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Opinions of Sunday, 8 August 2010

Columnist: Wirekoh-Boateng, Kwaku

What Do You Know About Ghana?

Kwaku Wirekoh-Boateng

Not long ago, I was at a Ghanaian function when I overheard a conversation between two young ladies. The older of the two was advising the other, who was about to visit Ghana for the first time. Ever the inquisitive mind, I moved closer to hear what the older friend had to say. I cannot recount all the details of her advisement, but never in my life have I heard the terms “voodoo” and “armed robbers” so many times in one conversation. As the younger listener imbibed her friend’s negative comments about our motherland, the anxiety in her face became palpable. Unable to bear it any longer, I decided to interject with a much-needed, albeit cliché-infested statement.
That episode got me thinking. Have we all bought into this distorted image of our country? I mean, is that all we know about Ghana? I wish I could say that the dialogue I witnessed is a departure from the norm, but the reality is that it is not. Among second generation Ghanaian-Canadians, there is a disconcerting lack of knowledge about Ghana. The sentiments expressed by the older interlocutor are not an aberration from the general view that many of our youth have of our homeland. This perception is nothing short of caricature that is propagated by the mainstream western media and, regrettably, in Ghanaian movies.
The truth, however, is that we cannot blame members of the younger generation for subscribing to this view of Ghana. That a significant number of our youth subscribe to this caricature tells me that the older generation is not doing a good enough job of teaching them about our country and its vast array of cultures. Many of the youth have not even had the privilege of visiting Ghana, much less live there for an extensive period like most of us older folks have. Those of us who have had that privilege can attest to the beauty and diversity of Ghanaian cultures. We have to do a better job of educating our children, younger siblings, nieces, and nephews about our homeland. If we do not do so, the mainstream media will continue to do it for us.

As a people, we need to make it of higher priority to educate our youth about our cultures, languages, and values. In our own capacities, we can do a lot to conduce to a generation that is knowledgeable of its roots. Here is a simple proposal to actuate this idea: Next time you chance upon young Ghanaians in a conversation of similar nature, approach it as a teachable moment – a chance for you to impart knowledge about our beloved country. That seemingly small gesture can go a long way in eradicating the negative perception that many of our youth have of Ghana, our motherland.