages from attrition and extinction.

To borrow the words of the late Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” In everything we do, let us not forget that language is culture, and a neglect of one’s language is a neglect of one’s culture.

By: Joseph Kofi Avunyra, Bureau of Ghana Languages. 
Email: avusco@gmail.com

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Ghana: Need to adequately resource the State Broadcaster, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation


The need to adequately resource the state broadcaster, the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), to carry out its mandate of informing, educating and entertaining Ghanaians in line with statutory principles is never in doubt. The problem over the years has to do with translating into action the good intention of properly funding the GBC. At his recent vetting by the Appointment Committee of Parliament, the Minister of Information, Mustapha Hamid, raised the issue of funding for the state broadcaster. He stressed the need for his Ministry to collaborate with the GBC to enable it to raise its own funds through the revamping of the ongoing TV license fee collection. According to him, this would make the GBC financially independent like the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC. The Information Minister said this in response to the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu’s question on how he would improve the quality of GTV’s Signal in some parts of the country including Ho and Bole.

It is an acknowledged fact that the GBC for years now has been going through challenging moments. It is important to look at it more critically at this time when the proliferation of television and radio stations is regrettably posing a huge challenge to GBC’s raison d' ĂȘtre. It has been said over the years that GBC is losing out in competition to the private media in this era of globalisation.

Sadly, only a few know and appreciate the fact that GBC was established to perform a specific role in national development. Thus it is in no competition with any other media establishment, whether private or public. The responsibility imposed on the GBC requires adequate funding to enable it to stand out and be seen as performing its germane role in the democratic dispensation. Ghana's fledgling democracy really needs a neutral public broadcaster to reflect the diversity of its people.

Just recently, the GBC was accused of partiality in the performance of its duty of informing the public on the activities of political parties. However, little consideration was given to the inadequate resources at the disposal of the corporation in relation to the enormity of the task at hand. The likes of the BBC and other PUBLIC broadcasters in the world, are seen to be performing their roles effectively as a result of the resources placed at their disposal.

For instance, the BBC has its funding guaranteed by the constitution and insulated from any manipulation or control from any political quarters. When one juxtaposes BBC’s case to the situation GBC finds itself in, it is not hard to conclude that Ghana's case is nowhere near that of Britain in terms of conducive conditions to perform their duties. GBC recently reintroduced the collection of TV Licence fees to serve as a source of funding to guarantee the public broadcaster’s independence that is editorial and operational and self-reliance. That exercise has unfortunately not yielded any substantial result. There are reports that the corporation is spending more to collect the fees than it is receiving, as the Minority Leader rightly stated.

It is, therefore, refreshing to know that the new Information Minister has some plans on making the revenue generation efforts of GBC more efficient. That will help in rejuvenating and repositioning the Corporation to make the needed impact within the media competitive ecology. Following an interaction with the Director General of the GBC, Dr. Kwame Akuffo Anoff-Ntow, Mr Hamid is in better position to assess the corporation's modernization programme which started in 2007 and the current state of the implementation process. Dr. Kwame Akuffo Anoff-Ntow has made it clear that, with enough financial support from government, the GBC will be able to complete most of its projects to help boost its coverage and operations.

So, the problem of the GBC as a Public broadcaster is clear: critical among them is lack of resources from government to implement policies that will enhance its performance. One is only hoping that the promise from the new Minister of Information would not be a mirage. It should be seen as a statement of commitment to the national cause through the establishment of an independent and well-resourced public service broadcaster that would rub shoulders with the BBC and other public broadcasters elsewhere in the world.

By Ruth Abla Ajorlolo, a Journalist.

World Radio Day and GBC’s role as a Public Broadcaster, by Teye Kitcher, a Journalist

February 13 is World Radio Day and it is prudent to extol the virtues of radio broadcasting especially in Ghana and the developing world. In Ghana, radio as in broadcasting has served and continue to serve various communities. Radio has helped in many ways to educate, inform and entertain many Ghanaians and others across the World. The history radio in Ghana dates back to 1935 when station ZOY was set up in the then Gold Coast. Since then, the coverage of radio in the country has been phenomenal especially with the liberalisation of the airwaves in 1996. Radio especially the state owned Radio Ghana continues to pursue its public service mandate with news and programmes that do not only educate entertain and inform but also enable the people to understand and appreciate government programmes. Radio Ghana and its affiliates in all the 10 regions of Ghana continue to make an impact on the lives of Ghanaians.

