Two weeks after arriving back in America, I had to go to summer school. . That’s right, go ahead and feel sorry for me. However, one of the courses I took turned out to be pretty cool. It was Comparing Comics (COLT 370). For my final project, I had to create a 3-page comic of my own. I knew exactly what I was going to do. I had a children’s story floating around in my head that I thought of while I was Ghana. It’s called Kofi, the boy with the round head. I was kind of in a time crunch by the end, so the coloring got a tad sloppy, but I guess it is supposed to look like a child wrote it. Anyway– Enjoy!
Originally published in Public Agenda on August 31, 2012
By Schuyler Durham
After many laughs, dozens of adventures and countless new friends, my six-week stay in Ghana is winding down to a close. With a heavy heart, I look back on my time spent in this beautiful country and attempt to derive an overall assessment of my time here.
When I travel, be it down the road from my home city, or across an ocean and thousands of miles away, I always ask the same two questions as means of cultural evaluation; what would I like to bring back to my community? And what would I like to bring here from my community?
During these six weeks, I have filled my arms, luggage, and heart with a seemingly unending collection of trinkets, clothes and realisations I hope to share with my loved ones back home.
I realise that it is repeated time after time by every visitor who spends even half a day in Ghana, but failing to mention the warmth and friendliness of Ghanaians would leave a gaping hole right in the centre of my recollection. It seems as if brief introductions and a two-minute conversation are all you need to make a real friend here. Back home in the States, people are always somewhat wary of strangers. Business interactions are preferred to personal ones. Ghana has taught me that every interaction is better when it is a personal one; taxi drivers, fruit stand ladies, and the random passerby quickly become friends, transcending the cold necessities of business interaction and producing a warm feeling that lasts long after the ride ends or the banana is eaten.
Branching off of this friendliness, the second thing I would love to bring back to the United States is the sense of extended family in Ghana. Though we use similar terms in common speech “calling friends “bro” or “brother” – Ghanaians use the language with a much more literal connotation.
I sat with a Ghanaian in a food stand at one point, while waiting for our rice to be prepared, and several villagers stopped by the stand to say hello. The person I sat with introduced each new face saying, “this is my brother.” After the first few people passed by, I finally recognised that each of these people were not literally his brothers – in the sense that they had different mothers – but, at the same time, they were literally his brothers. Communities are more than neighbours, they are extended family. There does not seem to be as much of an emphasis on each individual family unit, and as such people regard a much larger collection of people as loved ones, as family. Anyone who could be an aunt, in terms of age and gender, is treated as an aunt. The United States, and any nation for that matter, could benefit from this understanding of community as an extended family.
In my opinion, Ghanaians have a better understanding of larger social concepts in general. This is exemplified, as I pointed out in my write up on first impressions, through the prevalence of the Almighty in daily life. People recognise that they are a part of something larger than themselves, and feel an individual obligation to give thanks and focus to this realisation.
Another way that this understanding manifests itself in public life, in an immensely positive way, is the political engagement by all members of society. The government, as a larger extension of the Ghanaian community, is highly valued. This is evident through the debates and criticisms I hear from all corners of Accra every day. Governments work best when more citizens are involved, and Ghanaian citizens definitely have the drive to participate.
Each Ghanaian seems to feel an individual obligation to have an opinion about political happenings, to participate in some way. Back home, I am considered to be more political than most of my peers, though here in Ghana I am as passionate about politics as the average taxi driver. Every citizen voices his or her opinion, and in the end a leader wins and the country follows; a true democracy in every way. When Prof John Atta Mills’ untimely death was set upon the country, Ghana took it in stride, maintaining absolute peace and minimising political play. Despite often claiming to be a leader of democracy, I think the U.S. could use a lesson on the importance of personal politics from Ghana.
The only warning I have for Ghanaian politics, after seeing the damage it has wrought in the United States, is that people should be loyal to people, not political parties. Undying devotion to a single political party prevents one from clearly hearing valid input from those outside social circles of the chosen party, creating an environment rich for political corruption and confusion.
While my Ghanaian experience has been filled with inexplicable positivity, I do have a slight criticism with the trash (refuse) management of the nation. Ghana is such a beautiful country, with large cities like Accra juxtaposed against nearby stretches of sandy beaches or lush green hillsides, it makes me sad to see the way trash is disregarded by many citizens.
