Ghanatta Ayaric and Evans Akangyelewon Atuick (interviewers):
Excerpts from an Audience with Paramount Chief of Bulsa, Sandemnaab Azagsuk Azantilow II
at The Chief’s Palace on October 6th, 2013
In an audience granted Ghanatta Ayaric and Evans Akangyelewon Atuick on behalf of Buluk, Journal of Buluk Culture and Society, the new chief of Sandema and successor to the late Sir Azantilow Ayieta I, Chief Azagsuk Azantilow II, outlined his views and plans on a number of topics related to his reign and to the development of the Bulsa districts in general. The topics and the Chief’s views on them are reproduced as follows: health, education, environmental protection, Bulsa Archive and new Sandema Chief Palace.
In addition to the execution of my duties as a traditional leader, I’m interested in promoting good health among our people. A casual observation in many homes would reveal that personal hygiene is not being taken seriously. Basic hygienic habits like washing the hands, especially after going to toilet, cleaning the teeth daily and regularly cutting fingernails have still not caught up with many people. In cooperation with the ministry of health, I intend intensifying public education on personal hygiene in our traditional compound homes. This is a duty each community can undertake at the local level.
As an educationalist, alumnus of the University of Cape Coast, and a retired teacher and director of education, Naab Azagsuk Azantilow spoke at length on the challenges facing education in Buluk and proposed measures to deal with them
It is needless to stress the importance of education as one of the most important tools in the development of society and communities. I am very concerned about educational efforts in Bulsa. That our districts are lagging behind in education is an unfortunate fact. The kind of teaching we witness in our schools today is not good enough for us to make our children catch up with the rest of the country. We have a situation in which our schools either lack teachers or are staffed with teachers who do not teach well or both. When schools reopened this year, it took more than three weeks for regular teaching to start in some of our schools, due to the lack of teachers.
The challenges our schools face are further compounded by the lack of adequate school inventory (desks, chairs, shelves, cupboards, etc.) and teaching materials (books in particular). Our schoolchildren are hardly exposed to and given new impulses because of the lack of certain materials. Do not expect a child who has not been taught how to use a computer at school and hardly has access to one outside school to be able to answer questions about computing.
Of course, we cannot sit and watch standards of education in Bulsa falling without doing anything to arrest the situation. I plan getting teachers and all the stakeholders in education to a round table discussion for us to share views and adopt better measures to deal with the situation. Our teachers should also be made to understand that while education is the responsibility of all the stakeholders, teaching (as required by the curriculum and syllabus) is their sole responsibility.
A fact I want to stress at this point is the importance of basic education. Research in basic psychology of education has shown that many of the essential processes in a child’s mental development take place in the early years. That is where the foundation is laid. If we fail to lay this foundation, very little or nothing substantial will be achieved later.
Primary education therefore needs a lot of attention. Ideally it would be good if we had the means to finance and train bright young Bulsa to take up teaching posts in our basic schools and help lay this solid foundation.
In this regard, if our friends abroad have the means to help us realize this goal, in the form of working materials and scholarships, it would be appreciated very much.
But while we hope for this sort of assistance we can be proactive at the local level. It is important for the Ghana Education Service (GES) Directorate to endeavour to attract and appoint trained teachers to teach at the basic level.
With regard to education in general, it is my avowed policy to encourage parents, the community and the GES office to work actively together. The GES has to do more serious monitoring and supervision of the work of teachers.
There are cases of teachers who regularly absent themselves from school, and/or do not often meet the demands of the profession in terms of conduct, lesson preparation and updating their knowledge and teaching methods for instance. This has to change.
I have been informed that government has allocated laptops to selected schools in our districts but these are still locked up somewhere in the GES instead of reaching the beneficiaries. Why anything like that should happen beats my imagination. When I was working at VALCO Trust Fund there was a time they were distributing computers to senior schools. I intervened on behalf of our basic schools and got some of the computers to be allocated to them.
In the present age of internet and information technology, we need to start teaching our children how to use the computer from class one as this will help them immensely in the upper classes.
Every year we have students and volunteers from universities and development agencies abroad coming to work in our districts, and I am certain there are often some of them who have knowledge in computing and would be ready to help teach our children how to understand and use computers and the new technology in general. We cannot benefit from such opportunities when our schools lack the necessary equipment, computers for that matter.
Education is what is going to save us, so it is a top priority for me. If we are able to tackle all the issues I have been talking about, we will promote and sustain good educational standards in Bulsa.
To help us achieve some of these goals there is the need for us to compile a database of names of well-educated Bulsa people and their various areas of knowledge and experience, so that we can tap our human resources for the benefit of our people. No matter where they live and work today, we need all these people to come on board and contribute their quota towards the development of our districts. And I would always be grateful to receive and discuss matters relating to the development of Buluk with them whenever any of them come home for a visit.
We are being active in the area of environmental protection since I became chief. For example, we have a policy that makes its obligatory for people who want to build new houses to include planting and growing trees in their building plans. Each person will have to plant at least two or three trees on the building site. Efforts on educating people to stop felling our useful trees, e.g. shea-nut trees, for the making of charcoal, are being intensified. This kind of public education also extends to bush-burning for hunting or whatever purpose.
Dr. Franz Kröger sent to me some materials for the proposed Bulsa Archive. These are intact and stored in my private house in Balansa. They are not safe here in the house (Sandem-naab-yeri). It is my intention to get a suitable place for them as soon as it is convenient.
Proposition for a new Sandema Chief Palace
This house is becoming congested. I propose the building of a new palace to be called the Azantilow Palace, so that whoever becomes chief of Sandema resides and works from there. When that person dies, his family returns here (original Sandemnab-yeri) and the new chief and his family move into the Azantilow Palace.
At this point Evans Akangyelekum Atuick wanted to know if the new palace will maintain the traditional architecture or take on a completely modern style. The Chief’s response was as follows:
I have contacted an architect on the matter and when a place is found and he surveys the area, we will listen to his advice and recommendations. However, I think it should have elements of both styles. In terms of tradition Bulsa society is not new, so as a new chief I cannot ignore our traditions and introduce something completely new when our style of building is still very relevant today. In any case we need to start the process and pursue it to a successful conclusion.
Sandemnaab Azagsuk Azantilow II (middle) at the Sandema Fiok Festival 2013