This is not to say that there no challenges. Radio Ghana has its challenges per equipment and staff strength. However it is heartwarming the current Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) management is focused on ensuring that Radio Ghana coverage and programmes are enhanced to enable the Corporation to fulfil its public broadcasting mandate. It is even more reassuring that the Minister of Information, Mustapha Hamid, during the vetting by the Appointment Committee of Parliament was emphatic in his desire to ensure that the role of the GBC is enhanced. He said "it is important that we are able to raise the standard of GBC to a BBC." He continued 'we must look forward to a GBC that can fund itself and be independent." These are reassuring words and it is hoped the Minister with the GBC management and Board would bring these desires to fruition. With GBC Radio on such a high pedestal in terms of news and programming, there is no doubt that Ghana would be the greatest beneficiary. Not only would collection and dissemination of news be enhanced, educative programming would also contribute immensely to deepening democratic practices and help the Ghanaian engage more in democracy.

Even though GBC has embarked on a renewed drive to mobilise funds through TV licence collection, weaning itself completely from government assistance would not be an overnight thing. But an independent and self-funded GBC, would not only enable the corporation to improve its news and programming content, but would also insulate it from government interference and control as best practiced the world over depict. It would take the collaboration of the Board and management of the corporation and the Minister of Information to enable GBC achieve and sustain a high level of delivery to the Ghanaian populace. That G.B.C Radio and Television despite the challenges remains a force to be reckoned with in media circles cannot be overemphasized, but it is also true that the Corporation has lost some grounds due to the liberalisation of the airwaves.

There is the need therefore for staff to rededicate themselves to hardwork and professionalism to enhance the public broadcasting profile of the Corporation. It is imperative that this happens, if not, commercialisation will drown the import of public service broadcasting. GBC workers welcome the positive convictions and determination of the Minster of Information.

Together we can indeed bring GBC to the level of the best public broadcast entities in this world.

BY TEYE KITCHER, A JOURNALIST.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Dismissal Of Some Police Recruits

The dismissal of two hundred and six police recruits from the various police training schools by the police administration has attracted varied reactions from the public. To some the decision is timely and sends a clear signal that the police under the current IGP are ready to purge the service of personnel whose actions can undermine the integrity of the service. Others have a different opinion. Ghanaians are not ruling out politics as if all the dismissed recruits belong to one political party. That notwithstanding, the decision must not be commended or condemned without analyzing the issues at stake critically at stake. More especially because the institution is responsible for the internal security of the state.

According to the Police Public Affairs Directorate, those dismissed managed to enter the training schools with dubious certificates. This is fraud and constitutes a criminal offence. Again, there are many questions to be answered by the Police Administration as to why thorough background checks were not conducted before the recruit reported for training. This is because in the recent past, due to lack of the recruits who went through the enlistment process had to wait for one year to allow those at the schools to pass out before a new batch reported for training. This long period could have been used to research into the backgrounds of the prospective applicants including check their criminal records.

It is unfortunate that some people with questionable characters have found their way into the Police Service. Their actions obviously tend to undermine the credibility of the institution. The service has come under serious public scrutiny and attacks in recent times over perception of corruption regarding recruitment and other commissions and omissions within that law enforcement institution. The allegations against COP Timbilla over corruption in connection with recruitment leading to his dismissal indicate that the Police Service has as image credibility challenge that they need to purge. The allegation that recruitments are characterized by bribery scandal and corruption make mockery of the recruitments as advertised in the media to offer prospective applicants the open, fair and transparent admission into the Police Service.

Another issue of critical concern is alleged political interference where enlistment into the Service is clearly by political consideration. This has led to what is commonly referred to as job for the boys in a country with mass youth unemployment. It is important for the Police Administration to look beyond the current recruits and critically research into personnel who are in charge of the recruitment process. There should be thorough introspection by the service, so that those whose actions are not giving a positive image to the institution can be dismissed.

In fact, the issue of unemployment should not give room for criminals and unqualified personnel to be recruited into the security services. The other security services should also conduct similar exercises to weed out of the nation’s security services people of questionable character as most of their modes of recruitment are also not immune to corrupt practices. The Acting IGP from all indications as an experienced police officer is not unaware of these acts. He needs the support of his other management staff to restore the once hard won and respectable image of the Police Service whose professional competence is acknowledged globally.