I recognise the long list of social services waiting to be implemented or perfected, but a trash collection service would provide many benefits for Ghanaian society. Despite an initial investment, trash management could provide jobs for the jobless while cleaning up the streets. Burning trash should not be an option, as it releases many toxic fumes that dirty the air.
Reporting on the salt mines in the Songhor Lagoon, I witnessed many speakers voice their concern over pollution ruining water sources of the lagoon. Angry statements about blocked waterways were met with cheers of agreement from the crowd. However, in the same breath, the local sitting next to me drained his water sachet and tossed it over his shoulder. This inability to connect consequences, like poor air quality and ruined water sources, with small actions such as this endangers the beauty of Ghana in the long run.
If I know anything about Ghana though, I know that the people are continually driven to unite and make a better Ghana. No problem poses a threat too big for the hearts and brains of Ghanaians.
As I pack my bags to get on that plane headed west, you can be sure there will be a tear in my eye as I frantically recall each beautiful landscape, tasty meal, and friendly face that made my time in Ghana amazing and truly unforgettable.
Thank you Ghana, from the bottom of my obroni heart.
Read the entire article online here…
These photos were from a story on the release of the new GHC 50 note at the national bank. The black and white image was the image that ran with the story.
Photograph appeared on: August 22nd, Daily Guide page 8
This past week it seems our media companies have laid on the work as we only have one week left. Looking into personal research Enya and I visited Agbogbloshie. On the first day of our trip we drove through this market. It was an overwhelming experience for me because I we were basically in a tour bus awed by the Kayayei, cramped streets, and waste littering the ground and rivers. I remember thinking “If I could only understand their life, be on those streets with them, then I could feel less overwhelmed by this drastically different culture.” Our recent visit in Agbogbloshie where we walked around the market for three hours allowed me to understand. We went to the e-waste burning site and instead of only smelling and seeing the smoke we talked to the young boys burning, joked with the men hammering computer parts, and bought water from the girls providing water for the fires. We visited the man’s home, which had just been re-built from a fire, who showed us around Agbogbloshie and met his 4 day-old baby girl. Understanding rather than judgement is what I hope to achieve while traveling.
Wherever you live, getting to and from work can sometimes be more exhausting than work itself. Here in Ghana, taking the tro-tro, the main source of public transportation, IS work.
If you are not already aware of what a tro tro is, I’ll give you a brief overview. Tro-tros are large rickety vans that can carry 10-20 people, as well as a driver and a mate, the person who calls out the stops and collects the fee. Each tro has its own route and stops along the way. I like to think of it as a cross between a shuttle and a public bus, except a lot more crowded, hot, and unreliable. There are no signs, no lines, and no schedule, so as a rider, you have to be aggressive and proactive if you want to get to work on time! Despite the chaos and unpredictability of the tro-tro system, once you master your commute, the ride can often be enjoyable.
Originally published in Public Agenda on August 24, 2012.
By Schuyler Durham
The Legal Resources Centre, an NGO focusing on human rights in the legal sphere, sponsored a meeting on legal fee waivers for indigents during the 2012 elections on Wednesday, August 22, 2012.
The meeting was headed by the Director of Legal Aid, Mr Al-Hassan Yahaya Seini, and included representatives from a variety of stakeholders in legal justice, including political party representatives, members of the media and human rights organisations.
Ghana’s 1992 Constitution assures all citizens the right to legal justice, regardless of financial worth. However, indigents, who Mr Seini defined as those making the minimum wage or below, often do not receive service from lawyers or representation in court to the extent that the Constitution declares. Simply walking into a lawyer’s office for legal consultation can cost 500 Ghana cedis and, as Mr Seini pointed out, “I’m not sure how many [Ghanaians] make 500 Ghana cedis a month.” Other financial barriers include gathering evidence, ferrying witnesses and filing fees. When finished, the entire legal process can cost up to 5000 Ghana cedis.
While all fees would ideally be waived for qualified indigents, a problem emerges as Ghana tries to determine who should pay for it. Mr Seini noted that no one expects lawyers to work for free all the time, and as such someone needs to help pay. The Constitution puts that responsibility into the hands of the state.
