The resoundingly progressive decision by Ghana’s parliament to staunchly back President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s successful request to have the country assume full-membership status of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie or The Francophone Alliance, for short, must be unreservedly applauded by all adherents of continental African unification (See “Parliament Backs French As 2nd Language” Modernghana.com 4/5/19). We must also commend former President John Agyekum-Kufuor who first secured Associate-Membership status for Ghana in The Francophone Alliance as relatively far back as 2006. Indeed, one would have expected the present main opposition National Democratic Congress’ regimes of Presidents John Evans Atta-Mills, late, and John Dramani Mahama, during the intervening period between 2009 and 2016, to have progressively capped this most significant second-language-usage policy began by Mr. Kufuor by now. But, of course, it is not altogether surprising that absolutely nothing of this sort had been achieved while these two faux-populist leaders who also claimed to be left-leaning and unabashed Nkrumacrats, and therefore far more reliably pan-Africanist than their main pro-Western neoliberal market-oriented ideological opponents, held the reins of governance.
In theory, the full-status membership of Ghana within The Francophone Alliance means that, henceforth, both the English and French languages are going to be taken almost equally seriously as Ghana’s official languages of business, academic and professional instruction. But, of course, we also poignantly recognize the fact that achieving parity of usage with the French-speaking countries, both in the West African sub-region and abroad, will not be very easy, in grim view of the inescapable fact that over the past three decades, English, the country’s first British-colonialist-bequeathed official medium of communication, has witnessed a precipitous decline in usage quality. Now, what this means is that adequate funding resources need to be invested in the teaching of the English language, if qualitative usage of our present lone official language is not to shamefully fall behind that of the newly introduced official use of the French language.
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the government of President Emmanuel Macron is going to promptly step up to the proverbial plate to significantly assist Ghana with the requisite funding resources for the optimal instruction of the French language in Ghanaian public schools and colleges. Which equally means that the government of Prime Minister Theresa May, in London, may very well have to do more than it is presently doing to facilitate the effective teaching of the English language in its non-native erstwhile colonial possessions, especially vis-à-vis those former colonials who have opted to enrich themselves with the assumption of full-status membership of The Francophone Alliance. In the final analysis, however, it is the primary non-native beneficiaries of these two European languages that need to invest adequate resources in the teaching and learning of these two major international and global languages.
Commenting on this new and visionary Akufo-Addo policy initiative, most of the 275 or so Ghanaian parliamentarians who participated in the additional-language usage debate on the august floor of the House seemed to be facilely and naively fixated on the expanded employment opportunities that the command of a second major/international language could afford the teeming numbers of unemployed Ghanaian professionals and recent college graduates, practically and stunningly forgetting the stark and ineluctable fact that relatively speaking, the unemployment rate in the Francophone African countries may, indeed, even be much higher than what presently prevails in many an Anglophone country like Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia, among several other Anglophone countries on the African continent and elsewhere in the Diaspora.
This writer, on the other hand, envisages the full and formal introduction of the French language into the country as a Second Official Language (SOL) in terms of readily accessing what business and technology transfer and cultural contributions the French have to offer Ghanaians and vice-versa. But there is also the treacherous danger of Ghanaians becoming passive consumers of other people’s cultures and civilizations, instead of taking this prime opportunity to also export our own culture, art and cuisine, for some ready examples, into the Francophone community. Even more important but scandalously left out of the discussion on the august floor of the House, was the imperative need for the development of Ghana’s major local languages, in particular the Akan/Twi language, Dagomba, Ga, Ewe and several other significant languages, if Ghanaians and Africans, in general, are not to be tragically written out of global history and civilization anytime soon.
In our time, however, we have also painfully witnessed the primitive maltreatment of French-speaking North Africans in France. Now, what the foregoing sentence means is that Ghanaians need to trim down our expectations vis-à-vis both the potential and practical benefits from the acquisition of French as the country’s SOL realistically down to size, as it were.
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By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
April 6, 2019
E-mail: [email protected]
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