BY: THOMAS NSOWAH-ADJEI, A JOURNALIST.

Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation by Eunice Maasodong


February 6 marks International day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The objective of the day is to call international, regional, national and community attention to efforts needed to free women and girls from the adverse effects of FGM. The Day is also to accelerate actions towards its total elimination. FGM refers to any practice that involves partial or total removal or alteration of the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons. By a conservative estimation, about four million women and girls are subjected to FGM worldwide annually. Currently, about 133 million women and girls have experienced FGM in 29 African countries including Ghana and the Middle East where the harmful practice is most common.

Experts have argued that FGM exposes women and girls to a wide range of health issues. They include severe emotional and physical trauma, risks in maternal and reproductive health, sexual health , childbirth complications, infertility, risk of contracting tetanus, HIV/AIDS mental health and possible death through loss of blood. One may ask, why should people still hold on to such gruesome practice which has no benefit at all? Some people believe it is a tradition passed on to them by their ancestors and they cannot let go. Others say it is a religious requirement and in certain quarters FGM is to prevent girls from becoming promiscuous.

Though many women around the world today are against FGM on grounds of the violation of human right, mental problems, the practice is still going on. FGM is now a world wide problem due to migration. No wonder the United Nations General Assembly at its 67th meeting banned FGM worldwide. Last week a Conference on the global ban on FGM took place in Rome and was attended by Ministers, Parliamentarians and Civil Society Organisations. The conference saw the need for regional and international legal instruments and national legislation to help the campaign for Zero Tolerance for FGM.

Ghana is lucky to have a law banning the practice of FGM that notwithstanding a survey conducted by UNICEF in 2011 indicate that FGM prevalence rate in the country still stands at four percent. People find it difficult to believe this figure which gives an indication that FGM still exist in the country. A clear example is that two years ago, a 14 year old girl suffered FGM at Brohani in the Brong Ahafo Region. FGM is a violation of women's rights and should be condemned and treated with all the seriousness it deserves. The Ghanaian Association for Women's Welfare, GAWW, is playing a lead role to eliminate FGM but more needs to done.

Officials at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection should collaborate with other stakeholders especially the Ghanaian Association for Women's Welfare to intensify educational programmes in the communities because FGM is a deep rooted custom. With the passage of the law on FGM in 1994, the public seed to know records of any arrests, convictions or an independent study to show how the legislative piece has helped in the fight against FGM. Africa is a land of rich culture. It abounds with cultural beliefs and tradition, some are good but many are harmful to women and children. The good ones should be improved upon, while the bad ones like FGM must be stopped, after all culture is dynamic. FGM is a health issue and cannot be over looked as far as the Sustainable Development Goals are concerned.

As we mark the International day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, let us not forget that FGM is still with us in Ghana and all hands must be on deck to eradicate it.

BY EUNICE MAASODONG, A JOURNALIST.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

A look at signing up to the continental free trade agreement by African leaders - Kofi Amponsah-Bediako

Over the years, Africa leaders have been criticised for not taking full advantage of opportunities offered through trade agreements to promote continental development. Even though trade provides an avenue for economic growth and development, Africa relies largely on external trade with less commitment to boosting internal trade within the continent. The bulk of Africa’s trade with the outside world is heavily concentrated on primary commodities. This has led to a situation where the continent has been subjected to external macro-economic shocks and protectionist trade policies. The recent global economic and financial crisis which impacted negatively on the continent’s economic performance clearly illustrates this point.

African countries on the continent need to demonstrate greater commitment towards intra-African trade in order to stimulate economic growth to enhance prosperity for their citizens. It is in this regard that one welcomes the decision of African Leaders signing up to the continental free trade agreement at the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union. The purpose of the Continental Free Trade Agreement is to ensure significant growth of intra-African trade. It is also aimed at assisting countries on the continent to use trade as a more effective tool to influence growth for sustainable development.

Apart from primary commodities traded with the outside world, the continent can boast of other products with which it can trade with others on the continent. This means that if African countries organize their trade relations effectively and purposefully, they will be able to supply import needs from their own sources such as beverage, fuel, ores, metals and precious stones as well as basic food products.