In 1997, Parliament passed Act 542, which established a scheme for regulating legal aid, as well as creating a board who oversee the application of the law. The board receives applications for legal aid and decides who qualifies for waived fees. The board also oversees lawyers who are either selected by the board to provide aide, lawyers obliged to do national service, or recommended by regional lists of available lawyers. The legal aid board has a limited presence across the nation, with legal aid centres located only at regional capitals. The centres, Mr Seini said, “could be a lot bigger… could be a lot better.”
The consequence of the lack of many centres is decreased accessibility for Ghanaian citizens, especially those from rural areas. While conflicts like land disputes are common, justice is hardly ever served since parties involved lack the funds for simply commuting to and from the legal aid centres.
Another consequence of the inadequacy of legal aid centres is the lack of awareness. Few Ghanaians, especially those who need legal help the most, are aware of what the Constitution promises them. Many individuals at the meeting voiced their concern about the lack of information readily available to the public. Mr Seini agreed, saying that lack of resources is a major issue in this regard. He hopes that radio discussion of legal aid will increase in the future. He also noted that there is an effort to establish a week of recognition, “Legal Aid Week,” though plans to follow through with the idea were put on halt this year. Previous attempts at Legal Aid Week produced unsatisfactory results, bringing in little attendance and hardly sparking any social change.
Other issues with the legal system brought to the attention of those at the meeting included the difficult language associated with what Mr Seini referred to as “formal justice.” Formal justice needs English transcription, which creates a language barrier for the percentage of Ghanaians who are illiterate in English. Even those who can read and write in English find difficulties within formal justice, as the vernacular of the courts is often weighted down with unnecessarily large words and contrived language.
Throughout the meeting, a concrete solution to increase funds was never settled upon. Everyone attending the meeting agreed that all citizens have a right to equal legal aid, though there was little more than vague speculation as to how this human right can be more assuredly provided. Mr Seini himself agreed that the poor were not receiving the justice they deserved under the current Constitution, commenting “if we are going to exclude the poor, we should say so [in the Constitution] in more clear terms.”
As for his personal role, Mr Seini feels like he is not in a position to say that the poor deserve more than they get. That role, according to Mr Seini, belongs to civil societies, organisations, and average citizens like you the reader.
Writer is a student from University of Oregon, Eugene, United States.
Read the entire article online here…
Ghana Cricket readies for Invitational Tournament
Preview: Jared Kaufer
The India High Commission (IHC) in Ghana announced that they will sponsor an Invitational T20 Top 4 Cricket tournament taking place from 19 August 20120 to 9 September 2012 at the Achimota Cricket Oval.
The IHC has stated that they expect the tournament to be held annually going forward. The Invitational has the full support by His Excellency, India High Commissioner, Mr. Rajinder Bhagat. The Invitational will be comprised of 4 top Ghanaian teams, namely Veterans Cricket Club, BGC 1 Cricket Club, Under 17 Cricket Club, and Bel Aqua Cricket Club.
Mr. Bhagat was a former Indian National Cricket Club member and played for Anritsar Punjab, which is one of the finest cricket clubs in the world. He was also a major contributor to the overall success of Mozambique Cricket in the country and hopes to replicate and translate the success he had there in Ghana.
Additionally, Mr. Bhagat is fully committed to assisting the Ghana Cricket Association (GCA) in developing the game at the grassroots level to ensure that it becomes popular among the Ghanaian youth. Mr. Bhagat believes that if cricket is taught in schools and communities it can offer the youth careers and self-discipline.
In terms of the level of competition that will be present during the Invitational starting on the 19 of August, BGC 1 finished tops at the closing of this year’s Accra T20 League after defeating fellow invitational participant Bel Aqua in the finals. Under 17 and Veterans Cricket Club finished 3rd and fourth in the league respectively. Not only will the level of play in the Invitational be top notch, it will also serve as a beneficial warm up for members of the Ghanaian National Team who are currently preparing for two international competitions.
The Senior National Team will participate in the Pepsi ICC Global WCl Division 8 in Apia, Samoa from the 15th-22nd of September and will also be featured in this year’s ICC Africa Regional Division 2 Tournament in Benoni, South Africa in October.