Years back, I was privileged to discuss with one Geography Professor at the University of Cape Coast during the course of my undergraduate studies on why Ghana was still struggling to develop.
After an extensive discussion, most of our conclusions centred around leadership - the lack of the wherewithal to see things through, and our 19th-century mentality to nation-building: the mentality that some academic disciplines studied at the universities are better off than the others. Today, we still have some parents who are discriminatory when it comes to the academic interest of their children and force them into reading programmes at the university they have no interest in. Among some elites in our country, individuals are perceived as not high achieving once they mention that they come from certain academic backgrounds.
My motivation to write this article is to free ourselves, and the next generation especially, from this intellectual slavery and take delivery of all tutorial disciplines, because each discipline unfolds potentials and help solve issues. In this case, I center on the study of Geography in Ghana.
A characteristic culture of developed countries like the USA, Canada, Germany, among many others, is that they have all embraced Geography education in their countries. It will be in our first-class interest as Ghanaians, and Africans, to embed Geography education at all levels.
Geography makes use of other academic fields and relates well with supplementary academic disciplines ranging from Economics, IT, Mathematics, Statistics, Agriculture, Medicine, Politics, among others, to tackle sociocultural, economic, and other real existence conditions of humans and nations.
In easy terms, Geography explains the relationship between the earth and people in solving problems. The study of Geography has helped developed nations resolve environmental issues, urban and rural challenges, food and water insecurity, corruption, waste management, poor city planning, and a host of other development issues in their economies. Geographers look into and interpret the places that make up our world.
In my opinion, geography education is seen differently in a developing country like Ghana, and its not greatly appreciated. The study of geography from early years through to University has had minimal concentration. The principal issue affecting geography education in Ghana is that most teachers at our primary and Junior High School who teach geography related topics in subject areas like Citizenship Education and Social Studies are not adequately endowed with the teaching skills required for geography education. Most of these class and subject teachers have low motivation for teaching geography related topics. It will be a great move if the Ministry of Education focuses on geography education, and sheds some light on recruiting skilful teachers in geography education.
One major reason for advocating for the study of geography as a core subject in our educational curriculum is that, the study of geography helps students to recognize the geography of previous times and how geography has performed vital roles in the evolution of people, their ideas, places and environments. Geography has played a key role in the development of many countries with histories of low development. Students of geography are able to appreciate the histories behind our development, and are able to institute a better way of improving our physical nature, taking into consideration our location.
Also, welcoming geography as a core subject will help students in Ghana be in a position to make sensible judgements about matters involving relationships between the bodily environment and society. When it comes to matters concerning our environment and the society, it requires a collective effort in sustaining humanity. Thus, everyone needs some knowledge on sustaining the environment. Making good judgment on issues concerning our environment is a significant knowledge geography students possess, and it will be in our own advantage when Geography is made a core part of our syllabus.
In addition, students of geography will be able to advance an intellectual map of their community, locality, region, the country and the world at large so that they can recognize the “where” of places and events. In this present age, knowing the location of places and understanding the events of time help a lot in the developmental planning and evaluation of communities. This is because a student is able to organize, direct and execute development plans very well.
Students of geography are able to comprehend mental maps of their localities and places, which updates them on development events of places. For instance, in comparing the Ghana Education Curriculum and that of the British Curriculum, students in our education sector are less informed on the mental maps of their communities and the occurrence of developments. However, it is different when it comes to the British curriculum because the study of geography is a core part of the syllabus at the primary curriculum. Having said this, we could also conclude this as a reason why we should accept the subject Geography as a core subject of our curriculum.
Finally, occupations associated with the study of geography are always futuristic. When our students' interest in the subject geography is ignited at the early years, it builds their passion for the subject and exposes them to copious opportunities that are available all around the world. Careers in geography range from GIS, remote sensing, environmental consultancy, lecturing and teaching, town planning, cartography, law, weather forecasting and architecture. The study of geography will prepare students to choose the right careers for themselves.
In concluding, to realize the world interlinkage and to become a better global citizen, the study of Geography at the early years through to our secondary schools and universities should be made a core part of our academics. Without Geography in the curriculum there would be some essential gaps in the knowledge and specialised skills, particularly the geographical way of understanding, examining and finding solutions to human problems analytically. Countries who accepted the subject for it early years and primary students have seen results in the development, and it will be, honestly, best for Ghana as a developing country.
By: Michael Atuahene Djan