I read Dr. Thaddeus Ulzen’s fairly long article captioned “The Demise of Public Education in Ghana: Double Track or Double Tragedy” (Opinions: Modernghana.com 3/1/19) some three days ago, and could not help falling off my seat with uncontrollable laughter, especially where the University of Alabama’s psychiatrist scandalously attempts to trivialize President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s all-too-progressive and culturally and spiritually enlightening proposed National Cathedral Project. It pretty much reminded me of the heated debate that raged between then-President Kwame Nkrumah and Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia, the main Parliamentary Opposition Leader, over the foresighted proposed construction of the Accra-Tema Motorway, in retrospect.
Anyway, in his article, the writer intemperately and falsely and self-righteously accuses Nana Akufo-Addo of flying abroad at the expense of the Ghanaian taxpayer and unethically raising funds for what, in the pontifical opinion of the critic, is tantamount to the wasteful private pet project of Ghana’s former Foreign Minister and, before the latter cabinet portfolio, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. Well, we wish to emphatically put it on record that while, indeed, the idea for the construction of a National Cathedral originated from President Akufo-Addo, nevertheless, the project itself is not the private property of the former New Patriotic Party’s Member of Parliament for Akyem-Abuakwa-South. Rather, it is clearly earmarked as an ecumenical and multipurpose public facility.
To be certain, the proposed National Cathedral is an interreligious public facility that would accommodate all Ghanaians of all faiths and persuasions when it is completed and put to use. Indeed, there is absolutely nothing anywhere in Development Theory that counsels, rather unrealistically, that each and every Ghanaian citizen ought to be lifted out of poverty before such noble venture could be undertaken. Such weird and cynically self-righteous idea does not exist anywhere in even the technologically and industrially advanced countries, including, of course, here in the United States where the critic is domiciled. It is also capriciously strange for the critic to virulently accuse Nana Akufo-Addo of flying into the United States with/on public funds with the sole purpose of raising money for “a national folly.”
Such gratuitous accusation is inexcusably preposterous. Indeed, if he had “critically” taken the time to read the news reports about Nana Akufo-Addo’s most recent flight into the United States, Dr. Ulzen would have soberly learned that the trip was clearly for official reasons. The President’s decision to solicit financial assistance for the construction of the proposed National Cathedral was on the sidelines of his official itinerary. And the fact of the matter is that this is routinely done by Presidents and Heads-of-State all over the world. But even more importantly, it was not Nana Akufo-Addo who originated such practice or tradition in Ghana but, I guess, not being a likable personality in the eyes of the critic, somehow, Nana Akufo-Addo has absolutely no right to follow suit and must be held to a totally different set of leadership standards.
Indeed, there have even been Ghanaian leaders before President Akufo-Addo-Addo who flew to the United States and, as part of their official duties, met with communities of Ghanaian-born American residents to solicit electioneering campaign funds for as long as anybody can remember. Consequently, making an inglorious exception of Nana Akufo-Addo, as the University of Alabama critic seems to be doing, smacks of the enviously and patently absurd. I also don’t know where the critic was born or raised in Ghana that warrants him to presume to make such scandalously outlandish observation as “A homogeneous nation is Balkanized into tribal enclaves.” Has Dr. Ulzen ever listened to former President John Dramani Mahama on the stumps in the Northern Region?
The critic needs to explain precisely when Ghana became “homogeneous” outside of his evidently febrile poetic imagination, in Shakespearean parlance. And, also, just precisely who “Balkanized” the country into the sort of “tribal enclaves” that the apparently self-infatuated faux-pan-Africanist critic is talking about? I also don’t know why the American resident Ghanaian-born Alabama – of all places – psychiatrist thinks that a fee-free universal access to the Senior High System auspiciously and opportunely implemented by Nana Akufo-Addo recently detracts from a qualitative Ghanaian public education that, by the critic’s own admission, has been nonexistent for at least some 30-plus years now. Indeed, the critic may be pleasantly surprised to learn that “universally accessible versus a selective and elitist education system” was at the heart of one of the many heated policy debates that raged between an impenitently Marxist President Kwame Nkrumah and a free-market quality-oriented and elitist Dr. Busia.
For me, personally, I would rather that a constitutional democratic political culture, such as Ghana’s Fourth Republic, made basic public education readily accessible to all Ghanaian youths, irrespective of ethnicity or region of birth, than the pre-Akufo-Addo system that was both exclusive and abjectly poor in quality. I have already addressed the latter situation in a previous column, as has also Dr. Ulzen in his article in reference, and so do not intend to reprise or rehash the same here, although I also perfectly agree with the critic that the curriculum of the recently promulgated Double-Track System could be further enriched with the seamless incorporation of more arts and humanities courses. Nevertheless, it is all the more to be naturally expected of a new policy initiative that comes well after the near-total collapse in both quality and access of Ghanaian public education at the pre-tertiary level.
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By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
March 4, 2019