In human societies, the desire for power through modern forms of politics has a way of changing people, creating actors, some of them fake! Nana Akufo Addo’s spokesperson Dr. Arthur Kennedy’s response (Friday Sep.5, 2008) to Dr. Nduom’s comments (of Monday August 25, 2008) is interesting and reflects what one might call a fast-footed American combative spirit. Coincidentally, both Kennedy and Nduom are educated in North America, as also this writer, and both, we feel, want the good of the nation. However, how they go about articulating viewpoints to gain power, making promises and defining policy to solve our deteriorated educational problems is the key to sincerity of purpose.
In the report Dr. Nduom was reported to have referred to the lack of, and need for, a free and compulsory education, and cited as: “Many of our children cannot read, write or express themselves well in English or in any of our local languages. The same difficulty exists in the area of science and technology….. The fact of the matter is that our education system is in crisis” (Nduom, 2008, Aug.25).
He was also quoted as having said that “We do not have free and compulsory education of any type in Ghana”.
On such a serious issue as free and compulsory education, why can’t potential leaders like Nana Akufo Addo, Prof. Mills, Dr. Nduom, Dr. Mahama, “Dr” Kofi Wayo, Dr. Obed Asamoah, Kwesi Amoafo-Yeboah, Ofori Ampofo, and Dr, Kennedy himself who all claim love for nation, and society expects them to have superior knowledge, ever meet with some experts in education, the Ministers of Education and Finance, and perhaps seek workable solutions to achieve this noble aim? Are some of our children supposed to have no education? Should children be denied education simply because their parents are poor and cannot afford education? Or should the children be excused and denied education simply because their parents choose not to take them to school?
Dr. Kennedy writes:
“Unfortunately, Dr Nduom can only criticize. How does Dr Nduom propose to make education compulsory? By jailing children? By jailing their parents?”
This kind of communication is what one may call “street talk”- Ghana style, and not worthy of men like Dr. Kobina Kennedy. Only last year Dr. Kennedy was in America and experienced the elements of civilization and technological advancement that has been bestowed on others through the enforcement of “free and compulsory” education. Unless Dr. Kennedy, as spokesperson for Nana Akufo Addo, NPP Presidential candidate, and the NPP organization wants to make education also a “free enterprise” affair? If so, then the question may be asked: In America, and Canada where Dr. Kennedy studied, can a parent choose not to educate their child? Sure if they have the money, they can send the children to private school, or to charter schools or seek permission to educate them at home. Whiles one does not often hear of parents resisting this, the culture of educating children forms part of the definition of civilized people.
In the article Dr. Kennedy mentioned the words “a practical solution”. Then he went on to say
“The goal of every responsible Ghanaian is to work towards the day when every Ghanaian child will be in school instead of at home, on the farm or on the streets. That is what the NPP has been working to achieve. Indeed, in the last seven years, as result of the Capitation Grant, the School Feeding Program and massive investments in infrastructure at all levels, enrolment has increased by a third at the primary level, by 50% in our Polytechnics and doubled in our public Universities. This is the kind of performance in the provision of opportunities for citizens that would make any liberal democratic government proud” (Kennedy, 2008, Sept.5).
Observations seem to indicate that Ghanaians overseas who return and join political parties do indeed change and adapt to the “home environment”. Fact is that Ghana has fallen drastically behind in our educational standards and achievement goals in the last three decades, and nobody is trying to blame one party or the other. The deterioration started in the 1980s when the PNDC administration were forced by the World Bank to ignore expenditures on our children’s education, when the PNDC run out of money and had no choice but to listen to the dictates of the Western financiers. The chest-thumping of educated Ghanaians in power at the time had run of steam and ideas. Rawlings and his radical team of the Tsikatas, the Ahwois, Ato Austin, Totobi Kwakye and Dr. Botchwey had no clue how to stimulate economic activity, after they drove away private businesses. Most of them thought by destroying the open markets and driving away Makola women and retail merchants, revenues would generate themselves! They had not solution even how to design and impose reasonable taxes on our people to contribute to the national community effort of educating their children! Concrete step-by-step solutions offered during that era, example a two-series article in Africa Monthly in mid to late 1980s by this writer, were ignored. The Robin Hood taxation system of Dr. Botchwey, through taxing the few 100 percent to 500 percent did not work to save Ghana. Sad fact is that when small, medium and large size businesses collapse or leave town, and hundreds of thousands of people are not finding jobs, the government is not generating revenue either to pay for education of our children.
