I accompanied my parents to Ghana in 1966 as a toddler and attended the local school from 1970-71 in New Tafo Akyem, where I immediately noticed I was the only white pupil. My skin actually fascinated the other pupils who marveled and sometimes pinched me in a bid to examine it.
Indeed, I was able to merge and integrate into the school and community in a short time – we sang, played and walked together regularly to school. Whenever I disturb the class the teacher punished me by hitting my fingers with a ruler. I did quite comfortably in school, however I was not very successful in a lesson titled “Telling Stories” and the teacher pointed out to my parents that I should practice more at home.
Undeniably, telling stories was what needed to be practiced more often – in fact my parents used to joke that in Ghana we learn to lie smoothly as a child. Telling stories can also be thought of as strengthening creativity not to mention the fact that it is equally nice to narrate, listen and read stories. Nevertheless, there are also situations where the truth must be told or known. The Finnish conception of telling the truth and the attempt to tell the truth is obviously unique in this world. Truth is a difficult concept and perhaps turning it into something else is more common than we think.
An English family that lived next door to our leafy home in New Tafo Akyem marveled at my parents since their children were being educated in boarding schools in the United Kingdom. It was clear that enrolling their kids in local schools in Ghana was virtually out of the question. Obviously, Finns do not think like them. Being Finnish is quite often, a wonderful thing.
Finland was not involved in the scramble for colonies and did not possess one – thus Finns don’t have the kind of colonial history that other European countries have. But we have been and continue to be involved in the economic exploitation of developing countries by the advanced countries. Colonialism involves interfering in political structures and culture, but where lies the line between the encounter of cultures and constructive interaction, where does it turn into transforming or incorporating other traditions into one’s own culture?
As I sit by the Atlantic Ocean in the Ghanaian capital Accra, I look out and imagine what it looked like when European ships first sailed on the horizon. How would the position of Ghana, other African countries and indeed the world at large have been if Europeans did not interfere or colonize Africa? I wish Africa and its history would be taught in Finnish schools. Africa has had incredibly prosperous kingdoms, dazzling architecture, diverse traditions, art and everything through which we classify ourselves and Western cultures. Africa is the second largest continent on earth and sometimes it feels like the vast majority of Western people have an incomplete – and even a misconception about its people, cultures and history.
I am a middle-aged, middle-class and middle-income Finnish woman with blondehair and gray-green eyes, 162 cm tall and slightly overweight. A mother of an adult daughter. Thus I do have the time and resources to do something meaningful.
While traveling in Ghana in February 2017, I set out to plan concrete actions to address poverty, inequality and its resultant problems. On the other hand, I also saw opportunities to get involved in the quest to build Ghana, support the local culture and people’s own identity on a practical level, albeit in small steps. At the same time, I can share information about Ghana in Finland while trying to tell the past and present story of Ghana.
I operated a small music school in Ghana between 2018 and 2019 and I noticed how the children learned and how motivated they are and the joy of families after their children performed on radio. I will never forget a Ghanaian grandmother, whose grandchildren were part of the performance, shed tears of happiness. I was able to employ local teachers on a small scale and also provided a small recording studio for musicians. I also got scammed, but I was prepared for that option and survived nonetheless. When it comes to people for whom everyday life is a struggle, it is clear that all tricks will be in place.
Ghana also has very rich people. I caught a glimpse of a couple stepping out of a Maserati – a beautiful woman wearing a stunning dress, a huge diamond ring on one of her fingers and high heels that I cannot wear even when in a sitting position. The man was in a dazzling white suit alongside a trendy haircut, shiny branded black shoes and a gold watch on his wrist. They live in mansions with bars, swimming pools, electric fences, security guards and guard dogs.
How lucky is the Finnish egalitarian society. That’s what is made possible by equal and quality education for all – school meals, inclusion of the arts in Finnish early childhood education and schools, highly skilled teachers etc. Woe to us happy Finns.
My next trip to Ghana will be at the end of July 2022. Now we have rented an office space, purchased equipment and the first courses will start in mid-August. Through the Finnish Education Outreach, we are able to support and help Ghanaians and Finns to build a better world for all of us. You too can support our work by becoming a member or by making a financial donation – no amount is insufficient as one Euro can be helpful to our cause in Ghana.
Our operations are transparent and the money will be used for education in Ghana. You can follow our activities here on our website and soon on our Facebook and Instagram accounts.
You can also join us as a volunteer in Ghana. Feel free to contact us.