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African-American, Tahira Muhammad shares her joy about her Ghanaian citizenship

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Ghana’s seat of government — Jubilee House — played host to one of the biggest ceremonies as part of activities commemorating the 2019 Year of Return, the Jubilee House event saw 126 African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans receive Ghanaian citizenship. This happens a little over a year after the official August 2018 launch of the Year of Return by Ghana.

Tahira Muhammad was among the 126. She tells TheAfricanDream.net that she first went to Ghana in 2000. The journalist and a teacher have an MA in Teaching English, she currently teaches secondary in Ghana and also teaches a class called Global Perspectives. “I use the Global Perspectives class to help young African students critically think about the issues facing Ghana and the continent as a whole,” Tahira told TheAfricanDream.net in an interview.

Tahira is one of the many descendants of African ancestry in the Americas and across the globe that have yielded to the call of Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo to return to Africa for the Year of Return, an event celebrating the resilience of African people and to also mark the 400th anniversary of the first Africans forcibly transported to what is now the United States of America.

I will never forget that Wednesday, November 27, 2019 date as I stood amidst 126 African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans to recite the oath of allegiance which was administered by a judge in this moving ceremony. We all became new citizens of Ghana. My citizenship certificate and euphoria sis beyond description right now,” — Tahira Muhammad.

She went on to tell TheAfricanDream.net that she fell in love with Ghana from the hospitality of the people when she first visited and did not want to leave. So, when she returned to the US after that first trip she worked for a year during which she saved $3,500 US dollars working two jobs to enable her return to settle in Ghana for a year. “It was on my return that I met my now ex-husband and with whom I had my now beautiful 16-year-old son,” and with that, TheAfricanDream.net wanted to learn more of Tahira’s story.

Read also: Ghana’s Year of Return and 2019 Black History Month

When asked what the main thing she found peculiar about Ghana was, she said to her “the hardest thing was accepting the fact that many Ghanaians and Africans on the continent have a neo-colonial mindset. I feel that the mentality of the people is 60 years behind. There’s no self-pride in being a Ghanaian. Ghanaians overall have little trust and support for themselves and their people and their abilities.

The newly minted Ghanaian citizen elaborated: “There are many Ghanaians who have invented innovative things for the country but don’t get the recognition they deserve. Instead, credit goes to foreigners like Chinese and Lebanese. As a result, corruption and dishonest business practises penetrate the hearts and minds of the people and this has caused a vicious cycle of dishonesty and distrust.”

This was the hardest thing that almost made me want to give up. I think it hit me harder when I came back here from living in the Middle East for 9 years. Gulf Arab governments make sure that their people come first. Dubai was able to become a rich country from its tourism in 50 plus years. Ghana has far more resources but the people are still living in poverty.”

According to Tahira, on the day she obtained her Ghana citizenship, she finally felt a sense of belonging, this happening 20yrs after serving Ghana both locally and internationally. She explained that back in 2001 she helped 14 orphans go back to school by advocating for friends in the US to pay their school fees. One of them is now going to nursing school and some have positively moved on with their lives in different ways.

While in Kuwait I also was a member of the Association of Ghanaians there. I participated in helping organize Ghana Independence Day Celebrations as well as sat in meetings to help arrest Ghanaians in Ghana who participated in the illegal trafficking of Ghanaian women to Kuwait.

Besides these actions, Tahira feels she has paid her dues on the road to attaining Ghanaian citizenship, she says in addition to a smile that, “Ghana was responsible for the trading of my ancestors to the US Virgin Islands. So I feel that citizenship is due me.”

Read also: Slavery ships’ abominable conditions

TheAfricanDream.net asked Tahira Muhammad what people from America and elsewhere visiting Ghana can expect as part of The Year of Return 2019 when they are in Ghana. She said “visitors coming to Ghana should appreciate the efforts that the diaspora in Ghana made to make sure that this was successful.”

Unfortunately, there was an educational gap in the purpose of the Year of Return and as a result, some Ghanaians have turned it into a money-making event, instead of using it to establishing the lost connection between our people — so this is a work in progress, but there is hope.”

Overall it has been an emotional journey going back to Ghana again for Tahira after being away for almost a decade. Yet, what she hopes to happen is that people become more vigilant and help the country fight corruption and hold officials more accountable.

Ghana is not up to its full potential and will not be able to until corruption is curbed I believe. Rwanda is a prime example of what an African country can become if corruption is minimized. I hope that Ghana can live up to the standards that its first President Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah wanted for her and Africa.”

