Author Archives: Leah Wong

About Leah Wong

Leah Wong is entering into her fourth-year of Ryerson's journalism program, and has completed her minor in Politics and Governance. She was recently elected President of Ryerson's jhr chapter, and served as the Editor-in-Chief of the 2011 issue of Speak Magazine. She was an editoral intern for Global News Online's "Days of Remembrance" micro-site, and contributes regularly to Leah aspires to work for either a magazine or an online publication after graduation.

The obruni tries to speak Twi

Recorded clips of Chris and I attempting to learn Twi became a great source of amusement for the staff at Kapital Radio. During our “lessons” trying to learn the language, our colleagues began recording us struggling to repeat the words. Why, you might ask? Well, it was to make fun of us later on Fansu, a comedy program at the station. One of the problems was our poor pronunciation, and the other was our coworkers insistence on having us repeat difficult phrases so they could have a laugh. For some reason, me attempting to say “eight percent” in Twi had everyone in the newsroom falling off their chairs laughing.

Eventually we started to learn more useful things, such as basic introductions and how to barter in the market. While I am far from fluent in Twi, by the end of the summer I was able to greet vendors and purchase things in the market without using English. In case you wanted to travel to Ghana, or just wanted to hear some local phrases, watch Basic Twi for Obrunis, in which my colleague Shadrach teaches me the basic greetings.

Body kept in parking lot at Kumasi Police HQ

The corpse of a suspected car thief lies in the parking lot of the Ashanti Regional Police Headquarters, a car mat with a pool of blood just feet away.

What I learned from initial whisperings around the police station was that three car snatchers were caught in Kumasi, having stolen a taxi in Accra. The vehicle was tracked using a new software, which was released by police just weeks before the incident in an attempt to reduce the increasing incidents of car theft in Ghana’s cities.

In the three hours I waited with my colleague at the station, no official police statement was issued. According to news articles the following day, the man and his two suspected co-conspirators opened fire, unprovoked, on police officers, who returned shots. The man was killed and two of the other suspects wounded. While one suspect escaped arrest, the others were taken to the police headquarters, where the body was placed in the parking lot as police waited for the Ashanti Regional Police Commander to assess the body.

One of his suspected co-assailants is guided onto the back of a police vehicle. His foot, shoeless and badly injured during the incident, leaves a trail of blood between where the police were holding him and the truck. The third assailant in custody stands in the centre of the growing crowd, tears streaming down his face just metres from the body.

“Hey, human rights!” A fellow journalist calls out at me, as we hover outside the office of the Ashanti Regional Police’s Public Relations Officer. Knowing that I work with Journalists for Human Rights he wants to know my opinion on the shooting. I tell him that since they haven’t made a statement yet, I don’t really know what led to police opening fire on the suspects.

What concerns me isn’t that a man was shot during a police chase, but that there is a body lying in the parking lot of the police station with hundreds of people casually strolling by. In the three hours we stand around waiting for someone to make an official statement the body remains lying in the lot; moved slightly when police officers with gloves do a quick examination.

Journalists and one of the police’s public relations officers snap pictures of the body. I leave my camera in my bag while at the police station. I didn’t check the papers to see if photos of the body appear the following day, but I know it’s likely to have accompanied the stories. In Ghanaian newspapers it’s common to see pictures of people who have hanged themselves, or bodies of car crash victims.

After three hours standing around the station without an official police statement, I head back to the station. Within half an hour my colleague joins me, as the crowd of journalists had dissolved, needing to get back to their respective newsrooms. When I was leaving the station the body remained in the lot, moved only slightly during the police examination. The group of journalists speculating about when a nearby pickup truck would finally transfer the body to the hospital morgue.

KNUST Graduation and a brush with royalty

Leah Wong at the KNUST Graduation Ceremony, photo taken by graduation photographers

Just like students graduating from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology I shook the hand of the Ashanti King.

A week after our tour of the school, I attended the first day of graduation, held in the school’s great hall. Unlike the week before when exams were in session, the grounds were filled with people. All around graduates, their friends and families were snapping photos.

When I reached the venue I was seated inside with the former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kwasi Adarkwa’s wife in the front row, giving me a clear view of the day’s festivities. Following the procession of both convocation, the university’s Chancellor and the University Council, I realized that I was going to be seated in front of the Ashanti King for the entire ceremony.