The greatest failure of our post-independent society lies in simple financial management called Budgeting. It is unfortunate that both the NDC, the continuity offspring of the PNDC, and the NPP, seem to have no clue how to design a budget for the nation! Whiles words like IT are used as a fashion statement by most officials, the sad fact is that 95 percent or more of the executives in Ghana government are Computer and technical illiterates. Many of them hardly can operate a simple fax machine let alone a personal computer which in these days is the only tool to do complicated or large calculations for numerical or financial analysis or designing budgets for multi dimensional parameters as in modern organizations. In most cases Ghana’s Finance Ministers in the past talk of a Budget as a verbal description of arbitrary taxes imposed on imported goods, port duties, and setting prices of goods and transport fees, whiles spending with no limits! No financial analysis and projections are given! Is that a budget? With all due respect this is based on an antiquated mindset and clueless perception of what a budget plan is. Coupled with a culture where it’s a taboo for adults to learn from younger ones, and especially for men to learn from women, Ghanaians have fallen far behind in modern technology. This, plus dishonesty and leadership negligence and indiscipline, compound to a Ghana government unable to balance a simple budget for the past 40 years, loans cannot be accounted for, water and basic sanitation is a problem, business development and hence government revenues are stifled, and hence children’s education is mostly ignored or at best at the mercy of foreign donors! It is very complicated, but many issues are linked to financing education.
THE JOB OF POLITICIANS
The job of politicians, some think in Ghana, is to win elections by making promises, and not to provide solutions. Many get into politics as a way to earn their wealth. What a sickening idea! Okay, having won, then what next? The fact that we are behind in all socio-economic and human development indices should have been clear to most of us by now. However, in Ghana politicians think differently. Some even deny that Ghana is behind. “We are better than other African countries”, they will tell you. However, recent reports showed that Ghana is now ranked the 48th dirtiest nation in Africa, out of 52 reported (Ghanaweb /The Statesman, Aug.7, 2008). Is there much to thump our chest on? From Abetifi to Zualerigu, our men depict themselves as arrogant chest-thumping ignorant people who refuse to accept when they do not know something, and hence learn from their mistakes! As of this year 2008, the concept of local leadership and societal management are not understood in Ghana. Assemblymen, who spend money to campaign and win local elections, the ones closest to and who supervise community projects, are not paid and expected to earn their living through indirect bribery and corruption. Members of Parliament hardly ever return to their communities until just before elections. What kind of people are we? Are we serious about life? Can we learn from other societies?
The work of politicians is and should be to act as representatives for their constituents in providing management systems and services such as water, roads, electricity, safety and security and maintaining law and order. Taken seriously, it is hard work, and politicians must be paid well. Representative must therefore be elected by the people, make themselves accessible to their people, and voted out of office or legally removed if they fail the people. It is for this reason that the defect in the 1992 Constitution should be removed to allow District and Regional Chief Executives to be elected by the people of the districts and regions, not appointed by the President. If the burden of seeking economic survival of towns and districts is to rely on the people, as written in Chapter 20 of the 1992 Constitution, then the people must elect and manage their elected officials as done in Western democracies.
The debate between Dr. Nduom and Dr. Kennedy, fine citizens of Ghana with doctorates from North America, should not be about proving who is right and who is wrong. As Kennedy rightly puts it, solutions should be offered. This writer takes this opportunity to quote from the Ghana National Party manifesto section on Education to share with Ghanaians on how we should all start to strategically think and plan and solve many of our problems.
NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY (from Ghana National Party Manifesto)
Our government will invest further into Education to avert the downward trend of our educational standards by paying teachers well to produce through competitive human resource management, giving local and district ownership of their primary and secondary institutions. Primary and Secondary education will be free and compulsory and financing will come from local empowered capital creation as specified elsewhere under decentralization. The old disciplinarian BOARDING SCHOOL system set up by the missionaries will be innovated with modern global educational systems, clean healthy environments and well paid teachers who will produce results such as high American SAT scores to attract students and wards from the Diaspora as well as foreigners.(GNP Abridged Manifesto-p.3).
Whiles a Manifesto is not a master blueprint to build a nation (one can make it several hundreds of pages and nobody would read it) it is a guide to the thinking process of the creators of a political party. For good political points, Dr. Kennedy mentions the Capitation Grant and School Feeding Program instituted by the NPP, as well as percent increase in education enrollment. What the gentleman and his party do not realize is that the moneys for these programs are grants and borrowed money and to date the NPP has still not learnt how to design a budget, a simple budget, of revenues, costs and expenses, or even how to apportion a specific part of the moneys to education.
The solution to this apparent dilemma of education is part of the overall socio-economic and human development problems of Ghana and most Africa, as detailed in the UN and World Bank reports, to include health care, roads and transportation, communications and others that our politicians are not able to solve. The Solution, however, is very simple: WE NEED TO THINK LIKE WE HAVE NOBODY TO RELY ON! Period! [We have, however, enough global information on how others manage their societies!].
With that in mind, we should start galvanizing our human resource talent, scattered around the globe, provide reasonably adequate compensation, and empower them and our towns and districts to set up their City Councils, District Councils and collect their own taxes and design their own budgets for their development. This should include schools, water and utilities and city roads, libraries, sanitation and covered sewage to avoid mosquito breeding! Towns in small communities like Abetifi, Nkwatia, Pepease can combine to form one city to become stronger. A simple example may illustrate how Western societies have done it:
Supposing we look at communities of population 20,000 to 400,000 as small towns to large cities and each has average ten people per household. That gives us 2,000 to 40,000 homes. In addition there are vehicles, markets, stores, merchant sales, businesses. If the city assessed reasonably calculated property taxes, voted on by the citizens, of say $400-$500 per year average for each home, instead of individuals using money to build their own septic tanks ($4,000), water reservoirs ($2,500 average), wells, private generators, the town or city can design a budget as follows:
Revenues for Small Town/City of 20,000 population:
From Property taxes = [$400 x 2,000 homes] = $800,000.
