Since his arrival in Ghana last year, the Lebanese Ambassador to Ghana, Mr. Maher Kheir pledged to advance the educational co-operation Lebanon shares with Ghana. Though the Lebanese community has contributed immensely to education in the past years, Mr. Kheir believes a lot more needs to be done to reach more students and make this co-operation more impacful on the lives of Ghanaians and Lebanese nationals.
Despite his short stay in Ghana, Mr. Kheir has already developed a soft spot for the Ghanaian people. In his own words, he puts it thus: “Ghana is a beautiful country filled with bright colours and exceptionally friendly and hospitable people. Their multiple English accents and nuances are floral and rhythmic. They beam with hope and optimism.”
Ambassador Maher Kheir, aside his diplomatic career, has studied law and literature and therefore, places much premium on education. He believes that education is the foundation of any great nation and any great people. This education should be based on the pillars of law, journalism, arts and cultural diversity. This philosophy is the primary reason why the Lebanese scholarship program supports brilliant students at the School of Languages, Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) and law students at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the University of Ghana. In addition to his believe in education and culture, he also cherishes the rich relationship Lebanon and Ghana shares.
Lebanon-Ghana relations predate formal diplomatic courtesies between the two countries. It is a relationship between the people themselves. Lebanese-Ghanaians are very attached to Ghana and many of them consider themselves Ghanaians of Lebanese background. Many Lebanese found in Ghana do not only understand some of the indigenous Ghanaian languages but speak them very fluently. Lebanese and Ghanaians began their relations long before Lebanon and Ghana became Republics.
This relationship goes beyond a century (100 years). They have lived together, married among themselves, suffered together and enjoyed several successes together.The benefits of this deep relationship also go both ways. Since 1978, Ghanaian security personnel have served gallantly in the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) in Southern Lebanon with some even laying down their lives to maintain peace in the region. Lebanese on the other hand, have over the years
planted their love laced with sweat and generosity in this land of good fortune. The evidence of their generosity can be traced in every sector of the Ghanaian society.
The Lebanese people are always loyal to Ghana. They continue to work hard to promote the various sectors of the Ghanaian economy. As such, they have become a major part of its social fabric. A key example of their investment is the initiative of the Lebanese scholarship programme.
The generosity of the Lebanese people in 2013, birthed the Lebanese Scholarship programme, the flagship education initiative of the community which supports brilliant Ghanaian students at secondary and tertiary levels of education.
Ambassador Maher Kheir, since his arrival has been working very hard and collaborating with the management of the various beneficiary school to push the programme forward. This required months of discussions, communication and correspondence. Through his speeches, we can discern the extent of his faith and his drive to promote educational obedience as a pillar to build a great nation. He has held a number of ceremonies across the various beneficiary schools like the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), KNUST and the School of Languages where he launched the Lebanese Literature Prize and Research Awards.
School of Languages
The introduction of the “Lebanese Literature Prize and Research Awards” for students at the School of Languages at the University of Ghana is a new intiative by Ambassador Maher Kheir.
This award is an additional package to expand the mainstream scholarship program and assist students studying Languages at the university of Ghana.
In the past, only law and journalism students were beneficiaries of the program. But Mr. Kheir believes many more Ghanaian students in other academic disciplines need to be reached. Hence, the motivation to institute a prize and research award scheme for language students.
Under the new initiative three (3) undergraduate students will receive a prize each year for the next five (5) years. Additionally, research support will be given to students pursuing a Masters degree program and PhD in Languages.
Ambassador Maher Kheir notes that it is important for Ghanaians to know about Lebanese literature and culture and vice versa since the two countries share a strong relationship which spans a century.
According to him, “Lebanon is rich in producing famous writers and poets. We can mention those who established the Pen League in New York in 1915 and played a leading role in the
renaissance, like Khalil Gibran, the internationally acclaimed writer known for his famous literary work ‘The Prophet’ which has been translated in over 150 languages.
He adds, “we are also craving to explore Ghanaian literature and to know more about writers like Kofi Awoonor. We take pride in this step which allows us to promote our cultural and human interaction.”
In his opinion, the relationship between Ghanaians and Lebanese goes beyond diplomatic ties and therefore should reflect in the cultural bond of the people.
This he maintains, is the shortest bridge to promote cultural interaction between countries all over the world and strengthen human relations.
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)
On 14th November, 2019, Mr. Maher Kheir for the third time since his arrival, disbursed scholarships to law students at theKwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) on behalf of the Lebanese Community. The scholarship supports students at the law faculty and others at the Ghana School of Law, Makola.
There is no society that can thrive without the rule of law. Ambassador Kheir believes that “without law, men are beasts.”He firmly holds the opinion that a great nation is built on a strong legal system.
“A great nation is built on a strong legal system. Law separates night from day, black from white and darkness from light. It is the sharpest sword against injustice, corruption and unfairness,” he said
This is emphasized in his address to law students at the KNUST few days ago when he awarded scholarships to twelve (12) brilliant students in the faculty.
The Lebanese Ambassador also believes in the spirit of fairness which he says is essential in stimulating Ghanaians towards hard work and efficiency.
Addressing students in Kumasi, he stressed “fairness is humane. It motivates any citizen to be productive in life. So you are the inspiration and hope of the enlightening future which guides us to build a patriotic nation – one that we are proud of.”
Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ)
Closely following the KNUST ceremony was another on 20th November, 2019 at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) where fourteen (14) undergraduate students received scholarships to support their education.
This is the third time Ambassador Kheir has awarded students at the institute in his first year as Lebanese Ambassador to Ghana. This includes students pursuing a Masters degree at the institute.
Aside law, Mr. Kheir strongly believes that the role of the media through the power of journalism cannot be overstressed. Journalists, he states, are crucial to furthering the democratic gains Ghana has chalked in the Fourth Republic.
He asserts “Lebanon is also a country of pluralism, diversity, creativity and a leader in journalism in the Middle East region.”
He adds that, Ghana’s vibrant media space characterized by freedom of speech is a testament of pluralism and multi-culturalism which continues to make Ghana a shining example of democracy on the shores of Africa.
These similarities the two countries share has deepened the commitment by the Lebanese communtiy to help train more journalists in Ghana who would uphold truth, ensure accountability and fight for the vulnerable in society.
This will create a stable environment for both Lebanese and Ghanaians and strengthen the cultural co-opeartion between the two countries.
“The role of any successful journalist demands a rich cultural exposure. This point is important for journalists to properly analyze the context of every information, especially in our globalized world” he remarked in an address to GIJ students.
Beyond the traditional ethos of journalism, Ambassador Kheir, charged journalists to “go for cultural exposure.” He adds,when you possesss all these values, you will be the masters of yourselves, masters of the pulpit and you will certainly be the brightest journalists.”
Despite the gains made so far, Ambassador Mr. Maher Kheir is working together with the Lebanese community to support more students especially those at the School of Performing Arts in the University of Ghana.
There is no doubt that the Lebanese community are a partner for development in Ghana.They continue to offer support in several areas to make life meaningful for Ghanaians and Lebanese in the country.
This will integrate citizens and advance collaborations that are mutually beneficial to both countries.