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Opinions of Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Rural Reporting, Progress and the Culture

For a good part of its 50-year existence Ghana hasn’t understood and known itself, as the Greek thinker Plato would have said, the confusion pretty much emanating from its contact with the colonialists and its elites’ inability to undo the confusion. Ghana’s national development policies have been heavily informed by its ex-colonial paradigms than its innate ones, to the extent that most Ghanaians have little or no trust, faith and confidence in their foundational traditional values for their progress, making many a Ghanaian intellectual think from foreign values when dealing with authentic Ghanaian problems.

But gradually, as the atmosphere increasingly gets better - democratically, intellectually and morally - through the growing convictions, Ghana is gradually understanding and knowing itself. The metaphysics of the development process has changed. That’s why the Accra-based “Ghanaian Times” is expanding its editorial policy to include broader rural reporting, which will enable it deal more critically with disconcerting cultural issues.

The Ghanaian culture, for long suppressed, is gradually coming into the forefront of national development. The education curriculum is being balanced by inserting Ghanaian/African traditional values and sensibilities. There are fervent calls nationally for one indigenous language as a national language in addition to the English language. There have emerged thinkers such as Mr. Sampson Boafo, Mr. Courage Quashigah, Mr. Bernard Guri and Mr. Kofi Akosah-Sarpong who argue for not only the appropriation of Ghanaian values for progress through policy-making and bureaucratization but also in doing so refine the inhibitions within them. The trailblazing Culture and Chieftaincy Ministry, driven by sector Minister Mr. Sampson Boafo, is actively everywhere, enlightening, activating, and opening up the culture for progress, encouraging traditional rulers to get involve in the progress of their communities, and calling on all Ghanaians to help eradicate the inhibitions within their culture. Certain deforming cultural values such as female genital mutilation have been criminalized by the Parliament of Ghana.

The increasingly educated traditional rulers and their institutions are being challenged to purify itself, minimize its chronic disputes, get involve in development, and participate in national discourse by looking into their cultures not only to help refine its inhibitions but also promote its good aspects. A Royal College of Chiefs is on the table to bring traditional rulers openly into the development process. Some international development organizations such as Canada’s World University Service, involved in child-girl education, are helping. The mass media is critically dealing with cultural issues, with the mass circulation “The Ghanaian Times” re-orientating its editorial policies to focus more on rural reporting as a way of opening up not only the rural areas, where majority of Ghanaians live, but also the culture for progress.

With the development atmosphere under intense scrutiny, especially rural and cultural issues fully getting dramatic national attention, Mr. Kofi Asuman, Managing Director of the daily "Ghanaian Times," indicated a shift in editorial paradigm by giving ample coverage to rural reporting. The strategy is to “bring out the real issues and challenges impeding the development of rural communities to public and government attention.” By focusing on rural issues, the “Ghanaian Times” will be able to deal face-to-face with most of the cultural challenges that have endured for very long time because of long-running neglect by the Ghanaian media. Heavily urban based, the Ghanaian media’s coverage of rural areas are very low compared to the urban areas, for obvious power and financial reasons, despite the fact that most Ghanaians live in the rural areas and despite the fact that all the good things Ghanaian flow from the rural areas to the urban areas, as the Greek thinker Pericles (ca. 495–429 BC) would say.

By stating the new “Ghanaian Times” editorial policy in Upper West Regional, one of three regions in northern Ghana that are the poorest and the Ghana-wide views being held that certain aspects of their culture are inimical to their progress, the “Ghanaian Times’” intended rural reporting will help open up the northern regions, which are heavily rural, for deeper developmental inquiry, especially the cultural inhibitions that have been troubling their progress. Already, Mr. Alhassan Samari, the Upper East Regional Minister, perhaps speaking for the three northern regions, has stated that, “Certain outmoded and negative cultural practices are too dehumanizing to the people. Human beings cannot be treated like a beast. With civilization, we need to move forward…Our revered chiefs are please requested to take these kind suggestions as a challenge and explore proactive means to get rid of our society of these rather outmoded cultural practices that seek to draw back our clock of development.”

The “Ghanaian Times” rural reporting will be one of the antidote to Mr. Samari and his folks’ developmental troubles – the problems will be analytically made public, and, in doing so not only throw them up for national discussions but enable either the government or some non-governmental organizations attempt to solve the problem. Broadly, it will give a peek into how District Assemblies and the Regional Coordinating Councils understand and know their immediate environment and how they are attempting to handle such debilitating developmental challenges as stated by Mr. Samari. By openly declaring its interest to spotlight on rural issues, the “Ghanaian Times,” moved by conviction more than monetary gains, will be correcting many an historical and material errors that ignored crucial rural development issues including the deforming cultural inhibitions that undermine progress.

By expanding its editorial perspectives to rural reporting, the “Ghanaian Times” joins the growing number of Ghanaian media houses, elites, thinkers, ethnic associations, institutions, non-governmental organizations, the Culture and Chieftaincy Ministry, religious organizations, and international development agencies attempting to engage not only rural development challenges but also comprehensively deal with certain abnormalities within the Ghanaian culture that have been deflating progress.



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