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“We must work collectively for the welfare of our community”

Prof. George Sefa Dei By Joe Kingsley Eyiah, Toronto George J. Sefa Dei, a Professor of Social Justice Education at the Ontario Institute of Education at University of Toronto has called on Ghanaians to work collectively for the development of our community. Speaking on the topic, ‘The Role of Education in Empowering Ourselves and our Communities” at the 16th Annual Ghanaian Canadian Achievement Awards at the Claireport Convention & Banquet Hall in Toronto, Prof. Dei who is also known in private life as Nana Adusei Sefa Tweneboah I c o n t e n d e d t h a t , “Educat ion should prepare us to understand what community and what community membership mean. ‘Community’ is not defined by temporal or physical limits. And neither is the community apolitical. It is contested and power-embedded. But it is still a community.” Bringing to life some wise sayings in our African heritage, the keynote speaker drew attention to some Ubuntu wisdom that, “I am because we are and because we are therefore I am.” He supported this with his own quotation: “Any community is as good as we collectively work to make it”. [Dei, 1996]. Professor Dei then stressed the fact that education does not happen solely in schools and the four-walled classrooms but it is about everything we do – families, streets, communities, churches, workplaces, union halls, and so on. “The social worth of education is not measured by what and how many degrees or qualifications one has, but instead, by what we do with the education and learning we receive for ourselves, peers, families, communities, nation and global world and the LAND on which we occupy”, he said. He highlighted some responsibilities for the young learner for helping us as Ghanaians/ Africans/Canadians to build our communities. These include: a) Understanding education as a right and also a privilege. b) Understanding your own responsibilities in your education. Using education to uplift o u r commu n i t i e s , s t r e n g t h e n i n g relationships, families, self-help and mutual interdependence. c) We must allow our knowledge to compel action, i.e., to transform society. It should not be knowledge for the sake of knowledge. It should be knowledge that is put into action to become relevant in transforming society. d) We must endeavor to build “communities of learners” able to reach out to each other. We are never “communities of sameness”. We are “communities of difference”. This means we come at different levels of preparedness and must bring everybody i n c l u d i n g al l ou r differences as strengths to the community. e) The idea of ‘giving back’ what society has bestowed on us (e.g., c o m m u n i t y w o r k / service). Even as our parents or we pay school fees etc. we must also remember that society has largely contributed to our education. f) In effect we define our “success” broadly to include both academic and social success. Failure is not the flipside of success and neither can we serve up the success of some for consumption to explain the failure of others. Professor George Sefa Dei concluded his keynote address by calling on Ghanaians living in the Greater Toronto Area to contribute our respective knowledge, talents, skills and expertise to building a strong Ghanaian- Canadian Community Organization that brings us all together. He cited theGhanaian Canadian Association of Ontario (GCAO) elections slated for November this year, and pleaded with all to get involved by volunteering to take on some tasks, leadership roles in our community. Prof. Dei who was once the President of GCAO emphasized that, “GCAO must be made more effective from our collective participation so as to become a mouth piece for our community as it continues to work towards the establishment of a Ghanaian Community Centre, a meeting place that gives us an identity in Canada. He therefore admonished all to assist in membership drive for an umbrella organization (GCAO) and the many local organizations in our community promoting self and collective development for our peoples. Also,to help with the many numerous collective initiatives to find solutions to challenges facing our community around youth education, domestic and youth violence, e m p l o y m e n t , a n d Ghanaian family social welfare, and immigration as well as supporting initiatives that define our responsibilities, o b l i g a t i o n s a n d connections with the Mother Land, Ghana and Africa. He finally congratulated the award recipients and, the Ghana News for organizing these awards of excellence in our community for sixteen consecutive years. Prof. Dei then remarked, “We meet here to celebrate and recognize excellence. Such recognitions of excellence must continue to make a difference for ourselves, our families, our communities and the nation. This i s important so that we can continually meet to celebrate our successes. After all, no one wants to meet to celebrate their irrelevance!”

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