Marcus Garvey, a prominent pan-Africanist and Jamaican intellectual, once said “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” I, and I believe many other Ghanaians, agree with this profound sentiment. The vintage African tradition of gathering children by the fireside to hear stories from elders is a reflection of the depth to which this sentiment is ingrained in our consciousness. During these story-telling sessions, we learn of the heroic acts of our ancestors—some of the stories are true, while others are at best, half-true—so we can know what we are capable of, and what is expected of us.
It is upsetting that this culture of oral tradition is fading away; but even more troubling is the fact that we are actively desisting from teaching our history in school. It is embarrassing that a student could graduate from our universities without any appreciable knowledge of our history. Unless the student is reading a course that requires government or civics, there is no way, as per our rigid system, for one to delve into unrelated territory, even if one is interested. The cumulative effect of this ignorance is our profound lack of appreciation of current events, both at home and abroad. It is crucial for us to know our past so we can understand how we got here and perhaps, if we want to move forward, how to do so in a sensible manner, without repeating the mistakes of the past.