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Opinions Tue, 21 Feb 2017

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Functional illiteracy at Accra passport office

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

20th February 2017

I live outside Ghana, somewhere in southern Africa. In 2011, my old passport expired and I paid 120 dollars and filled in passport forms from the Ghana High Commission. My first name is Kwesi, being a Fante. I received the passport three or four months later with my first name misspelt Kwasi with the letter A replacing the letter E. In 2016, the passport expired and again I paid 120 dollars to renew it.

I filled in the forms and they were sent to Accra. I told the Consular Officer that my first name is Kwesi and not Kwasi. Lo and behalf, about three months later when I collected the passport, my first name was still misspelt Kwasi. It was so disgusting, nauseating, and embarrassing. I was utterly flabbergasted. I began to wonder what level of education we have in Ghana where people in Ghana government offices are incorrigible and unteachable. Or is it a deliberate ploy to make all Fante names sound like Asante or Ewe names?

I recently had a chat with my Fante brother where I live. He is a professor of Mathematical Physics. I had witnessed on his passport forms for him to renew his passport. He told me the good news of having received his passport from Accra. Then he later narrated the bad news which was similar to my ordeal, whereby his middle name of Kweku had been misspelt as Kwaku. Fantes write male native names as Kwesi, not Kwasi, Kojo not Kwadwo or Cudjoe, Kobena not Kwabena, Kweku not Kwaku, Kow not Kwaw or Quao, Kofi not Kwofie or Koffi or Quofie, Kwame not Kwami or Quarm or Quarmie. In academics, nuances and nitty-gritties matter a lot, especially if you do supervise students’ research work such as masters’ and Phd dissertations and theses respectively.

It teaches you the discipline of paying attention to greater detail, which unfortunately our current generation in Ghana lack. Do we have the problem of a lost generation on our hands?

Whenever I travel to places like South Africa or Oxford, I struggle with myself when I have to fill in forms at the various airports by painfully writing my name as Kwasi instead of Kwesi. This is a mental torture to me and it is self-demeaning as it affects my self-esteem and sense of identity. Are there any lawyers on Ghanaweb to come to my rescue to help stop this rot at the Passport Office in Accra?

Employees at Ghana passport office should sit up. Another agony I previously encountered was having the vital statistics entries in my passport done in lousy and unprofessional handwriting, in black ink. It debased the value of the passport as the scroungy handwriting gave a bad impression to both the holder and the beholder. We have had the hang of such crap from the Passport Office. The new Minister of Foreign Affairs has a herculean task of cleaning the rot in the Aegean stables. He or she must crack the whip fast.

Email: kwesiaatasakyi@gmail.com

Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

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