Background: The Constitution of Ghana identified culture as a tool for National Development. In view of this, a cultural policy was enacted to spell out the goal and how cultural activities should be implemented in Ghana. The policy is set “To enhance Ghanaian cultural life, to contribute to the nation’s human development and material progress through heritage preservation, conservation, promotion and the use of traditional modern arts and crafts to create wealth and alleviate poverty” (Ghana Policy, 2004). The National Commission on Culture established earlier by PNDC Law 238 in 1990, is designated to spearhead administrative functions and ensure budgetary provision for the implementation of the policy. The commission is to operate through a number of cultural institutions and agencies. The Centre for National Culture (CNC) is the main institution mandated to liaise with the all district assemblies, the Ghana Education Service, NGOS, agencies, the traditional council, individuals, various clubs associations and other stake holders towards implementing the cultural policy. All cultural officers who run the CNCs at the district levels are to work closely with the Assemblies in carrying out cultural related programs. They are supposed to be actively involved in cultural and educational programs carried out by the assemblies, the Ghana Education directorate and all departments. The commission and the CNCs are currently under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts.
Cultural policy implementation: It is worrying to note that about 90% of Ghanaians do not know the importance or even the existence of this policy. It is also very sad that, even politicians who passed this policy at parliament in 2004 seem to have forgotten or ignored this policy when it comes to use of their common funds to execute cultural programs. The CNCs are bedeviled with numerous problems that needs to be tackled. Having a CNC at districts is one thing and ensuring these CNCs do their work appear to be another. Personal survey and interactions with colleague officers at various district CNCs reveals many do not have office accommodations and theatre infrastructure. About 60% of the offices of the CNCs at the Districts do not have offices to operate. Centres with office space share such with other Departmental staff. Apart from some few Regional and National offices of the CNCs, no office of the CNCs at the District level has a theatre for organizing programs.
Common Funds: There are also funding problems springing out in almost all the districts. Per the cultural policy of Ghana (stated in 5.6.3 (C)), a designated amount of the district common fund is to be allocated for CNC for programs but in reality this seems not to be working. Every office of the CNC submits annual and composite budgets to be incorporated in the districts and National budget. Majority of CNCs do not function because of refusal of assemblies to allocate designated funds to the centres. The centres are often told that the Assembly has exhausted its funds and therefore cannot support the office. Many district culture officers complained bitterly about the frustration they go through striving to get funds to execute programs. Most officers also complain about not been included in sub-committees to work on cultural issues in the Assemblies. Those who fear intimidation would not even approach the municipal Assembly for funding to execute their programs. These officers often show no report to the regional directorate of the CNCs. I believe the cultural policy will be a failure if the various CNCs are not functioning properly. Thus, it is imperative that all the centres are well-resourced with the requisite logistics and infrastructures to enable them function toward the achievement of the goals set in the cultural policy of Ghana.
Usurping CNC: Every department in the Government sector has its roles to play in the development of the country. Normally, NGOS, Agencies or individuals who are into educational activities seeks mandate at the Ministry of Education to operate national level. Similarly, those at the District level would also have to seek permission from the Ghana Education Directorate before carrying out educational activities. This is the norm and it is applicable to many sectors in Ghana. However, in the case of CNCs, individuals organize cultural related programs without even a notice to the CNC. In fact, some refused to be registered or affiliated to CNC and those who have registered and have gained international recognition, no longer recognize the Centre as representative of the Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts Ministry at the District level.
Past and Present Compliance: In 2006, there was directive from the Commission on Culture authorizing all Centres to place all amateur groups and performing arts groups under the administrative control of CNC at all districts. This was to ensure that whatever these groups did fell in line with the cultural policy which advocates for the preservation, developing, and promotion of Ghanaian cultural heritage. In those years, there were good working relationships between the Centre’s and the various performing groups in the Districts. The Centres had periodic meetings with these groups and coordinated their programs to ensure unity and sanity prevailed among various groups. During that era no group could dire organize any program without the consent or approval of the CNC. All cultural related programs were being monitored by the CNCs in the Regional and Districts. Today, it is sad to note that individuals who are into event management in the culture arena, are not complying with the rules and regulations set in the cultural policy. These individuals do not recognize that their activities are to be regulated by the CNCs across the country. What is the ministry and the commission on culture at the national level doing to remedy the situation? The cultural policy was not just passed by parliament to be a dormant document. I believe there were lots of inputs made by respectable men and women who sacrifice their time and resource to study the policy. I also believe strongly that government as at that time used tax payer’s monies in coming out with this policy. Hence, it is expected that the Ghana cultural policy must be respected and be adhere to.
The Way Forward: The National commission on culture under the ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts should officially write to the national and regional coordinating councils, metropolitan, municipal and district Assemblies outlining the position of the offices of the CNC, their roles and programs as defined in the cultural policy of Ghana. This would indeed help the CNC operate as the cultural policy mandates and also position itself to generate income for our country.
The president of republic of Ghana, Nana Akufo Ado, has reiterated in many occasions about giving priority in the Tourism and culture sector. This will only come to fulfillment if the commission on culture, the traditional authorities, etc. who have dealt with issues related to the sector are involved in the process. Government has also made proposal to establish creative fund. The minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts disclosed in the media that feasibility studies were being conducted by the ministry. There are various talented artisans and performing arts groups who remain unrecognized locally and internationally because of financial constraints. My passionate appeal to the government and the ministry is to identify these people through the offices of the CNC so that they can also benefit from the creative fund. The president focus is also to reducing the unemployment rate in Ghana by introducing the one factory one District project, one damp one village, and the planting for food and jobs. Unemployment ratio in Ghana can also reduce if the Government also consider resourcing the CNCs in theatre infrastructure development. If every Centre gets a theater or a recreational Centre, it will generate internal funds for the smooth running of the office, contribute financially to the Municipal Assembly, and promote individual performing artistes and artisans. At the District levels, exhibitions and concerts shows, drama, workshops and conferences could then be organized to enhance productivity. The CNC can also collaborate with Ghana education service in organizing cultural and educational programs such as quiz and reading competition, drama festivals etc. for a fee. All these will resurface the work that the commission use to do when it was independent on its own.
The writer is also the Principal Cultural Officer for the Centre for National Culture (CNC) Effutu Municipality in Winneba.