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Who Is An Illiterate?

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“You are an illiterate!” – This is a very common insult among Ghanaians, especially school children. It is probably the one insult that sums up your whole life and very depressing as such.


According to the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, an illitrate can be any of these definitions, “not knowing how to read or write”, “having or showing a lack of knowledge about a particular subject”, ” not grammatically correct”.

I have been struggling with the concept of education since high school and trying to understand why we refer to others who can’t read or write ‘English’ illiterates.

This is a very sensitive topic I have shelved for a while and I think it’s time for me t0 shed my opinion.

When you mention education, the first thing that comes to mind is the classroom. A teacher, in front of the class, teaching Math, or Geography, or English, etc.

We grow up with the notion that, if you cannot speak english, read or write, then your life is worthless, then you are “illitrate”.

Let me phrase this better ; We grow up with the notion that if you cannot speak english like the whiteman, read like the whiteman, then your life is ‘shaky’, then you are “illitrate”.

We ban speaking local languages in our schools and students are punished for speaking languages that represent them. Students are punished for expressing their culture, students are punished for not speaking the “white man’s language”.

Our educational curriculum has “white culture” deeply rooted in it.

Why do we have to learn about what someone did in Europe 100 years ago?

Why should that be my priority?

Why do I know much about Napoleon and Da Vinci than I do the different Ya Na’as in my own culture?

Why can I tell you more about the European history than I can do my tribe, let alone my country?

Why do we teach this without realizing there is everything wrong with it?

Why is our curriculum filled with “Western Brainwashing”?

Why can’t we build and teach our youngins’ our way?

Why must I qualify to live in my society only if I do it the western way?

Why do I hate made in Ghana products but I prefer and trust foreign goods?

Why do I think my traditional religion is bogus but rather Christianity or Islam are the way to go?

Why do I hang a picture of a white man in my room I wake and worship everyday and believe he will make my life better?

Why do I have to fake a foreign accent just so my fellow my Ghanaians will treat me as a foreigner when I go places?

Why is this blog post in English?

Why can’t I write this out in my local language without knowing how to read and write in english? Why should that be?

Do you know who is illiterate? You are!

You are illiterate to your culture!

You are illiterate to your traditional religion!

You are illiterate to cultural practices! “Barbaric” practices they say!

You are illiterate to understanding the human mind!

You are illiterate to the thinking process!

You are illiterate to understanding emotions!

You are illiterate to your traditional health system!

You are illiterate to information!

You are illiterate to the science around you!

You are illiterate to my culture, yet I know everything about yours!


I think education is good only and only if we teach more of our culture.

Only if we teach our children to understand who they are and appreciate their society.

Only of we teach our children the true meaning of happiness and success.

Only if we teach our children to love and accept learning foreign materials but never see that as the only option.



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  1. Well Said Rash. I’m short of words and honestly don’t have anything to add especially realizing how illiterate I am.

    Thanks for the post and awakening…

  2. Those are the powerful words of an independent thinker! WOW! All I can add is that the education system should be tailored first to local needs, taking into consideration comparative and competitive advantage of our environment to increase wealth and manage our resources. Then those who want to pursue global business can’t focus on Western Civilization.
    To finish, let me add that religious indoctrination and comparison to Western habits contribute a lot to the cultural “illiteracy” you listed…Keep posting!!!

  3. nice post. We can all learn from the rest of the world, and should find our own way, greetings from Krakow, Poland. I heard you on the BBC here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p038dxtw congrats Richard Lucas

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