And with that TheAfricanDream.net ended our first interview of a returnee. Do you have a story to share, contact us, we would love to hear from you, no matter where you are, oh and a happy YearOfReturn to all, including the other 125 new Ghanaian citizens. We wish you all the best…

Written by Oral Ofori

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Meta’s AI AI machine translation research helps break language barriers

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Today, Meta announced that it has built and open sourced ‘No Language Left Behind’ NLLB-200, a single AI model that is the first to translate across 200 different languages, including 55 African languages with state-of-the-art results. Meta is using the modelling techniques and learnings from the project to improve and extend translations on Facebook, Instagram, and Wikipedia.

 

In an effort to develop high-quality machine translation capabilities for most of the world’s low-resource languages, this single AI model was designed with a focus on African languages. They are challenging from a machine translation perspective. AI models require lots and lots of data to help them learn, and there’s not a lot of human translated training data for these languages. For example, there’s more than 20M people who speak and write in Luganda but examples of this written language are extremely difficult to find on the internet.

 

We worked with professional translators for each of these languages to develop a reliable benchmark which can automatically assess translation quality for many low-resource languages. We also work with professional translators to do human evaluation too, meaning people who speak the languages natively evaluate what the AI produced. The reality is that a handful of languages dominate the web, so only a fraction of the world can access content and contribute to the web in their own language. We want to change this by creating more inclusive machine translations systems – ones that unlock access to the web for the more than 4B people around the world that are currently excluded because they do not speak one of the few languages content is available in.

Read Also: Impressive! Ghanaian Rapper Dr. Pushkin Releases New App & Book ahead of “Outlandish” Album

“It’s impressive how much AI is improving all of our services. We just open-sourced an AI model we built that can translate across 200 different languages — many of which aren’t supported by current translation systems. We call this project No Language Left Behind, and the AI modelling techniques we used are helping make high quality translations for languages spoken by billions of people around the world. To give a sense of the scale, the 200-language model has over 50 billion parameters, and we trained it using our new Research SuperCluster, which is one of the world’s fastest AI supercomputers. The advances here will enable more than 25 billion translations every day across our apps. Communicating across languages is one superpower that AI provides, but as we keep advancing our AI work it’s improving everything we do — from showing the most interesting content on Facebook and Instagram, to recommending more relevant ads, to keeping our services safe for everyone,” said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a post on his Facebook profile.

 

Language is our culture, identity, and lifeline to the world. However, as high-quality translation tools don’t exist for hundreds of languages, billions of people today can’t access digital content or participate fully in conversations and communities online in their preferred or native languages. This is especially true for hundreds of millions of people who speak the many languages of Africa.

 

“Africa is a continent with very high linguistic diversity, and language barriers exist day to day. We are pleased to announce that 55 African languages will be included in this machine translation research, making it a major breakthrough for our continent,” Balkissa Ide Siddo, Public Policy Director for Africa said while speaking about the launch of the AI model. “In the future, imagine visiting your favourite Facebook group, coming across a post in Igbo or Luganda, and being able to understand it in your own language with just a click of a button – that’s where we hope research like this leads us. Highly accurate translations in more languages could also help to spot harmful content and misinformation, protect election integrity, and curb instances of online sexual exploitation and human trafficking.”

 

While commenting on accessibility and inclusion in the pursuit of building an equitable metaverse, Ide Siddo added “At Meta, we are working today to ensure that as many people as possible will be able to access the new educational, social and economic opportunities that the next evolution of the internet will bring to future technology and an everyday living experience tomorrow.”

 

To confirm that the translations are high quality, Meta also created a new evaluation dataset, FLORES-200, and measured NLLB-200’s performance in each language. Results revealed that NLLB-200 exceeds the previous state of the art by an average of 44 percent.

 

Meta is also open-sourcing the NLLB-200 model and publishing a slew of research tools to enable other researchers to extend this work to more languages and build more inclusive technologies. Meta AI is also providing up to $200,000 of grants to non-profit organizations for real world applications for NLLB-200.

 

There are versions of Wikipedia in more than 300 languages, but most have far fewer articles than the 6+ million available in English. Following Meta’s partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that hosts Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects, modelling  techniques and learnings from the NLLB research are now also being applied to translation systems used by Wikipedia editors. Using the Wikimedia Foundation’s Content Translation Tool, articles can now be easily translated in more than 20 low-resource languages (those that don’t have extensive datasets to train AI systems), including 10 that previously were not supported by any machine translation tools on the platform.

 

To explore a demo of NLLB-200 showing how the model can translate stories from around the world, visit here. You can also read the research paper here.

 

 

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