The Minister and the Intern by Angela Smith

Sanitation minister Cecilia Dapaah and Adom FM intern Rahinatu Abdul Bach

If you are a journalism intern in Ghana, don’t dare call a Minister to request an interview. How could you?

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A young trainee journalist had the “hubris”, on the urgings of her news editor, to request an interview with Ghana’s Minister in charge of Sanitation, Cecilia Dapaah, to do a story on sanitation in the country. The minister got angry and uploaded her anger on the young trainee reporter; an intern.

“Who gave you the permission to call me to speak to me directly like that?” the minister confronted the reporter.

Speaking in Twi, the minister said: “You don’t respect…please go off”, before dis-respectfully dropping the line. “DIS-RESPECTFULLY”, because, “RESPECT” is a two-way street. If the minister thinks the young reporter disrespected her and her office because she is an INTERN, then the minister is equally guilty of SHOWING DISRESPECT to her own OFFICE as well as to the young reporter with her reaction.

Education or the pursuit of knowledge is not only limited to the classroom. It is not only the responsibility of teachers to educate young people; it is the responsibility of society as a whole – teachers, parents, ministers of state, parliamentarians, chiefs, the list goes on and on.

Politicians, in particular, have the chutzpah of lying to the youth that they are the future leaders of their countries and yet when it comes to the hard duty of guiding them in life, they would suddenly claim they are attending a meeting or doing other “URGENT” business, and leave the task to others.

The question is, will Minister Cecilia Dapaah accept a vote cast for her in her constituency by an eighteen-year-old student INTERN? Would you, Minister Cecilia Dapaah instruct election returning officers in your constituency to turn away all INTERNS coming to vote simply because they are INTERNS?

A MINISTER and an INTERN for all we know, are both equal under the Ghanaian Constitution. Minister Cecilia Dapaah would most certainly gleefully accept the one vote cast by an eighteen-year-old to add up to the number of votes to get elected to Parliament but would not talk to the same eighteen-year-old because they happen to be an INTERN. Very interesting indeed.

On the other hand, one can understand the frustration of the minister. The capital city of Ghana, Accra is littered with rubbish in most areas of the capital and being the sanitation minister, the pressure may be too heavy for her to add the problems of an INTERN on her list.

As for the young reporter, do call other ministers when your news editor asks you to call. Hold your shoulders high; journalism, by no means is not an easy profession.