The valedictorian, Kwadwo Boakye Boadu, received the highest marks for students from the two colleges, provided the usual inspirational speech to his fellow classmates. He encouraged his fellow students to continue to work hard as his lecturers engrained in him that “only in the dictionary [does] success come before work,” reminding them that “it doesn’t happen in the real world.”

The motivational speaker for the event was Frank Tackie, the President of the Ghana Institute of Planners. Tackie encouraged the graduates to take hold of opportunities, even if it means leaving the country. In his 35 years as a planner, he has traveled to work in over 20 countries globally.

The graduation ceremony was for both the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the College of Architecture and Planning. Each graduating student shook the hand of the chancellor of the university, the Ashanti King, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.

Following the graduation ceremony, Prof. Adarkwa and his wife took me to a reception at the Vice-Chancellor’s house. There I sat in the same room as King and enjoyed refreshments. The King did not eat the same food as I did though, as he travels with a cooler of his own food wherever he goes. We sat waiting for the King to depart, and though I did not have my camera, Prof. Adarkwa said he would introduce me to the King.

After a brief introduction about how I was the daughter of one of his Canadian classmates, and that I was working at Kapital Radio in Kumasi, I was able to say hello and shake hands with the King. Shaking hands with the King is a great honour by Ghanaian standards, something I truly realized when I told the story to my coworkers later that week.

Know Your Rights takes on gender and politics

Though the recent contest between the current president, John Evan Atta Mills, and the former first lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, to take the flagbearership of the National Democratic Congress just ended, talk of the battle has yet to cease. One of the key subjects of discussion throughout the race was the ability of women to run Ghana. For the first show of Know Your Rights following a few weeks break, we discussed the issue, with international human rights activist, Dr. Charlotte Abakah. In addition to hearing Abakah’s insight on how the nature of politics and society are preventing women from seeking positions in office, we also talked about the role of Islam in Ghanaian politics.

One of the arguments against having a women as the flagbearer of a political party is that Muslims in Ghana would not support a female candidate. In discussion with Abakah and a phone interview with a Ghanaian politician who is both a woman and Muslim, we debunked this religious argument.

To watch some behind the scenes footage from Know Your Rights, check out the video below.


Stay Jay and E.Fine visit Kapital Radio

Kapital Radio — The Heart of Music

My coworkers have developed a habit of calling me up to the studio when Ghanaian celebrities come in, whether it’s a Black Star’s player or a musician. Most recently two West-African musicians, one from Ghana and one from Nigeria, came into the studio to talk to NY DJ on the station’s afternoon show, Homestretch. Ghanaian hiplife artist, Stay Jay’s, song “Shashee Wowo,” is currently playing on the Ghanaian airwaves. E.Fine, the Nigerian artist, has a collaboration with Sarkodie entitled “Stamina.”

To listen to some of NY DJ’s interview with the two artists, and to hear some a Capella watch the video below.


jhr interns make their news debut

In celebration of Kapital Radio’s 14th Anniversary on July 1, some of the off-air staff at the station were asked to read hourly news bulletins. For the 1 p.m. news bulletin, Chris and I were invited to read the news. In an attempt to impress our many Twi (the local dialect) teachers, we even learned an intro!  The bulletin we read was much shorter than the ones we help out with during the week, but it was a good chance to showcase the news-reading skills we have learned in journalism school.

For the anniversary the sports team had some fun and built up hype around a married couples vs. bachelors football match. The captains of the two squads were interviewed about their readiness for the match. Unfortunately there is no football pitch (large enough for teams of adults at least!) nearby the station so it is still unknown who would prevail in a battle.

To watch clips from our newscast, watch the video below.


Operation Hand in Hand – caring for mentally disabled children

A Dutch doctor has lent a hand to care for children with mental disabilities in the government’s failure to make mental health a priority.

In Nkoranza, behind the St. Theresa’s Hospital, lies the community Operation Hand in Hand. The group cares for mentally disabled children who have been abandoned by their parents, often the director says, because of the misconception that these children are cursed.

Groups of two or three children, depending on the level of care needed, are placed under the responsibility of a caregiver. The caregiver plays the role of a guardian, living with the children and ensuring their well-being. During the day some of the children go to a special school, which has been funded by the government, or they participate in craft workshops. The crafts are then sold in a gift shop on site, as well as online.

