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Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Yes, most instructional assistants (IAs) are jewels; you can’t do without them. But I have a beef with some.

To IAs, classroom decoration is of primordial importance. They interrupt your precious circle time, pulling out kids to hang up some weird objects they have made, whereupon the rest of the class turns to watch and ignore your Oscar-caliber rendition of The Little Pokey Puppy. But the IA who nearly made me lose it, is the one who told me immediately upon the children’s arrival that Joanna was a disobedient child in front of Joanna who glared at me with defiance. I ignored the IA and gave Joanna my attention, but the IA wanted to vent. She followed me to Joanna’s desk, telling me that most of the kids in the school were poor and didn’t have fathers while I fought the urge to grab her throat. At snack time, she said of one kid, “this child never brings snacks,” within earshot of the child, and told me how she had to use her own money to buy snacks. Once again, I wanted to reach for her throat.

What I learned is that schoolchildren in richer neighborhoods are treated better than those in poorer neighborhoods. And the same goes for the curriculum; the better the neighborhood, the more challenging the curriculum.


The other day, I saw this woman interviewed on TV because of her addiction to plastic surgery. She said things like, “I got my nose corrected”. By this, she meant her nose had been whittled to a pencil shape. She had added fat to her lips, raised her brows, padded her chin, her buttocks, her breasts, liposuctioned her stomach, etc, etc, etc! Really!

First of all, if you’re a woman who has plenty of money for plastic surgery, I beg you, send me the money. When you’ve done that, I’ll use a portion to send you to Ghana. Or Sudan. Or Nigeria. Or anywhere in the world when men will love your big buttocks, arms, legs, everything.

While we’re on the subject, I really resent those people who reach out to my front teeth, the gap between, that is. Hello? I’ll have you know that in West Africa, a gap in the front teeth is a sign of fertility and mark of beauty. That’s right. Go to Senegal and you’ll find professional tooth-carvers who will whittle away your two prime incisors to create a gap for you, for a small fee. People have always had an itch to touch my teeth, from African men who gasp and say “Your teeth are so beautiful” to the Latino lady at Whole Foods who shakes her head and say “It’s bad luck in my country; you’ll be poor”, and the lovely friend who shakes her head and says “You’d be so beautiful if it weren’t for the gap in your teeth.”

I hereby declare: my teeth are beautiful the way God made them. Hey, they’re so beautiful Madonna got one just to be like me! And They do their job well; I eat just fine.  So, for heaven’s sake, keep your fingers off my teeth!

A few days after the graduation, I got to hang out with the “Shuwaa” boys. Don’t ask me what that word means, I couldn’t tell you. But that’s what Tolu and his three close friends in Ghana call themselves. Unfortunately, the fourth one is in the U.K., missing out on all the fun (Hi, Enoch) 🙂

Bright and Tolu, while waiting for our orders at a restaurant in Sarbah Hall

Dennis, Bright and Tolu, saying hello to Enoch

There's nothing like Fufu and light soup with goat and fish!

Digging into his rice and chicken stew

Finger-sucking good, no metal to interfere with the yummy taste 🙂


With the witty one, Akua Baning

The three graduates, Bright, Tolu and Dennis. So proud of them. giddy giddy SHUWAAAA!!

As a Ghanaian-American writer, I have had similar experiences as Chimamanda who expresses herself brilliantly. Here she is, in her own voice:

If you have any trouble, kindly copy the address and paste directly on your browser. The video is called Chimamanda and the single story.


Okay, I’m peeved. More than slightly. Ghanaians, when will you stop this nonsensical self-imposed colonialism???!!!

During my tenure as International Specialist for the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service, some American teachers and I visited an elemenatary school in Ghana. I was appalled to learn that new students, we’re talking six-year olds, had to be able to communicate well in English before being accepted into a good school–Ghanaians parents choose schools for their children. The result of this stupid practice is that the younger generation can’t speak their native language anymore. Parents want to get their children into the best schools, so right from birth, they speak English to them. This is wrong on many levels.

One of the fallacies of education is that a child will get confused learning two or three languages a time. Because I bought into it, my American-born children couldn’t speak Fanti, my native language, for many years. Even now, they speak it poorly. While it is true that children mix up languages when learning more than one at a time, they learn to sort them out by the time they are five or even earlier. At four years old, I spoke Yoruba, Ashanti Twi and English. By fourteen, I could speak French, two additional Twi dialects and Ga. Okay, so maybe I have a flair for languages, but I’ve seen it happen here in America. Children whose parents speak their native language to them have grown up bilingual. My friends’ children are examples. A native Czech spoke Czech to her kids; now the children are bilingual and have excelled at school. One graduated from Georgetown University and another from Boston University. My aunt in Springfield spoke Fanti to her children. They grew up speaking English and Fanti, and have done exceedingly well. These are children growing up in America. So why is that those growing up in Ghana can’t speak their own language? What a travesty!

What is even more troubling is that some of these Ghanaian parents can’t speak English well. I”m talking about those who didn’t even make high school, who speak a halting English with faulty vocabulary. They raise children who say things like “No, he have came and took my book.” This actually makes the teachers’ job harder. It’s like trying to mold cement after it has hardened. Fortunately, the educated children, especially if they go on to the university, learn to speak English well, but then they can’t have any meaningful conversation with their parents! There’s nothing sadder than not being able to have a deep conversation or share jokes with one’s parents. Ghanaians are humorous and use lots of proverbs in their language. A lot of meaning is lost in translation. Children who can’t communicate with their parents end up despising them, which leads to conflict. Even sadder than that is the loss of culture, something parents pass on to their children. Ghanaians have a rich culture, from the naming ceremony when a child is born, the outdooring at three months when the child is celebrated in the community, puberty rites, etc., etc. How are these going to be conducted?

Let me digress to grumble about the current notion in the English-speaking world that grammar isn’t important. Oh it is!! One must know one’s language thoroughly before one can even learn another. As a French/Spanish teacher, it was infuriating to have to explain English rules to my students.

It is important to know one’s language well. Language defines a people, whether you’re American or Ghanaian or both. Bottom line, learn your language well; it’s your heritage. People need to have a good understanding of their culture so they can cut out what is unwholesome while embarcing newer ideas. That’s how we grow as human beings. So Ghanaians, stop demanding English before enrollment. Stop teaching your children that their language is inferior and hence their culture is inferior. Embrace the best of both cultures. Colonialism is over.