Africa / Ghana

Letter to my generation of young Ghanaians. Part I.

When I started writing this, I had many questions of where to start from or where not to. Where to end, and where not to.

From where and when does a generation even start and end?”

This is a letter to young passionate Ghanaians like myself. I am hesitant to do this but if I may, by extension, this goes out to young impassioned Africans as well …

Let me attempt to say what needs to be said plain and simple. Nobody has faith in us more than we ourselves. Nobody believes that we can be the change we want to see in our countries. I tell you. They say it is youthful exuberance. That we are no different from them when they were growing up. That we are green-horns. That we don’t understand the system… Or that there is no system. And that the system (or absence of system) is always much stronger than all of our efforts combined. That it will fight us. Beat us dead, frustrated and mercilessly to the point of agony. And that we too will soon realize that, we can only afford in our lifetime to prioritize ourselves, our families, our children. Let the curse of poverty continue…

Over the course of my summer in Ghana, I have had the rare privilege of interning with the Ghana Health Service – the governmental health body in charge of health surveillance, public health policy, etc. On the surface I think I haven’t done much but whenever I sit and reflect, I realize that this is the eye-opening experience I was searching for.

Since coming home, I have found that I have been unable to write. My creative juices have dried up. My brain feels fried. And so, I use the busyness of my days, planning and juggling many things all at once, as an excuse. But I now know fully well that, that won’t cut it. The root of the issue, has nothing to do with a lack of inspiration but perhaps the multiplicity of inspiration that confuses you of where to start from.

My job entails that I  travel. And in fact, that was the main thing I was excited about doing.Going into different communities far away from ‘home’, and yet still home, especially in regions I have never been to. I once wrote a blogpost about having travelled the world so much and not really having travelled the length and breadth of my own country as extensively. I find myself now in Sunyani in the Brong-Ahafo region. It’s in the wee hours of morning as I write this down and we’ll be headed to villages and communities in Doma Ahenkro in a few minutes. But anyway, that’s not the point. That’s just context.

Here’s the crux of my rant, and hence frustration. In the span of my work in Ghana so far, I have been advised a countless number of times by well-meaning supervisors who are directors of national programs, my countrymen with seemingly good intentions, to quit being so optimistic about coming home to work or  help my country. I have had it with the laughter, comments, jokes and teasing about me. Everything from “Hehehe, this girl, she doesn’t know the system haha!”  To “My friend, if I were you, who went to Yale, I would do very well to get into medical school, specialize in something that is rare in Ghana you know, like be a cardiovascular surgeon, do radiology or orthopedic surgery… And make the big bucks in America. You know. Anything from 350,000 to 750 grand. And then even if you wish, you can come to Ghana and build your mansion and just settle. Everybody will want you because there’s no other specialist in the country like you, so you can even bluff them like the way the big bosses do. You see, that’s it.

Oh and I forget the most important part of the advice my lovely, well-meaning supervisors give me “Metty, but in fact, even though you are living there, make sure you send your children to come to school in Ghana oh! As for the upbringing here, you cannot match that anywhere else. If you raise them there, they’ll be spoilt kids. They’ll be lost from their cultures forever. But bring them here for the good upbringing and understanding of who they truly are” . This last clause is often completed with an example or two of their friends who are earning big salaries as medical officers and how their children are ‘not well-bread or cultured abroad’ to say the least (of course, they don’t use these harsh words directly but that’s the implication anyways…)… Hmm. This where I begin to attempt to punch the entire blackhole in their arguments and way of thinking. Don’t get me wrong. My supervisors are amongst the smartest, intelligent, patriotic citizens of Ghana. Truly inspiring and so accommodating of me and my learning. But let’s face it. The precedents of the arguments are shallow, self-centred and shortsighted. We are a nation of blind individuals, how can we blame the one-eyed man for being made king? We are a nation of corrupt, selfish people…how can we blame our politicians of being corrupt? We are a nation of individuals that deceive themselves, why won’t pink sheets deceive our courts?
But we can’t blame them can we? The system did this to them. Obviously, victims of ‘this system’. It’s not their fault. But you see, for me, this is where we get it all wrong. If we can’t blame them, then it means we can’t blame ourselves too when we get there and find ourselves crippled at the mercy of “this system” we often talk about amiss. If we can’t blame them, then who do we blame for this “system” which for me is absent or exists as an invisible monster we all seem to know so well?

I worry for the youth of my generation. I worry because I really don’t want to die knowing that I evolved to look like the monster my supervisors have predicted we will all become. I really don’t want to stand alone fighting for what we all advocated for in the days of our youth. I really don’t want to be someone who lived her whole life complaining. Goodness gracious, we have already started complaining! With our numerous facebook statuses and blogposts (self-pointing here!) and conferences and discussions! By God!  How are we certain we are a different crop? The way I see it, we are beginning to look just like them…the generation we call our fathers and mothers, the generation running Ghana, the nation we came to meet … We are beginning to look exactly like the system that we were born into….


4 thoughts on “Letter to my generation of young Ghanaians. Part I.

  1. Great to hear from you Metty, and to know you are some of those things one of your posts complained about: loving Africa but not having traveled there enough. It may be a small start, and do not worry about the “advice” you are getting. Your supervisors definitely know the home situation more than you do, and the advice about kids? Take it IF you get to that stage. The education standard at the primary level would be sound-er and the kid(s) would know roots.

    As for where to settle and be of tremendous help, that decision would come easily; visit as often as you can right now and that decision won’t be difficult to make.

    Enjoy the rest of your stay.


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