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Atta Mills’ Presidential Teacups & Beyond (I)

Fri, 29 Oct 2010 Source: Bonna, Okyere

According to Ghana News on October 26, 2010, the ruling government has broadened measures aimed at projecting the image of President John Evans Atta Mills by circulating ‘teacups’ with his photograph embossed on them. The move, according to the report, is apparently motivated by the embarrassment that greeted the Ashanti Regional Minister, Kofi Opoku-Manu during the celebration of this year’s ‘My First Day at School.’

The report went on to say that “on a tour of some schools in the Ashanti region during the event, Mr. Opoku-Manu asked the pupils of Patase M/A Primary School in Kumasi who the President of the country was. To the amazement of everyone present, a class-three pupil of the school answered that Nana Akufo-Addo, the opposition NPP flagbearer, was the President of Ghana”(Daily Guide) and that the education minister, the entire government and members of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC pour out their anger on the poor pupil.

Why should the education minister, the entire government and members of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) pour out their anger on a class-three pupil for not knowing what he has not been taught. It is obvious that civic education is not part of the school curriculum if none of the class three pupils knew who the President is. If this were the case then the ministry of education should rather be blamed not the poor pupil.

QUICK FIX MAY ADD TO THE PROBLEM IN THE LONG TERM

On a more serious note, this problem calls for a long term solution rather than the quick fixes being advocated and implemented as per the report:

1. Schools have been ordered to display the President’s portrait in classrooms.

2. Drinking cups (embossed with both the picture of the minister of Education, Alex Tettey Enyo and President Atta Mills) designed in different shapes and colours are being distributed free of charge to pupils across the country.

3. District Directors of Education have been ordered by the various Regional CO-ordinating Councils to take delivery of the items and distribute them to the schools as part of the ‘Know Your President’ campaign.

THE BLAME GAME

The anger of some government officials and supporters of the NDC directed

at the teachers and the class three pupil as well as condemning parents in the Ashanti region for giving their wards the wrong information is very unfortunate. I am surprise the Minister of Education and the District Directors of Education did not mention books. There was no mention of improving the curriculum to make sure this does not happen in the future.

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RIDICULOUS ACCUSATIONS

It is ridiculous to suggest that a teacher will tell his or her pupils that the president of Ghana is Nana Akufo-Addo, or to assume that a teacher would ask his pupil to a give wrong answer to embarrass the Minister and the President. This is only an attempt to ignore the problems facing the educational standards in Ghana today. It is unfortunate that the Minister is passing blame rather than admitting a fact. Knowledge is not acquired in the absence of education and learning. If you want your school children to know about their country and government then it must reflect in their curriculum. It is not by magic or wishful thinking. All this should teach our government and the ministry of education a lesson.

WHY SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT AND THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION ABOVE ALL BE EMBARRASSED?

This development is only a reflection of leadership of the country’s educational system. Perhaps they are not doing something right. Yes, giving out tea cups is good but they should also remember to make the tea. What are tea cups without tea, Mr. Secretary? Thanks for the tea cups and portraits but where are the TEXTBOOKS? “Government and Rural Development, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, has announced that henceforth, pictures of President Mills would be displayed in all public schools.” And what happens to the TEXTBOOKS to teach our kids! What worth are tea cups when there is no tea!

The Minister of Education should know better. It all boils down to lack of leadership of his predecessors, and perhaps District Directors of Education as well. The neglect of properly educating our children in our primary schools cannot be overemphasized here. Our history is written by outsider; So how do we expect the poor class three pupil to know more about Ghana?. The nation prefers foreign made goods to locally manufactured goods. No wonder Ghanaians are patronizing caskets made in China over made in Ghana ones. But let me ask the president and minister of information: Who is responsible for this ignorance? Indeed it is not the teachers nor pupils but the lack of basic educational resources. The government branch in-charge of education must learn to prioritize. Books must come first. I pray this will also tell our president and government the priority that we need to give to education in Ghana. We cannot afford to waste the minds of our future leaders and national assets.

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

1. We have stopped teaching civics in our schools. History of Ghana is not taught anymore in the elementary schools. These days it is not unusual to find graduates who don’t know much about the history of Ghana (even though they may know all about the West). Today in Ghana, unless one reads history in the Senior Secondary School or at the University one may barely know anything about Ghana. I am sure these kids may not even know the number of regions in Ghana.

2. Our curriculum does not encourage reading outside the text books (which are not available in the first place). Students don’t read newspapers these days. Our media has become a gossip shop, not educational tools. In fact they are misinforming and mis-educating our kids. It projects western culture over our own. To save the ministry of education further embarrassments I suggest a critical and objective look into the entire Ghana Education Service.

LONG TERM SOLUTIONS

1. Encourage local teachers and professors to write our textbooks

2. Reform the curriculum to reflect nationalism and patriotism

3. Encourage reading (from kindergarten) in our curriculum. E.g. Parents must be mandated to read to their little kids (K-3) at least 20 minutes a day. Students in 4th grade and above must be required to read a book and write a book report each month.

4. Return civics to the classroom from Kindergarten.

5. Improve quality controls and standards in Ghana. E.g., we have Standards Board; we must empower them to adjudicate required standards across the board to enhance locally manufactured goods.

Okyere Bonna

Okyere Bonna is the author of, A NEW AGENDA FOR GHANA, STOPPING THE CARNAGE ON AFRICAN ROADS and the co-author of GHANA, CONVERSATION AND DEVELOPMENT and Traditional Institutions and Public Administration in Democratic Africa. For more information on this author visit his official website: www.okyerebonna.com

Columnist: Bonna, Okyere