ASSESSING THE ROLE/IMPORTANCE OF LANGUAGE IN TRANSFORMING OUR WORLD: THE 2030 AGENDA FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.
In recent times, development organizations have come to adopt a participatory approach in undertaking developmental projects in rural areas and places where a lot is desired in terms of development. As a developer whose interest lies in the use of communication tools in facilitating development, it baffles me to see the neglect of the very crucial element of culture that most people living in very remote and under developed areas cling on to by development organizations that usually militates against steady progress expected by these organizations. Ghana committed itself to the tenets of the Millennium Development Goals in September 2001. To ensure full implementation of these goals, it mainstreamed them into the respective national development policy frameworks. According to the Ghana MDG’s 2015 report, progress towards the attainment of the MDGs has been reported on annually since 2002 in Annual Progress Reports on the implementation of national development policy frameworks. Special MDG reports have also been prepared biennially to examine trends and to assess the supporting environment and resources needed to attain the goals.
Interestingly, a search through these numerous reports shows no inclusion of language as a resource needed to attain these goals. Although Ghana’s progress has been mixed (similar to that of a number of Sub Saharan African states) with targets such as halving extreme poverty (MDG1A), halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water (MDG 7B), universal primary education (MDG 2A) and gender parity in primary school (MDG 3) have been attained. Substantial progress has been made in reducing HIV prevalence (MDG 6C), access to ICT (MDG 8F) and reducing the proportion of people suffering from hunger. However, only slow progress has been made on full and productive employment (MDG 1B), equal share of women in non-agriculture wage employment, and women’s involvement in governance (MDG 3), reducing under-5 and child mortality (MDG 4), reducing maternal mortality (MDG 5), reversing environmental resource loss and improving sanitation (MDG 7)[Ghana’s Millennium Development Goals 2015 Report, pg. vi].With the MDG’s dovetailing into SDG’s (Sustainable Development Goals), it’s important that aside been guided by experiences gathered in the execution of policies and programmes within the MDG framework, we as a country utilize language as a means to achieving the 17 SDG’s.
Unfortunately, Africa is the only continent where language is used to define us. Most people have classified Africa into Anglophone, Lusophone and Francophone sections probably as a result of our ties with our ‘colonial masters’. African societies are highly multilingual and polyglothic using their mother tongue in their local environment and any other inter-ethnic lingua franca once they leave their environment. Unfortunately, these indigenous languages are not relevant means of mass media and not widely used in formal education. These languages are unfortunately not the languages of national governments and languages of mass communication are hardly the languages of the people. These been the language situation in Africa is very alarming and detriment to our emancipation. Considering Ghana as an ideal example, 51% of total annual broadcast hours is dedicated to English alone. It leaves the rest for all the many Ghanaian and other African languages. This authenticates the linguistic and communication discrepancy/mismatch on the African continent and this has very serious consequences on the development efforts of the African people.
In a case study titled ‘MULTILINGUALISM IN GHANA’ by Bodomon Adams (1998), he classifies languages in Ghana into 3. They include;
A. Indigenous Languages:
· Akan; Fante, Bono, Kwahu, Akuapem, Asante, Akyem etc
· Mabia; Dagbani, Kusa, Mampruli, Gruni, Waale etc
· Gbe; Ewe, Fon, Aja, Mina.
· Gruma; Konkomba, Maba, Baasari.
· Guan; Gonja, Nchumbru, Krachi, Gichode, Nawuri, Nkonya, Cherepon, Larteh, Ewutu, Efutu.
· Ga-Adangbe; Ga, Adangbe.
· Nzema; Nzema, Sehwi, Anyi(Aowin), Ahanta, and Anofu(Chakosi)
· Grussi; Kassim, Issalim(Sisala), Chakali, Tampluma, Vagala, Mo
· Buem; Adele, Lelemu, Bowin, Sekpele, Siwu, Santrofi, Logba, Avatime
· Nafaanra; Nkuraena, Nafaanra and Ntrubo-Chala
B. Other African Languages:
· Mande Languages (Ligbi, Bisa)
C. Foreign Languages:
It is important that we are exposed to these classifications so we can adequately and appropriately be informed on how to effectively communicate with these groups in achieving the 17 goals outlined in the SDG’s.
Language has a symbolic function. There exist a tight relationship between language and ethnicity in many parts of the world. Language is also seen as a granary of the world view of its speakers. It expresses and best contains the indigenous belief systems of the people. New belief systems are sometimes immediately added to the existing belief systems. Development is only possible with the massive involvement of the people themselves and not only the elite. This importantly puts the indigenous language at the center of development discourse. Therefore, there is the need to evolve the language paradigm of development to be called development linguistics.
Summarily, if Africa and specifically Ghana would be able to excellent perform or achieve the SDG’s within the next 15years and also be economically prosperous, emphasis should be placed on language and other indigenous tools in communicating and ensuring effective participation of all and sundry in the development process. Mass media is a very crucial tool but a lot of work has to be done through community radio broadcasting, community theatre, and many other art forms. There is no doubt the role programs like by the fireside and concert parties have played in the development process of the people.
Governments must involve all stakeholders and create enabling environments for partnership opportunities between Aid organization, CSO’s and social enterprises as well as start-ups. When this is done, we can move at a faster pace and development would be much more decentralized.
Sampson Adotey Jnr
Senior Year, UDS
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Integrated Development Studies (Development Communication Option)
Founder/Team Lead- DORTS ( A non-profit organization that uses indigenous communication tools in education rural communities on issues relating to Health, Education, Civil Rights, Agriculture etc. )
Volunteer, Odekro (www.odekro.org)