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13.04.2005 Feature Article

Brain-Drain, Language, and standing afar…

Brain-Drain, Language, and standing afar…
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Fanon vainly exhorted: Comrades, let us not pay tribute to Europe by creating states, institutions and societies which draw their inspiration from her. Humanity is waiting for something other from us than such imitations which would be almost an obscene caricature. If we want to turn Africa into a New Europe... then let us leave the destiny of our countries to Europeans. They will know how to do it better than the most gifted of us. *The Wretched of the Earth* Indeed, Ghanaian complaints of brain drain are misplaced. How do Ghanaian governments expect to keep trained professionals within its poorly resourced systems when these professionals have been trained to expect conditions whose ideal forms are to be found only outside their borders? It is no news that many advanced degrees granted to Ghanaians are from non-Ghanaian institutions. It seems then that by training its citizens in foreign languages, Ghanaian governments merely improve the supply of raw material for turning into highly skilled labor for countries where such languages are used. Just like the natural resources example, these "processed" raw materials are then "sold" back to Ghana as expensive finished goods--consultants from the IMF, World Bank, UN, Oxfam, "special assistants to the Minister"... Few would ever offer their services to Ghana otherwise. Of course, some do it for cheap too--it is important to mention that.

*Simple waysTM*

You and I do not think because we think in this language Therefore all we ever do is to rewrite, revise, rehash, rearrange But that is not as depressing-- Because even when we think we catch ourselves in shame and quickly start translating into this dialect that you and I know already we cannot outrun because they have been at it each morning

So you and I do not think, yes, so you and I do not think

Oh yes we do, you and I, we think each morning, each damn day we argue with words we understand and laugh at jokes that smell of hay - June 2002 Therefore, from a language planning perspective, the use of indigenous languages in all stages of education will help to retain a large percentage of its skilled personnel. I would find motivation to revamp the Takoradi health system to make my work less frustrating if I believed there was no place to go. But of course, since I can speak English as well as Tony Blair, I will seriously consider selling my services to the substantially less frustrating United Kingdom health system. Incidentally, that system is also better able to support my Europeanized economic expectations.

And personally I do not begrudge anyone who makes such a decision. What I do begrudge is the attempt to salve a guilty conscience by rationalizing that leaving the Takoradi health system is the Ghanaian government's fault. It should be noted that those who have done the most for societies all over the world have not done so because the power structures necessarily supported their efforts. And no, it is unreasonable to expect everyone to be Mother Teresa.

In fact, among other things, leaving Ghana gives one perspective. However, standing afar, one ought not to pontificate about the Ghanaian situation for want of nothing else to talk about. It is not OK to gripe. What that does is to dampen the spirits of others who, however idealistic, are at least still optimistic about making meaningful contributions to the society that is their original cultural neighborhood. Whether government support exists or not, there are always ways to make a positive contribution. This does not include standing afar and making disparaging comments. Change from within is most durable. When several elements opposed to the Nkrumah government testified before the US legislature that indeed Nkrumah was a communist, one could argue that they did so in good faith and in the interest of Ghana. What good that did however, was to give legitimate excuse for external disruptive interference in Ghanaian affairs, starting the unfortunate trend of military takeovers of government. Forty years later, we have still not learnt fully how to reform society without recourse to threats of violence.

So standing afar, we should not be shameless and flatter ourselves with our witticisms. Many of our non-African colleagues wonder why we have such clear perspectives on all that is wrong in Ghana but are only determined to make our greatest contributions to anywhere but Ghana. They know as well as we do, that we could feed ourselves here and spend our surplus there if we really wanted to. Immigrating to America for better economic or academic opportunities is no shame. The hypocrisy is when we pretend to be concerned about what is going on in Ghana but lift no finger to help. At the very least, let us be constructive in our criticism so that when we come into contact with those who are still at home our perspective offers them encouragement not despair. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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