The organization cares for children who have been abandoned not only by their own parents, but also by the government’s failure to recognize the need to care for the mentally disabled. During a press conference in Accra, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Anand Grover, criticized the government’s failure to make mental health a need.

A bill on mental health was introduced to parliament in 2006, but it has still not passed. While Grover says the government has legitimate concerns with the current draft, he believes these issues need to be sorted out soon. The bill would set out a proper framework to dealing with mental health within the country.

Take a look at the Operation Hand in Hand grounds in a short video!


Welcome to KNUST

We were fortunate enough to get a tour of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) after my dad got in touch with one of his classmates from his days at University of British Columbia. After finding out I was going to Ghana, my dad told me about his former classmate, who he had recently discovered had finished his term as the Vice-Chancellor of Kumasi’s university. With the help of Google, Linkedin and a few emails, my dad and his former classmate were able to get in touch 30 years later. Professor Adarkwa kindly arranged for Lin, Chris and I to go on a tour of the campus, which is located on a 16 km2 plot of land on the outskirts of the city.

The KNUST campus is beautiful. There are open green spaces and trees all throughout the grounds. As much as I love the downtown location of my own university, Ryerson, I felt pangs of jealousy over the botanical gardens located on campus. Both my school and KNUST are fairly close in age, with the Ghanaian university just kicking off its 60th anniversary year. The history of my university is also similar, while Ryerson’s roots began as a polytechnic institute, KNUST started as the Kumasi College of Technology. Both schools have full university status, while maintaining a technological focus. Though the campus takes up substantially more space than Ryerson, the student population is fairly similar; KNUST has a population of just over 28,000 undergraduate and post-graduate students.

Check out a mini-tour of parts of KNUST. If you want to read more about the university read Chris’ post on it.


Remembering a Revolution

Though Ghana is now one of the most democratic countries in Africa, a bloody coup d’état was one of the steps to this success. On June 4, 1979 the now celebrated coup d’état led by Jerry John Rawlings overthrew Supreme Military Council, replacing it with the Armed Forces Revolutionary. After leading the country under military rule between 1981 and 1992, J.J. Rawlings ran for election with the newly created National Democratic Congress party, and won. Since 1992 elections in the country have been considered, for the most part, free and fair by international monitors.

Thirty-two years later the June 4th revolution is still celebrated throughout Ghana. In Kumasi, citizens gathered at Jubilee Park to hear the former president speak. The celebration was not only to commemorate the uprising, but to rally support for Nana Konadu’s presidential bid. The former first lady (think Ghana’s Hillary Clinton) is contesting President John Evan Atta Mills for the flagbearership of the ruling party. Unlike Bill Clinton, J.J. Rawlings is not shying away from the forefront of his wife’s campaign. Though Konadu is a political force in her own right – demonstrated by the 31st December Women’s Movement – Rawlings is continuing to speak up about his wife’s ability to be president.

During his lengthy speech at the celebration Rawlings criticized the current Mills’ administration, saying his leadership lost the 2012 general election about eight months ago. Konadu supporters are saying that new leadership is needed in order to maintain the party’s power in the upcoming election. The rally is just one part of Konadu’s cross-country campaign leading up to the party congress at the start of July.

Check out a photo-slide show of the event and listen to some clips from NDC Deputy General Secretary, Kofi Adams.


Ghanaian Football

My first weekend in Ghana the IYIP interns directed myself and some of the other university interns out to Teshie to watch their friend play football.  Teshie is located in Greater Accra and due to the traffic we only made it for the second half of the game. The game was fast paced, and the players are very talented. The match we watched is two semi-professional teams: Accra and Teshie.

Football is extremely popular throughout Ghana. Many games of pick-up football can bee seen driving around Kumasi, and on the news bulletins at Kapital Radio, the sports broadcast is almost entirely football news. At this match, Ghanaians of all ages stopped by the pitch to watch the game, and the fans were very vocal. The coach even started to argue with some of the fans at the end of the game.

Having arrived just before half time we missed the only goal of the game, which was scored for the home team. Though our team lost, the trek out to Teshie was well worth the long taxi-ride, and our new friend enjoyed the large group of Obrunis (the term Ghanaians use to refer to foreigners) cheering for him.