Saturday, July 21, 2007
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Ghana at fifty, ‘ateyie ma awerefir’ (1-2)
By: KWESI HAYFORD
Scores born from the seventies do not know this. But the general attitude of men towards women, though still superior and machismo, has changed drastically, and for the better in the last fifty years. At no time in our history have women been accorded the sort of respect they are seeing now.
Today you have men openly acknowledging women as human beings, not creatures just for their pleasure or in service to them. You have men acknowledging they couldn’t make ends meet without the financial support of wives. That haughty dismissal of women as a specie lucky enough to eat free, sleep free, the whole jazz, has dwindled.
My only lament regarding the attainments women have made since independence, not to be trite, is this: In their haste to make good when the breakthrough finally came, women forgot to cultivate the culinary skills of their mothers and grandmothers. To compensate for it, they have come to depend heavily on this abomination known as “cubes”, which usually leave a metallic after-taste on your tongue.
Women, believe me, have come a long way. Their gains, in some instances, overshadow those by men. And you are sitting there yammering on about what there is to celebrate? Straws that break.
Before we get cracking, I have this question for our cynic. Against what are they weighing the country? To get a discussion on improvements made in the area of health going, let us do a rudimentary comparison between two husbands, one whose wife is currently with child and his father or grandfather.
Why this self-assurance, this confidence he has that very soon he will be holding his son or daughter in his hand when his father and grandfather had their hearts in their mouth when their wives were in similar circumstances?
Not only is his knowledge of pre and ante natal care superior to that of his father and grandfather. His wife’s need to eat a well balanced diet during pregnancy, an education neither his father nor grandfather had enough of, has in his case been made amply available of. Because his wife gets regular check-ups, he knows that the baby is going to be healthy and bouncy.
More than likely he knows the sex of his child long before the baby is born. If the doctors have not introduced him to family planning, chances are good he has learnt all about it on his own.
No longer necessary is a lie that many families felt compelled to tell when they bundled a seriously ill relative out of the house. On the surface they were sending the patient to a shaman or a spiritual garden for the treatment, when in fact they were sending him or her to a hospital for an operation a doctor might have recommended.
Why the cover up? Belief in evil spirits was so common it gave rise to fears that the same evil spirit or spirits who cast a spell on the ill might follow him or her to the operating theatre, snuff the breath out of him while he was on the operating bed or convalescing. So, to protect the patient the cover-up became necessary.
Did evil spirits deserve all the blame they got those days? No. What the public often didn’t know, because the education wasn’t there, was that death could have come from one of a number of sources; the patient’s own reluctance to live, hospitals that were not streamlined, shortage of drugs, or the carelessness of the attending physician.
Last year, the prestigious Wellness Letter reported several incidences of American doctors appearing at the operating room without washing their hands. If this could occur in a country where facilities for hand are over-abundant, one can imagine the liberties some of our doctors took before the grant of Independence.
Although medical technology in Ghana is still not the state of the art, hospital care and management have seen improvement. To the point where patients can be operated upon and be out of the hospital in less than a week. Today we have Ghanaian doctors who compare favourably with those anywhere in the world. Give them the drugs and the right equipments and there will be fewer deaths in our hospitals.
Today, Ghana has a National Health Insurance Policy Scheme. Did you hear what I said? A National Health Insurance Scheme! Today the well-heeled in this country have a choice between government – run hospitals and those privately-run.
Today, Ghana has ambulances. Ambulances! Even my village of adoption, which bakes under the sun day after day, has two ambulances. Two ambulances, I said. So what is this noise you are making about no progress made in the last fifty years? What are you doing with these big eyes God gave you?
Transport and Communications
Travelling from Sekondi to Accra or Kumasi, and returning home the same day 50 years ago? It was a luxury that only those with what was then known as “touring cars” could afford. Even for them such journeys sapped their energies.
Distances were only long. Our roads many of which did not qualify to be called as such, were serpentine.
Compounding all that inconvenience was that travelling around was done in what is now known as “A roll glass eh” God help you if it rained while you were on board one of those lorries or as the British insist we call them, vans.
You sat on a chair that was nothing more than a hard board that had your waist or feet aching by the time you reached the destination.
The good news is that in my lifetime the road from Sekondi to Accra has been reconstructed three times, considerably reducing the distance. By African standards the road from Sekondi to Accra is now a highway, and a good one.
In years gone by, you had to leave your house, walk to the Post Office, join a line and pray that the lines were in good order if you wanted to reach someone by phone. Post Office management charged you for the call even where they were unable to reach your party. Their reason? You used their services. What do you see in comparison with today? People who do not know where the next meal is coming from own cell phones, sometimes two or three. If you don’t own a cell but need to speak to someone urgently there are paid public phones.
You don’t want people to hear your business? Go to an Internet Café, send a message by e-mail. You want to send a parcel to someone in this country or abroad, and want it to reach the person without the slightest day? Use the Post Office or a courier service.
In my time we only had one radio station, Radio Ghana. Today we have a whole host of radio stations on which you get information from any part of the world, whose services you can use to speak rot or intelligently. And you are belly-aching about progress? My God, people don’t know when they have it good.
Fifty years ago, the only ones who lived in better sections of town were British and European expatriates. Or if you prefer “the green hills far away”. It did not matter what your financial circumstances were, all of us were consigned to the bellies of the towns and villages in which we lived. There were no such things as highly distressed neighbourhoods. If no progress had been made as the cities, would have us believe, why these different neighbourhoods which have become badges of our success and failures?
To live in an area with a smart address, you must be prepared to cough up thousands of Cedis for a piece of land that is sometimes no bigger than the size of a handkerchief. Never mind that such neighbouhoods are often barren or spiritless. There are neighbourhoods for those caught in the middle, neither rich nor poor. There are those I’ll euphemistically call “common floor members”, the poor. Under the poor are neighbourhoods for “ammbo bra brassband”, the hub where you find those below poverty level. And you are complaining about progress? What chutzpah!
Fifty years ago, when a Christian remarked on the quality of a church service, his meaning was very clear. Either the sermon went straight to his heart or the hymns sung were soul uplifting. Today with the same comment the Christian might be saying that the congregation made merry, danced to its heart’s content. To the point of doing “alabance”.
Church going is now entertainment, worship, and therapy, all slapped together. What more do these critics want?
The glass walls which generations of men erected between them and their children, restraining fathers from any PDA (public display of affection), making fathers only as symbols of authority, are now down. Today we have “Dada mba” often spoilt rotten.
If I sound to you a tad envious of today’s generation, I have failed in what I started to do. The truth is I would not switch places, not switch places, not for a million dollar payment, to be part of today’s generation, and I’ll tell you why. The upside of (fifty years ago I would have written the advantage of) growing up in a mixed community with children from different economic, social and cultural backgrounds is that you learnt soon enough that every human-being has troubles. The troubles might have varied from person to person, but they were troubles none the less. I like this. It prepared me for a future unknown, and I wouldn’t give this up for all the world.
The Ghanaian Times - Saturday, July 21, 2007 Page: 7
Saturday, July 28, 2007 Page 7