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Opinions of Saturday, 21 February 2004

Columnist: Amoo-Appau, Kwaku

Honouring The Memories Of Our Departed White Expatriates

Just a small note to commend the Ghana High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Mr Isaac Osei, and the Ghana Government for finding it fit and appropriate to publicly acknowledge the invaluable services rendered by some dedicated and well-intentioned white expatriates to our beloved motherland Ghana before and after independence.

On 28 and 30 January 2004, on the Ghanaweb website His Excellency Mr Osei, on behalf of the Government and People of Ghana and on his own behalf, paid his last respects, at two separate functions respectively, to the fond memories of the late Mrs Elspeth Elder, a Scot, and the late Mr Adrian Patrick Sherwood, an English man.

According to His Excellency, Mrs Elder worked in Ghana from 1929 to 1959 in various educational institutions. During her stay in Ghana (then the Gold Coast for most of the period of her stay), she learnt and mastered two of the widely spoken Languages in Ghana, namely, Twi and Ewe. After mastering the Twi Language, she together with her cousin, Mr Beveridge and his wife, wrote the ?Kan Me Hwe? series, which were used as standard textbooks in Ghanaian primary schools. She also wrote ?Mmofra Nnwom? and other high quality publications. (Of course, during my primary education in Ghana, I read the ?Kan Me Hwe? but I did not know that it was the work of a white expatriate until now.) The ?Kan Me Hwe? series were later translated into Ga, Ewe, Fante and other languages to be used in Ghana?s primary schools and elsewhere. This was really a laudable service rendered to an emerging country.

We are most grateful to you Mrs Elspeth Elder and your extended family for your great ?pioneering spirit, missionary zeal, kindness and sacrifice? (to quote His Excellency?s tribute). May you Rest in Perpetual Peace.

Three days after the cremation of Mrs Elder, His Excellency performed a similar ceremony, on behalf of the Government and People of Ghana and on his own behalf, at the burial and funeral of another great white expatriate, namely, Mr Adrian Patrick Sherwood.

According to His Excellency?s tribute, the late Mr Sherwood stayed and worked in Ghana for some twenty years presumably from 1955 to 1975, when he retired. He was an educator and a writer of high esteem. He did most of his good works at the Achimota School, Ghana?s premier High/Secondary School, that has produced so many great scholars and personalities including the country?s first President the late Dr Kwame Nkrumah (May he Rest in Peace).

The late Mr Sherwood was an English master at the Achimota School and a housemaster of Cadbury House for many years. Incidentally His Excellency was one of his students and as I understand it, the late Mr Sherwood was really a master of the English Language.

Obviously, it was through the hardwork, dedication, commitment and sacrifices of such people like the late Akora Sherwood (Akora is the nickname for old Achimotans) that Achimota School attained very high educational and intellectual excellence. (Unfortunately it does not seem to be so now.)

According to His Excellency, the late Akora Sherwood together with another white expatriate, Akora Muriel Bentley, produced the classic English Language textbook: English for Modern Africa, which was used as an English Language textbook in most of the leading Secondary Schools in Ghana.

We are most grateful to you Akora Sherwood and others for your great contribution in the teaching of the English Language and moral training in guiding succeeding generations of Achimotans to high academic and intellectual achievements. We salute you and other well-meaning white expatriates for your great services to Ghana. May your soul Rest in Perpetual Peace.

After the hardwork, the sacrifices and dedication of white expatriates like the late Mrs Elder and the late Mr Sherwood and many others in laying good educational foundation for Ghana (a work furthered by the Nkrumah Government), it is sad to observe that educational standards in present day Ghana have fallen to such deplorable standards. The public school system is in a very deplorable state. (I went through the public educational system in Kumasi, Ghana) As for children going through the public educational system in the rural areas their situation is, to say the least, just pathetic.

Educational standards in Ghana have fallen so much that, one lecturer of the University of Ghana, in an article on the internet last year, lamented that some of the undergraduates at the University can hardly communicate effectively in the English Language, forcing him, on occasion, to speak in Twi with some of his students . This is a very sad reflection when you think of the fact that Ghana has produced so many eminent scholars of high ability (including the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr Kofi Annan), who are serving in key positions all over the world. (Dr Annan was a product of Mfantsipim Secondary School so was the late Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia, (May he Rest in Peace), the Prime Minister of the Second Republic and an eminent scholar. Both Dr Annan and Dr Busia are ?Kwabotwes? ? a nickname for past students of Mfantsipim School. The Mfantsipim School was another educational institution our departed white expatriates/missionaries did good work at.)

Maybe it is about time that, the Government of Ghana, in appreciating the good services of our departed white expatriates, make a bold and genuine effort to turn the tide of the falling educational standards in Ghana for the better. To uplift the present low educational standards in Ghana would require a massive injection of funds and other resources.

The starting point is for Governments to view education as a very high priority sector, and to have the political will to build a solid educational infrastructure for the betterment of our youth, in whose hands lie Ghana?s future. The bottom line is that any country that fails to adequately educate its youth would lag behind, consigning its youth and future to abject poverty, disease, destitution, ignorance and exploitation by others, in an era of the world-wide web, high technology and other futuristic developments. Of course, any meaningful attempt at improving the rather poor state of educational facilities and standards in Ghana would require strengthening the Ghana economic base.

Kwaku Amoo-Appau
Canberra, Australia

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.