Writing in local African languages by African writers today is highly crucial for an accelerated developmental process of the African continent in the present 21st century.
Some renowned African writers on the continent now such as Ngugi Wathiog’o; (formerly called James Ngugi) of Kenya, had recently resorted to writing in Kikuyu, a major local language of Kenya.
Consequently, other well-known African writers had also began to emulate the example of Ngugi Wathiog’o, by writing in local African languages such as Swahili, a major local East African Language, which is widely spoken across East Africa.
This recent development in the arena of African literature is highly commendable, because it will greatly contribute to the fast development of African countries; since literature is a cultural production or artifact which constitute the panacea for the progress and development of countries in the past and in the present, and for that matter, the future. Literature espouses the culture of a country, and so it is indispensable in the aspirations of countries in their developmental programmes.
European and American countries owe their highly present developmental status to the high development of their various languages in which they write. The writing industry is a powerful means of information, education and the building of strong nationalism; and the propagation of values that are vital for the mobilisation of people for national developmental agenda.
Ghana as a fast developing African country today in the 21st century, needs to develop her various local languages for writing by her writers. This will greatly help in the propagation of the contemporary Ghanaian culture for the conscientisation and mobilisation of Ghanaians to inculcate in them a strong nationalism and the commitment to the national cause for realistic and meaningful achievements of Ghana’s developmental agenda.
In fact, Africa is at the cross roads at the present time in the 21st century of historic time; and needs to develop her local languages on the same level as those of Euro-American countries in order to speedily experience realistic and meaningful development.
By simple definition, culture is the sum total way of life of a group of people; this includes the language they speak; their religion, beliefs, worship, customs, practices, traditions, values, the food they eat, their way of dressing, their music, dance etc. In fact, culture is a national character or lifestyle of a group of people or nation. Culture, therefore, plays a vital role for the survival, progress and the development of countries, for that matter.
It must be noted that language is the first factor in the identification of a people’s culture and for that matter, a group of people’s lifestyle.
In the light of this fact, Ghana can be considered fortunate at present to have a complete school established at Ajumako in the Central Region of Ghana for the teaching and learning of the various local Ghanaian languages such as Twi, Asante, Akuapim, Fante, Ga, Ewe, Nzima, Dagbani etc.
This school is one of the external campuses of the University of Education, Winneba. The Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service are stakeholders in the running of this important tertiary institution in the country.
Graduates from the School Of Languages at Ajumako are automatically employed by the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service to teach various local Ghanaian languages in schools at the pre-university level of Ghana’s educational ladder.
Some of these graduates with specialist qualification from Ajumako are also appointed as local language subject organisers and supervisors of the teaching and learning of local Ghanaian languages in the schools at the pre-university level by the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service.
It is very significant to observe that, at the present time, in the Ghanaian situation, writing in the local Ghanaian languages by Ghanaian writers is very rare.
The situation becomes more worrying and disgusting to observe that many well educated Ghanaians at the university level such as lecturers and university graduates in all walks of life at the present time can hardly express themselves fluently in speaking in local Ghanaian languages; let alone writing in them with proficiency, as they can do in many foreign European languages such as English, American English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian etc.
It is very glaring at the moment to observe that the proficient speaking and writing in local Ghanaian languages by educated Ghanaians had been thrown to the dogs since the post-independence era of Ghana up to the present time.
In my opinion, this unpalatable situation in the Ghanaian experience poses a national disaster as far as the development of the country is concerned at the present time.
It is of interest, however to know that there was a period in this country spanning between 1935 to the early days of Ghana’s independence when there was a proliferation of local languages writing. This period saw a prolific emergence of local language play writings. The first of these local languages play, titled, ‘Nana Agyeman HweHwe’ was written in Akuapim Twi in 1935 by Emmanuel Osew. This play was published by the Presbyterian Book depot, Accra in the same year.
The market potential of the local plays encouraged a host of Ghanaian play wrights, who wrote in Akuapim Twi, Asante, Ewe, Ga and Fante. The mission schools provided a ready market for these plays and used them as textbooks.
Ironically, it was the post-independence educational system which discouraged the use of these plays.
Clearly, one can see that the post educational system did give a deadly blow to the development of local Ghanaian languages; and as a result, Ghanaian school’s products, university lecturers, and university graduates had been adversely affected as far as the speaking and writing fluently in the various local Ghanaian languages are concerned.
In fact, these categories of graduates after the early independence era in the Ghanaian experience do not have much command and proficiency of the use of local Ghanaian languages, especially writing in them.
In order to reverse this unpalatable and worrying situation in the Ghanaian educational experience, I will like to appeal strongly to the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service to take the following drastic measures concerning the development of local Ghanaian languages for writing, so that the country can revisit the prolific era of local Ghanaian languages writing for the promotion and development of local languages writing at this present time in Ghana’s history.
There should be a strong collaboration between the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service to develop an effective and workable strategy and a policy to make the study of local Ghanaian languages compulsory at the pre-university level of the educational ladder.
In the pursuit of this policy, pupils and students must be encouraged to take keen interest in the study of local Ghanaian languages and be able to pass in any two local languages in the internal terminal examinations before being promoted to the next class of their studies in the sixteen regions of Ghana. To this end, priority attention should be given to the learning and teaching of local languages by allocating more periods with longer duration on the time tables of schools.
Furthermore, in the pursuit of local languages development for writing at the pre-university level, competent and well trained graduate teachers from the Ajumako School of Languages must be employed to work in the offices of the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service to oversee the effective teaching and learning of local Ghanaian languages in schools, and the effective teaching and learning in them.
The Inspectorate Division of the Ghana Education Service should provide competent and well trained subject organisers and supervisors with specialist qualification to monitor and supervise the effective and quality teaching and learning of the various Ghanaian languages in the schools.
As way of motivation to teachers of local Ghanaian languages to offer quality teaching, they must be given an attractive and handsome incentive packages, besides their normal monthly salaries. Also, an ideal classroom situation in terms of learning and teaching aids must be available to enhance the efficiency of teachers in their handling of language teaching.
The Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service must strongly negotiate with the West African Examinations Council to work out a policy to make it compulsory for Ghanaian school candidates to choose one Ghanaian local language as one of the three core subjects required for the eligibility of candidates to write the West African School Certificate Examination.
As stake holders in the oversight and management of the Ajumako School Of Languages, the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service should get into partnership with the University of Education, Winneba, to undertake an extensive and elaborate expansion projects at the Ajumako School of Languages so that the school’s capacity for admission intake will be considerably increased in order to admit a greater number of students than what had been the case up to the present time.
This will definitely go a long way to create a great boom in the production of trained Ghanaian local Ghanaian languages teachers in the country to feed the great number of junior high schools and senior high schools in the country; and also contribute significantly in the long run to the development of local Ghanaian languages for writing at the present time.
Finally, I firmly believe that if the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service will take the foregoing measures that I had articulated in this article, and implement them to the letter, they will certainly work to usher in a vibrant scene of local languages writing reminiscent of the pre-independence era, and consequently, accelerate the present ongoing Ghana Beyond Aid agenda, and make it possible for Ghana to achieve optimum economic growth, development and prosperity in the present 21st century. Ghana cannot afford to dispense with her numerous budding local language writers to jeopardise the success of her present developmental agenda.