Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Snow Ploughs & Fractured Syllabi in Africa

A curious, colourful tale is spun about 1960s-Ghana. The facts are diverse and sometimes do not agree. Nobody has proved that it happened, but nobody has denied it too. I am going to tell you why I am about to tell you the story. Then, I will tell you the story itself. 

You already know that my pet topic is educating our young people – the practical, usable, developmental type that they are not getting. Well, the story is an analogy for our kayoed school syllabi not just in Ghana but many other African countries.

In the 1960s, the government was very committed to farming. Vast swathes of lush land were set aside for State farms all over the country. The government did not want to dump labourers on the land to till away like serfs. The country was still fresh from independence from British rule, and the government wanted to treat its people nice.

The government flew local experts to (I think it was) Czechoslovakia (remember that country?) to study from their own collectivised farms. Our experts were impressed with everything they saw. The preparation of the land, the sowing in neat, geometric rows, the tractors, detachable trailers, combine-harvesters; everything was agricultural heaven.

Our experts thanked their gracious hosts and resolved to come back and practise what they had learned in Ghana. Before they came, they ordered some of the wonderful equipment they had seen on the Czech farms.

A few months later, back in Ghana, the machinery arrived. Oh joy! They were trucked to the State farms all over the country and quickly put to work. BUT THE TRACTORS WOULD NOT WORK! It baffled the local experts because they had seen this same equipment on Eastern European farms.

The story does not end well. They did not live happily ever after. What our ‘experts’ had seen were not tractors. No! They were huge SNOW PLOUGHS! Our people had seen snow ploughs in temperate Czechoslovakia and imported them to equatorial Ghana.

Think back to my analogy about our school syllabi. Do you not see glaringly sad similarities?

(Picture credit -


  1. Always look on the bright side of life, Am i right? Hence to me, it seems it was freezing cold, snowing and blowing a gale in the whole country(Ghana) at the time the local experts resolved to take along with them the snow ploughs. Plus i think our young people learnt a thing or two: to never question the judgment of a local expert who had just received quality tuition/training on farming practices in Czechoslovakia.

  2. hahahaha.
    the idiots that we were; what stopped them from asking what the equipments were? i believe the name would have said it all. histroy repeating itself? or we are not ingenious enough?

  3. I believe this is a myth. Nevertheless, you're right - it does highlight the problem with adopting culturally incompatible forms of government, education, medicine, religion, etc.

  4. Kwame Mensa-Bonsu23 February, 2011

    @ is very true. But then anyone who dreams of....not to talk about actually thinking of and tries to implement collectivised a very big idiot.

  5. I know this is so serious but I was just laughing. Good point!

  6. @ Tetekai:

    What stopped the Ghanaians from asking what the equipment was, was (in one word) HUBRIS!

  7. @ Nana Fredua-Agyeman:

    Thanks man. We ought to take our campaign somewhere. Hate to continue seeing the zombie-creating educational system.

  8. @ Yeh:

    You are right about importing 'non-tropicalised' forms and systems here.

    About the Snow Ploughs, it is not a myth. It actually did happen.

    Just today, I met one of Ghana's oldest and pre-eminent journalists. He confirmed that not only is it true, but also he saw it with his own eyes.

  9. @ Kwame Mensa-Bonsu:

    Thanks for the confirmation.

    Re collectivised farming, shall we take a closer look at it. What is so iniquitous about it?

  10. @ Myne:

    Sure you're right. It is good to laugh at ourselves sometimes. Then, when others laugh at us, it doesn't irk so much.

  11. Alrighty, I stand corrected - I just find it hard to believe that one can mistaken a snow plow for anything else other than what it is... but I'm a (disappointed) believer now:-) Anyway, the fact that this happens all the time is a product of hubris and idiocy (fair enough), but i think a huge part is ignorance - a lot of well-meaning people fail to realize that the fact system A has been successful in western countries, does not necessarily mean it will generate the same results in Ghana. And I'm happy that your blog brings some of these issues to light.

  12. Kwame Mensa-Bonsu24 February, 2011 talks about collective farming...the Soviet communist type...that the CPP gov't wanted to impose on Ghana. It would only have resulted in even more poverty and hunger!


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