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The war against coronavirus: The mother-tongue weapon in Ghana

Sun, 5 Apr 2020 Source: Rev Ernest Perbi-Asare

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the novel Covid-19 infection and its spread as pandemic globally.

It is understandable the feeling of anxiety the quick spread COVID-19 has generated in Ghana since it is very difficult to understand the ‘almost all English’ Coronavirus disease education on TV, Radio, Social media and or hearing from other people which has made many vulnerable to feeling of anxiety, stress and sadness.

Public education and awareness creation have been recommended as the best approach to containing the spread of the pandemic.

This requires a better approach in getting people educated in the language they understand best (mother-tongue) since it is very easy for people to feel overwhelmed by everything they are hearing about coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Having an information on COVID-19 in one’s mother tongue can help understand, cope and even make positive contribution for others.

Mother-tongue defined

Amonoo, 1989 defines mother-tongue as the medium of our innermost feelings and thought whereas Quarshie, 2002 describes it as that native language into which one is born and in which one grows up which is the person’s first language as compared to other languages one might learn later in life, for instance, at school.

A mother-tongue is not the same as a vernacular which is the common language of a region or group, no matter how naturally a person may be well vexed in such a language and its usage. Rather, the mother-tongue is a person’s own native and indigenous language, very much intertwined with a person’s identity; it confirms and affirms who a person is, where one comes from and ones sense of identity.

A mother-tongue is a repository of indigenous wisdom, knowledge, insight, science, theology and philosophy. It is in the mother-tongue that one thinks and dreams, before translating ones thoughts to other languages (Bediako, 2006:37).

Former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela once said that, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart.”

This article takes a critical look at the state of inadequate information and education on COVID-19 in the mother-tongue of Ghanaians and appeal to government and other organizations like the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and other language agencies to speed up work on translations and audio language information to make the Ghanaian people know more about COVID-19 in the best language they understand.

Exploring mother-tongue in Ghana for COVID-19 Education

Wikipedia has it that, Ghana as a multilingual country has about eighty (80) languages spoken out of which 11 languages (Akuapem Twi, Asante Twi, Ewe, Dagaare, Dagbani, Dangme, Ga, Gonja, Kasem, Mfantse and Nzema) are Government sponsored.

In spite of its immense benefits, the mother tongue is being relegated to the background and the home which is supposed to spearhead its use is rapidly disregarding it.

The National Commission for Civic Education which is an independent, non-partisan governance institution set up under Article 231 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana to promote and sustain democracy and inculcate in the Ghanaian citizenry the awareness of their rights and obligations, through civic education have said through the Greater Accra Regional Director, Lucille Annan that, “We have provided our budget for COVID-19 education to parliament, but we have not received it. Maybe they are still working on it for us so for now, we don’t have funds. That is why for now the partnership with the Church of Pentecost is of so much help to us.” This she said has hindered their responsibility of doing a mass education exercise to Ghanaians on the coronavirus pandemic.

The Church of Pentecost which has the public awareness creation of COVID-19 at heart on March 24, 2020 released 10 cinema vans with fuel and vehicle maintenance packages as well as drivers allowances during the entire period of the exercise to the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to be used for nationwide public education in the country.

Since NCCE has not received their budget yet and the 10 Vans which have been released by the Church of Pentecost cannot cover the 16 Regions of Ghana, it will be more patriotic for the government, individuals and organizations come on board to help so that the awareness can reach all the regions including the indigenous communities of our dear country where mother-tongue usage is the day-to-day medium of communication.

What others have done with the mother-tongue weapon

Media Houses such as Adom Fm, Adom TV, Peace Fm, Okay Fm, UTV and PENT TV among others must be commended for sensitizing and educating the general public on their shows using the mother tongue not forgetting OKOTO TV for producing safety precautionary measures on COVID-19 in Guan Language for Okere people of Ghana.

Bureau of Ghana Languages (BGL), an institution that provides effective and excellent services for the promotion, orthographic control and learning of Ghanaian languages and other cultural aspects through pragmatic strategies and influencing government policies is also commended for their educational awareness in some mother-tongue on COVID-19 for the people of Ghanaian.

Considering the fact that the best approach to fighting COVID-19 is to stay at home, awareness creation and education in the mother-tongue will help bring families together and help them share the knowledge gained on COVID-19 in their mother-tongue with their neighbors for better understanding. It behooves on all well-meaning Ghanaians especially state agencies and cooperate organizations to join the war against COVID-19, using the mother tongue as a weapon in Ghana.

References

Amonoo, R. F. 1989. Language and Nationhood: Reflections on Language Situations with Particular Reference to Ghana – The J. B. Danquah Memorial Lectures Series 19, February 1986. Accra: Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Bediako, K. 2006. Religion, Culture and Language: An Appreciation of the Intellectual Legacy of Dr. J.B. Danquah– J. B. Danquah Memorial Lectures, Series 37, February 2004. Accra: Ghana Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Quarshie, B.Y. 2002. “Doing Biblical Studies in the African Context – The Challenge of Mother- tongue Scriptures,” Journal of African Christian Thought Volume 5, Number 1, June: 4- 14.

Languages of Ghana. Accessed from Wikipedia

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/2020/03/03.

Bureau of Ghana Languages https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureau_of_Ghana_Languages Accessed on 2020/03/03.

National Commission for Civic Education. Accessed from https://www.nccegh.org/2020/03/03.

NCCE yet to receive funds for coronavirus education – Director. Accessed from https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/2020/03/03.

The Church of Pentecost Releases 10 Vans to NCCE to Intensify COVID-19. Accessed from https://thecophq.org/2020/03/03.

OKOTO TV. YouTube. Accessed on 2020/03/03.

Email. e.sperbiasare@gmail.com

Columnist: Rev Ernest Perbi-Asare