Ghana at 55: Do we laugh, or do we cry!

Thu, 8 Mar 2012 Source: Danso, Kwaku A.

By: Kwaku A. Danso

March 6 was Ghana’s 55th Independence day celebration and I just saw this attached image in my inbox sent from a friend. It is a symbol of not just the state of our educational system today but also the state of our ethical and moral standards in Church leaders trying to use their minds to take advantage of others. I want to take the opportunity to make a short comment about the state of Ghana as reflected in our state of education, overall atmosphere, and opportunities in Ghana that has led to this kind of ignorance that allows others taking advantage through faith.

We can laugh and we can cry, but this is Ghana after 55!

Pleases read the notice carefully and see that it looks real. This is the level of thinking of some of our people after 55 YEARS!

It is deception, fraud, almost highway robbery and corruption all the way through, from the family units to the governmental level! Most everybody in Ghana seems to be making a good effort to use their mind to cheat others and steal even in the name of God, religion or in providing Government services.

Societies are built with leaders and my quick socio-psychological analysis is that these have all come about due to the failure in leadership in our nation in the post independence era, especially in the post-Nkrumah era. First there is a high level of misplaced socio-economic environment, where people who previously would be making their living on the land and farms, are now in Accra seeking a different kind of work and living because they are “educated”. In Accra the children have all lost the touch of nature and survival techniques that have held Africa together for centuries. My studies show that young people do not even know how to grow tomatoes and vegetables to live on!

The second issue is the failed expectations due to Western education. In the 1960s a Secondary School graduate could work in the Banks or other services and earn enough money to have a small apartment or government bungalow, and even drive their cars. Today an estimated half of all University graduates do not have decent employment and cannot afford even to rent an apartment let alone a car. Many of them cannot even think of getting married. The super-smart ones find ways to get behind the military and later corrupt politicians and learn the trade.

Thirdly is the total deterioration in education in Ghana over the last thirty years after the so-called “revolution” in the 1980s. Between 1981 and 2001, Chairman and later President Rawlings articulated the inequality in the nation and even made efforts to distribute wealth. A large number of tractors were sent to the Affram plains and the Northern sectors of the nation to help farmer and aid in construction of schools, roads, and even increase electricity distribution. However the management was missing. President Rawlings had no real world experience in management and had no clue how complicated the job was. He was surrounded by people who were at best radical University lecturers of the Socialist orientation, and he would later describe them as after he was out of office as “greedy bastards”. Most of the funds for road and other rural construction were stolen or at best not accounted for, and instead of creating jobs for people, went into the pockets of a few. Education suffered as financial resource distribution was re-channeled and some schools lacked even basic teaching material. A thousand schools in 2010 were reported to be holding classes under trees. Eventually the World Bank’s poor advice led to cutting funding from these rural, district and even city schools. A look at a public school today will make one sad if not angry.

The fourth effect of all these is the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Chairman Rawlings revolution of bringing social justice ended up destroying education for many and creating a nation where over 87% live under $2 per day and more than half of all students fail to graduate from high school in 2010. The distribution of resources across the nation that seems to have been the rallying call for the Rawlings coup has thus failed due to the poor management, pretence of knowledge, and unsubstantiated and unreliable statistical figures to appear good for loans and grants. Most of the PNDC members and executives served themselves well, and ended up well endowed. Many own mansions and many vehicles and are financiers of the PNDC party, the NDC which was founded with suspected public resources. Between 1981 and 2001, the value of the Ghanaian cedi changed from 300 to 9,000 to $1.

