Marka in Ghana

Sunday, July 16, 2006

My first interview with Mohammed

This is one of my favourite people in Tamale, and I had so much fun doing this interview! (I have it recorded, but I thought some people might want to know how it went before I get home!) Sorry if your question wasn’t asked, I will try to get a variety of everyone’s questions in the upcoming interviews!

So tonight I am talking with Mohammad.
Yeah.
What do you do Sir?
I’m working with OIC Tamale as a security man. I joined OIC August last year, and they posted me in the village where the training center is. I worked there for almost 4 months and then they sent me back to the main office. So at the main office I worked for almost 4 months and then from last December until up to date, I work at the OIC guesthouse.
Is this your only job?
No, this is not my only job
What else do you do?
I’m a block manufacturer, I cut blocks to sell. I started this business almost 3 months ago. Now that I’ve started it, I think that it’s better. So, from here, I get to the house in the morning, I will take my bath, take my breakfast and then get to the others, the dissen, the bricks where I work throughout the day until about 5:30. And then I come back to the house, take my supper and then come back to the guesthouse to work.
So when do you sleep?
Well, I do sleep, but most of the times, if I get to the house, I will sleep maybe 2, 3 hrs and that’s ok for me. You know, we security, we don’t sleep in the night, so we work through the night. ** every 3 days Mohammad works a 24 hr shift **
What would you do with a million dollars?
Ok, anyway, I have a future plan. Like, I’m planning to have a mango farm. That’s my plan.
On top of the brick business?
Yes, I will still work in the block business, but I want to add the mango farms to it.
Why do you want to do mango farming?
Because I have a family, so I want to plan for my family because the work that I’m doing, I don’t want my children to grow up and sufferer the same as I am doing. So I want to plan very well for them.
Where would you have your mango farm? In Tamale or outside of the city?
Yes, I want to look for a land in a community. I want to have a 10 acre land. So I will start off with maybe 2, 3 acres and when time comes I can finish with the 10 acres. So that is what I am planning to do.
What makes you happy ?
I live with my family, so I have a wife and four children.
How old are your children?
One is almost 11, then the other one is about 6 and then 3 yrs and the last is an infant. So I have 3 daughters and one son. So I am happy that I live with my family.
Do you get to see them often? Or only when you go home between jobs?
If I get to the house in the morning, I get to spend 3-4 hrs with them. Then when I come back to the house around 5:30 I get to see them again.
What makes you proud to be a Ghanian?
Well, all my parents were born in Ghana, my grandfathers, my great grandfathers, all my family was born in Ghana. So I’m proud.
So you are proud of your family heritage?
Yeah.
What do you think about Ghana’s performance at the World Cup?
I think they did well. This is their first time performing at the World Cup. They were able to beat the Czech’s and the USA.
How has life changed in the last ten years in Ghana and has it been for the better or the worse?
Well, we have had a change for the worse. Because it seems that the economy is going backwards, it’s not going forwards.
Why do you say that?
Well, I’m looking at how things go about. 10 yrs ago, a bag of cement cost 6000-7000 cedis, and today a bag of cement is 75 000 cedis.
But isn’t that just inflation? It happens everywhere doesn’t it? Because in Canada, gasoline was a lot cheaper than it is today.
Well 6 years ago, we used to by it at 6500/ gallon and now its 40 000 cedis.
So is it that people can’t afford the higher prices or are peoples salaries increasing as well?
People salaries are still the same, and prices are going up. 10 yrs ago, it would cost about 2 million cedis to build 3-4 rooms in a house. But now, I don’t think 10 million cedis can buy even 10 bags of cement, which would give you half a room.
So what do you think needs to change for Ghana to be better in the next ten years?
Well, if you are living in Ghana, you are struggling for yourself. Because we don’t expect the government to do stuff for us. Because if you rely on government, I don’t think you will go for it. They are always going backwards. So everyone is trying to do something for himself.
Tell me what you think the typical day of the average North American is like?
I don’t understand the question.
Ok, so here in Ghana, most people may start off the day by collecting water, and then come home and either cook or fetch breakfast for their children. Then their children will go to school and they will go to the farm. Do you think it will be the same or different in Canada?
Well, I have never been, but I think over there will be better
Better how?
Well, it seems that things are going well over there.
So what do you think would be better?
Like, if you are there, and you are working, I think that you will be well paid. Because here, salaries are too low. I don’t get up to $150 a month. But over there, I think that if you for almost 5-6 hours, you will get more than that.
Yes, for some this is true, but you also have to keep in mind that everything else is more expensive. Like the average meal is around 40 000 cedis and I pay over $350 in rent per month, plus utilities which can cost almost $100 a month.
Upon all that, it is better than here. Because here, you can take your salary and it wont even take you up to two weeks, because you have family that is depending on you. And all that you mention, we are to pay.
Well same in Canada, many people have families to take care of and pay for too.
But I’m sure that the salary you collect over there is better than in Ghana.
If you could teach a Canadian something, what would you teach them?
From me? Eee! This is a terrible question. Ok, what I will teach them is what they expect from me. If they expect something from me and I have the knowledge then I will teach them.
Ok, but do you think there is something that we are lacking? What can we learn from you?
Ok, we have our culture here. I can teach you some our cultures and we have so many communities here. Maybe, it may be different than Canada. So, I can teach you how we live here. We live in town and communities. I can teach you that one.
So how do you live in a community?
Well, to live in a community, its not easy. We have so many that do not have water, or electricity. There is nothing like what you get in town, you can’t get it in a community. So you can’t live in a community unless you learn how to live in a community.
So when I go back to Nalerigu, what do I need to learn?
Well, unless you be with those who live there, and practice their living before you live with them. But sometimes, if you don’t practice it, they may think that you neglect them. Maybe the way you live in town, you cannot live the same way in the community. So you must learn from them before you live with them.
What do you think about the NGO’s in Ghana?
They are doing very well. Because in the early 80’s, up to 90’s, I think the NGO’s have gone well, because they used to go deep into the communities and educate them. Most of them were building schools for them. Some dig wells for them for good water and some…. Well they are doing well. They have improved people’s lives.
What is your opinion of foreign NGO’s in Ghana?
Ya, a local NGO is different from a foreign NGO because most of them don’t have the resources. Most of them depend on either the foreigners. You see you cannot start with, its hard to get the capital to start an NGO, unless you contact or get someone to support you before you do it. So most of them depend on foreigners. I think the foreign NGO’s are doing well, more than the local NGO’s.
Why is that? Because they have more money?
Ya
But do you think they have the same contact with the community as the local NGO’s?
Yes, because, when they come, they can’t get to the community direct, unless they get somebody from Ghana to lead them and he will direct him on what to do. So I think that that is the way they do it.
Is there anything else you want to say to my Canadian friends?
Yes, ok, we appreciate you coming here. What you came to do for us-
But what did I do?
You know, you did a lot here. I’m not with you, but I know that you did a lot. Because to travel from country to country, it’s not easy. And I don’t know the type of work that you are doing here, but the way I see how you are moving, I know that you are doing something and something better. So I appreciate what you are doing.
Well, I don’t think I’ve done very much, if anything I learn everything from you! But thank you very much!

I think some important information about Mohammad that wasn’t disclosed in the interview is that he only has a grade 6 education because that was all that he could afford growing up, and the mango farm he wants to start is to employ some of his younger brothers who are currently dependant on him as well.

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