Vital signs are promising for a creative revival

May 25, 2001

The University of Ghana is leading a drive to revive a national creative-writing programme in schools in an effort to encourage young writers and to restore Ghana's strong literary tradition.

Kofi Amyidoho, head of the English department and an established writer, is to approach the ministry of education to suggest that creative-writing courses be included in the national curriculum. He also wants to see competitions launched as a way of showcasing new talent.

Key Ghanaian writers and academics, including Lawrence Darmani, the winner of the 1992 Commonwealth Writers Prize for his first book, Grief Child , are behind the plan.

Professor Amyidoho said his generation had many more opportunities than people today to follow in the footsteps of writers such as Ama Ata Aidoo.

Creative-writing courses in schools, higher and adult education brought out the talent of budding writers and an annual competition ensured their work was published. Writers also benefited from an extensive network of well-stocked public libraries, including mobile ones to serve more remote communities.

Ghana's national writing competition ran between 1963 and 1976. A selection of the best writing was published each year.

"The talent of a whole generation of writers was sustained by this recognition of the importance of creative writing. It was particularly helpful to know that our pieces would be published," Professor Amyidoho said.

Last month, Ghana hosted the annual award ceremony of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. The ceremony has given those teaching creative-writing courses added encouragement. But they want to see better groundwork in schools.

Selected university students last week attended a writing workshop given by one of this year's Commonwealth regional winners, Anita Rau Badami for her novel The Hero's Walk . She said she was impressed by the calibre of the Ghanaian students' writing.

The English department is eager to press ahead with its proposals now that there is a new government.

President John Kufuor is seen as being sympathetic to higher education. He is supporting plans to strengthen the sector and the cabinet is probably one of the most highly educated in Africa. Education minister Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi is a former professor of zoology.

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