From Market Sales taxes [100 x 52weeks x $5/stall] = $26,000
From vehicles registered [40 x $100/year] = $4,000
TOTAL REVENUE = $830,000
With this revenue, expenses for the Small Town/City can be planned and designed to provide say a City Hall building (estimated $200,000), A Motor or Pump for the Water system (est. $50,000), and hire staff and even construct some school building, public library, pay teachers and service the community! This has been discussed on the GLU forum and this writer has designed a model Computer simulated Spreadsheet that can be shared with different communities, as our contribution to Ghana’s development. This writer helped to create the Manifesto for the Ghana National Party. Some have suggested that politics is all about winning elections. However, what Nana Akufo Addo, with Dr. Kennedy, as well as Dr. Nduom, Dr. Mahama and others who seek to rule Ghana must remember are: 1. Ghana is a sovereign country of well educated human beings, endowed like others to think and solve our problems. 2. It is the duty of our generation, to use our combined talent, assets and competencies to select the right leaders to continue what Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Dr. Busia and Dr. Limann and others did and tried to do.
This mindset that we have nobody to rely on, then should form the basis for human behavior and management. It provides the simplest way and proven method of designing a budget and managing modern societies without counting on external sources. This exercise takes focused creative thinking of men who are not number-challenged, and who can sit for hours thinking for the society! The method of planning government expenses before analyzing the sources of revenue and seeking loans to balance the budget simply shows inadequate thinking and effort. No! We are smarter than that! Ghana National Party was formed as a platform to seek change in Ghana through the electoral process. However, the founders were not unaware of the financial commitment for publicity and other expenses, and the goodwill of the people in competition with the massive infusion of unaccounted-for funds in the election process. This writer sometimes wonders why politics? No matter what our philosophy on nation-building, we all belong to and own one country, Ghana, no matter how others try to legally disqualify others born in Ghana from taking positions. We need to work together and build Ghana. The documents GNP created are for the use of Ghana, and we don’t mind sharing information and skills (Ref www.natlparty.com).
Politics should be about serving the public, and according to the great philosopher Aristotle, politicians should not even seek to be paid since they get enough respect from the job. One fact we should also learn today is that not everybody who engages politicians in how society should be governed, or even creates a platform for change (such as this writer has done on two occasions), is interested in selfish power. It is left to the other political parties to emulate what the GNP did and offer solutions to Ghana’s current state of disgrace in economic and human development performance, in health care, cleanliness, and basic services. We need to compare ourselves to the best, and what others have done in the post-Independence era. These party leaders need to show how they plan to raise funds to provide all the promises being made to the public and demonstrate if they really know and understand how to budget.
The NPP, NDC and CPP have been around for over a decade and one would expect better results. Borrowing every year to balance our budget, relying on remittances for the old and aged, or selling assets to balance our budget for the year, is not the mark of smart people. Ghana can do better! Ghana has had enough promises in the last few decades and the results are not good. To date Ghanaian educated executives do not even know how to name streets and identify property, how to register voters effectively all year around, and identify our people. Whatever they inherited, so they sit on and act not! No change! After eleven years under PNDC, eight years under NDC, eight under NPP, there is still no national database for our people and properties, and hence taxation is arbitrarily designed on the fly! How do you plan for the education of over three or five million children scattered across 220 constituencies, with no database and using jotter and pencil methods of old, in an Accra office using those dusty filing cabinets!? Huh! We are simply not using the best of modern skills and talents! Period!
Yes, we need solutions and we agree with Dr. Kennedy on that, whiles also agreeing with Dr. Nduom on the need for “free and compulsory” education. No society can succeed by educating only the rich. We encourage the party leaders such as Nana Akufo Addo (NPP), Prof. Atta Mills (NDC), Dr. Nduom (CPP) and others to design specific and localized budget to convince themselves first, and then show how they plan to raise funds to fulfill each of the promises being made in their campaigns. One expects others, being paid by the State for years in our society, to take time and learn how to plan, budget and deliver on promises! That is what PUBLIC SERVICE is all about, using OUR EDUCATION to serve the PUBLIC, and give those behind a chance for education and continuation of the society.
Dr. Kwaku A. Danso
(The writer is an Engineering and Management Consultant in California, with degrees in Engineering from University of California at Berkeley and PhD in Organization and Management (Leadership) from Capella University. He is the President of Ghana Leadership Union (NGO) and Moderator of the global GLU Internet discussion Forum. He is also the International Chairman and Co-Founder of Ghana National Party).