Seen in this light, the Continental Free Trade Agreement seeks to provide an opportunity for Africa to maintain food security and boost trade in agricultural products. The Agreement has four main objectives. First, it is to create a single continental market for goods and services and thereby accelerate Continental Customs Union. The Second is to expand intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation and facilitation regimes. The third is to resolve the challenges of multiple forms of membership and expedite regional and continental processes. The Agreement also seeks to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through the exploitation of opportunities for large scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.

These objectives are laudable but it will require greater efforts in terms of unprecedented commitment towards the attainment of regional economic unity. Much has been said about the need for African countries to work hard toward Africa’s economic transformation by boosting intra-African trade. This ultimately, will raise the continent to a higher position where it can trade more with the rest of the world in a more beneficial manner.

Launched in 2015, the Continental Free Trade Agreement should be made to work towards achieving the agreed outcomes of its ultimate purpose. It is good and appreciable that the African countries present at the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union have signed on to the Continental Free Trade Agreement. However, much will depend on how they plan, engineer and work towards achieving the ultimate purpose of the Agreement. The Agreement outlines the good intentions of countries on the continent but each country needs to work selflessly hard to create the needed enabling condition to boost, in real terms, the expected intra-African trade, sustainable development and improved welfare for the people on the continent.

BY KOFI AMPONSAH-BEDIAKO, HEAD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS, GHANA STANDARDS AUTHORITY.

Friday, 3 February 2017

World Wetlands Day: Role of Wetlands in Disaster Risk Reduction by Fanny Nana Asamoa

World Wetlands Day is marked on the 2nd of February every year since 1971, after the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The focus for this year is the impact of natural disasters, particularly drought, on wetland ecosystem. There will also be attention on wetlands in mitigating the effect of natural phenomena, including those worsened by human activities. This seeks to buttress how healthy wetlands can increase resilience to climate change and the effects of extreme weather conditions. It will help to ensure that climate change responses do not lead to serious damage to the ecological character of wetlands. Sustainable wetland management and the restoration of wetlands are critical in protecting communities from some natural disasters and to integrate them into relevant policies at the national level.

This year’s celebration also seeks to acknowledge how wetlands can reduce disaster risks, by acting as natural buffers or protective barriers against land erosion, dust and sand storms, flood surges, tsunamis and landslides. It will help store large volumes of water thereby reducing peak flood flow during the rainy seasons while maximizing water storage during the dry season. According to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, the planet’s freshwater marshes, deltas, swamps and wetlands are home to 40 percent of the entire world’s species and 12 percent of animal species. The case for restoring wetlands is therefore a strong one, even on climate grounds; since it soaks up carbon dioxide.

Wetlands act as natural flood protection as they trap and slowly release surface water over time. This ability to store water in times of increased rainfall helps to prevent flooding. Draining wetlands for housing development and farmlands has removed many of these natural defenses, leaving surrounding areas vulnerable to increased flooding. People who live near such water bodies, get fish for their protein requirement and in some instances it serve as their main source of livelihood. The salt mining industry in the Ada Songhor enclave is known to provide thousands of jobs for the inhabitants in that area. Despite these benefits, wetlands are often under threat from human activities like encroachment and pollution.

It is sad to see the deplorable state of Ghana's water bodies such as the Sakumo Ramsar Site, the Korle and Chemu Lagoon and the ever popular Odaw River, the Kpeshie Lagoon all in Accra and the Songhor Lagoon in Ada. Wetlands are vital to all human lives. There are several instances where developers have encroached on wetlands for development projects. It is therefore sad to note that most residents who live near such water bodies see them as dumping sites for their refuse while industries too dump their industrial waste into such places. Such activities deprive these water bodies from performing their natural functions of protecting the ecology and humans. The June 3 Disaster which claimed over 159 lives, and its accompanying destruction property running into millions of Ghana cedis, is a reminder to appreciate wetlands in preventing natural disasters such as floods.

The time has come to enforce land use plans, provide local level disaster contingency plans and involve communities in development planning to reduce the risk of natural disasters. Let us preserve the wetlands to generate foreign exchange for the country. While a change in attitude by all Ghanaians is needed, the Ministry of Environment Science and Technology, the National Wetlands Committee and NGOs should continue with the public awareness creation and law enforcement to ensure individuals and industries do the right thing.

Collectively, we should ensure our wetlands are not encroached upon by squatters.

BY: FANNY NANA ASAMOA, A JOURNALIST WITH GHANA TELEVISION.
Email: nhyiraba17@gmail.com