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Opinions Fri, 9 Sep 2016

Is President Mahama not a liar?

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D

Not very long ago, President John Dramani Mahama and his surrogates at the Education Ministry boasted about the standards of education in the nation’s public Senior High School (SHS) system having considerably improved over previous years, especially under the 4-year system introduced by the Kufuor-led government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

And so it is rather amusing, if also inexcusably insulting, for Mr. Mahama to tell a teeming audience of Fetu Afahye celebrants in Cape Coast, the country’s former colonial capital, that there has been a precipitous decline in the quality of the nation’s public educational system (See “Mahama Laments Declining Educational Standards” Classfmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 9/4/16).

Hosting the Fetu Afahye, or festival, this year, as he has done over the years, was the Omanhene (Paramount Chief) of the Cape Coast Traditional Area, Osabarima Kwesi Atta. President Mahama is widely reported to have declared as follows: “There are pockets where performance remains disappointing.

There are also once top-performing schools that seem to have suffered deterioration in recent years. On the other hand, we have also recorded disturbingly poor performances among some candidates in some [otherwise very good] schools; and considering that parents, government and teachers have invested so much money and effort in the training of students, this certainly should be a cause for worry.”

It is not clear whether the President really understood the meaning of the preceding quote by himself. We know for a fact that whatever funding resource has been available for administering our public high school system has invariably been used by this National Democratic Congress (NDC) government for political showmanship.

Thus we have witnessed the government supply pupils and students with schlocky one-size-fits-all school uniforms and mini-drinking jugs thievishly emblazoned with the portraits of the President and the insignia of his party, when such funding could have been put to better use, such as purchasing up-to-date textbooks and equipping state-of-the-art computer labs for the rapid technological upgrade of these schools.

Meanwhile, diligent and highly dedicated teachers have gone without their paychecks for months on end. The Mahama government, as also had been the case with the Mills government, has continued to be in payment arrears of teachers’ salaries for as long as anybody can remember.

In the latest craze, we hear government officials talk about the imperative need to supply girl pupils in elementary and high schools, particularly in the northern-half of the country, with sanitary pads, when the purchase of school uniforms and such intimate toiletries as sanitary pads ought to be the responsibility of parents and guardians.

Predictably, President Mahama conveniently did not raise the qualitative problems posed by the reduction of the 4-year Senior High School system to 3 years, particularly in the critical area of temporal adequacy vis-à-vis curricular coverage.

In other words, as long as the government continues to cynically avoid talking about and dealing with the real issues at stake here, there can be no gainsaying the fact that the abysmally poor performance of the Ghanaian public school pupil is certain to remain with us in the foreseeable future.

Presenting his assessment of the poor or fallen standards of public education before a large audience of Cape Coast residents and citizens could not have been contextually better, because the Cape Coast municipality contains quite a sizable percentage of the oldest and the most elite high schools in the country.

In view of the foregoing observations, it could not come as any more than a wicked irony when President Mahama tells his Cape Coast audience that “Education is the key to the development of any country, hence necessary measures need to be instituted for the upholding of higher standards.”

Maybe somebody ought to remind the privileged son of a pioneering politician who was educated at the country’s elite Achimota College and the country’s flagship academy, the University of Ghana, that wherever he deliberately and carelessly misplaced the key to high-quality Ghanaian public education can only be found by him giving way to his more experienced, inventive and foresighted main political opponent of the New Patriotic Party, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, come December 7, 2016.

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame