Monday, February 13, 2012

February 13th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

Last week we considered how easily we can become blind to many obvious things by being overly focused on one. Not just in flying but in many aspects of our lives, homes, businesses and governance. I have been intrigued at the reactions from those who read about this, both on-line and on-paper. Many people visited the image on the Medicine on the Move website and were amazed at the reality of the Troxler effect – and it caught their imagination as they considered how many things they had become blind to.

One area of particular concern is the current blindness to people’s identities. It amazes me – it really does. I was asked to fill out some forms with my staff by the Ghana Revenue Agency; no worries, until you read the content and start to fill it in with them (many staff need us to read and write with them). Not only am I amazed that Ghana now apparently has postcodes (yes they ask for the postcode on the form!), but they also ask for a ‘proof of identity’.

There is a current belief, started, it seems, by the ‘compulsory registration of mobile telephones’ that every person in Ghana, regardless of age or occupation must have one of the following, in order to be considered a ‘Person who is able to own a telephone’; and now, it seems, to be formally employed!

Proof option one is ‘Passport’. Clearly, not everybody has such a document, nor is it a legal requirement to possess one. Some own several, perhaps creatively! For a ‘National Identity’, such evidence is probably not the most applicable.

Proof option two is ‘drivers licence’. Again, something that not even half of the population possesses, and an item that many appear to have obtained ‘by alternative methods’. What is more, many people are driving without one! Sadly, the deaths on the roads are witness to the challenge in this area, making it a poor choice for anything other than driving related evidence!

Proof option three is ‘voters ID’. Being this time of year and the election season warming up, we are reminded of the ‘fake ID’s’ out there. What is more, many people are not in possession of one. How many people voted in the last election? Did everybody who could vote get a voters ID? Of course not! It is not a legal requirement to vote, and for those below the voting age but of working age, or indeed telephone possession age, it seems a strange sort of identity to ask for. As an employer I would never ask for this as a proof, since it is one step away from a political question – something that has no place in the workplace.

Proof option four, the final one, is ‘National Identity Card’. Fantastic option…if they exitsted… Remember the song… “Our Nation calls for duty now; all for one and one for aaaall. The time is now or never friends, we are called to get involved. Register with the National Identification Authority. … If you are a Ghanaian, or you are legally resident in Ghana, if you are over fifteen years, get your national ID card. Our Nation calls for duty now, all for one and one for aaaall.” – well you remember it too, don’t you! It even asked for children to be registered from six years and above, if I remember the rhymes correctly!

What happened to the National Identity Card?. How many people in Ghana have one? Sadly, the current focus on these four unique identities is potentially disenfranchising many people – and making them feel ‘left out’ and isolated – marginalisation of the rural and poorer people in our society, not on purpose, but by ‘Troxler-ing them out’ through focusing on the one cross – making a whole sector of society meaningless to the brains of those with the power to give.

I believe that the ‘telephone registration programme’ will now allow somebody with a suitable ID to register for you. Doesn’t that defeat the concept? Why can’t a student or other form of ID be used to register the phone? What if, as is the case for many, many rural folks, they have no ‘suitable’ ID? Such people are the ones who need access to telephones, and unencumbered access to employment, and yet they are marginalised by the desire for a proof that is neither a legal requirement nor something that is made freely available to them.

I have felt the bitter taste of this concept first-hand… I live rurally, and do not have a street, nor a house number, I have no electricity bill, no water bill and thanks to pay-as-you-go telephony, no telephone bill. I do have a pilot’s licence, passport, drivers licence and a host of other proofs of identity are insufficient for me to hold a credit card – and with many banks, even a bank account!

Why do so many organisations quickly forget that the majority of the people with the potential for development and growth – the national reserve of potential – do not have the required pieces of paper to break over the barrier forced down upon them, keeping them from development and forcing them to consider creative ways to move past their fortunes of birth?

Talking of birth! I was told this week that all the old Birth Certificates are no longer valid. Everybody has to get a new one – a green one! Oh, and that will only cost you thirty Ghana Cedis, if you have an old one, or fifty five if you don’t have one already. Not to mention ‘No we don’t give receipts until you get it back – in one month.’

How many people in rural Ghana a) have a birth certificate and b) can afford the price of getting one? What happened to ‘all for one and one for aaaall’?

It really seems to me that the folks with the desks are focusing on the wall opposite them and failing to look out of the windows. Please, if you are a person able to change this, and you can give me a proof of your position and ability to bring about a change in these policies, I will do something special to help encourage you in the bringing about of that change.

The first government official, who is able and prepared to change this state of affairs and to allow people, without question, to exist and grow, because they are people and not because they own a piece of paper; and can prove it, will be given a free flight, by me, over some rural areas of Ghana. I will show them first-hand the state of the villages without any usable roads, the people living, no struggling to live, against the challenges of many diseases, without water, sanitation or power – and who are trying so hard to raise themselves from their position – without the ‘proof of identity’ needed to remove barriers to their progress.

I see it. I feel it. I am not focused on one point. I am not suffering from the legislative or policy Troxler effect. Are you? Together we can change the focus – if we want to and if we truly believe ‘all for one, and one for all’.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

1 comment:

  1. You hit the nail right on the head...the finer more important details are lost in an overly textbook approach to everyday questions which require PLAIN COMMONSENSE!!!