The net effect of these was (1) Desperation and (2) Ignorance. Desperation - Desperate people resort to an inner force or God, or to crimes. Other run away. According to history, the people of Ghana run away for ancient empire when it was over-run by some warriors. Ghana has increased tenfold in the number of narcotic crimes and even ordinary armed robbery that was unheard of in the 1950s and 1960s when some of us were growing up. While many may think of, and associate many crimes to Nigerians, it must be noted that the basic causes and elements are the same. Desperation but using clever-theft crimes, aka 419 scams, that was typical of crowded Lagos, is now becoming an art in Accra also in recent years. In recent court cases in January 2012, several pounds of cocaine tested before storage in the police and the courts, was found to have turned into baking soda. Nobody has solved the problem yet. Some large amounts of cocaine were also detected during the Kufuor administration between 2001 and 2008 and vanished from the police. Another case of the desperation is the government failure and denial of basic services such as water and electricity to residents of major areas of the cities and rural areas. This is absolute negligence and total lack of concern, and led to a 70% dissatisfaction rate of leaders among people surveyed by this writer in 2004-2006. Many in middle class neighborhoods have to dig wells in their house compounds or have huge poly tanks to store water. Power Generators are very common in the cities. Former President Rawlings once complained that he was taking a shower when water was cut off. His colleagues and army of close allies who he now called “greedy bastards” had perfected the art of public corruption to the point where $4.2 Billion in loans for roads in the 1989/90 budget of Dr. Kwesi Botchwey showed only coal tar on gravel roads. They developed potholes in the major Accra-Kumasi and other highways in Ghana after only two years. Loans for water treatment and expansion, as well as stabilization of electricity were stolen during the Kufuor administration, and nobody investigates when power changes hands. The net effect is the acceleration of this desperation in society. To make matters worse is this defective constitution that makes the President solely responsible for appointing over 4,000 Regional, District, Metro and City Chief executives as well as his own Cabinet Ministers. Management of towns and districts in a decentralized system have broke down as moneys sent to the DCEs are solely at their discretion and nobody audits and questions them. In the last thirty years development and aid and grants have not kept up population grown and hence in addition to desperation is the next disaster in human lives – ignorance.

Ignorance – Ignorance is cutting people off the main stream of knowledge in life. In Ghana, due to the corruption mindset, many in government executive positions hide information. The Presidents have still not signed the freedom of information act. Technology such as Radio, and then Television, and today Computers and the Internet have all become major source of education for even the poor. Today one can educate one’s self using the mass media and learn Math, Health and even Chemistry and Physics. For the poor where is the resources to acquire these technology? One can say that radio is the only technology that has developed since the 1950s to today where most households can afford one. Instead of reducing any import tariffs on such things as television, computers, and making some basic television channels free as in the US and easily received though rabbit ear antennas and making Cable subscribed, in Ghana television channels are by subscription. They are not cheap, about half the salary of the working person.

The sad impact is that the same government without a clear deliberate intent, have cut off many people, including some skilled workers, from civilization. These people are unable to get any access to new knowledge beyond what somebody taught them in the classrooms if any. In addition may don’t have water, electricity, or access to a public library. Most elementary and high school teachers themselves don’t have access to computers and these modern channels of knowledge. Many are desperate and hence turn to some other sources for answers. Some of these outlets are the Churches.

Common Sense- Some may think that people have common sense. Well, common sense is not as common as we think. It comes from the environment one grows in, and one see some people who are so ignorant you doubt if they are also Ghanaians. Analysis of attitudes, motivation and recent immigrants from Ghana to our areas of the US illustrates this. Forty or more year ago Ghanaian students were admitted to Berkeley and /Stanford, top ten ranking American Universities, right from Secondary School. Today most of the youth coming cannot pass basic Math and English and have to take remedial course. Former Minister of Education Betty Mould Iddrisu once said on her Facebook page copied to our GLU forum that Ghana would find our own way of education. Did we? Are we? When more than 50% of our children cannot even complete high school?

Ignorance has a price, personally and for society. We all know why the Europeans felt after some encounter with our people that they could take advantage of us. It was, and is the appearance of ignorance, that make people feel they can take advantage of others. This message of today is a warning to our leaders. It is the same superstitious mindset and ignorance that allowed others to trick our chiefs and let them catch and sell others and sell them into slavery!

Yes, Happy Friday alright! It’s Wednesday,, so Happy March 6 - It is 55 years celebration of Independence! Let’s hope 2012 has a promise of a better leadership for Ghana and we can all laugh instead of cry as we eliminate this ignorance in our society and usher in better systems of educating our children and providing opportunities for light beyond this darkness!

Kwaku A. Danso (Email: k.danso@comcast.net)

President –Ghana Leadership Union, and Moderator- GLU Forum. Author: Leadership Concepts and the Role of Government in Africa: The Case of Ghana

Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.