By Gloria Mintah
On March 6, 2017, Ghana will be 60 years old. If the country were a human being, at 60, it would likely be a grandparent. A successful grandparent would have provided for the needs of his or her children, including educating them and setting them up in life. The children, if successful, would also have been able to do what is expected of them and set their children (the grandchildren of the 60 year old) in life. The grandparent’s birthday would have been celebrated in style and with pride, with or without a committee set up to celebrate the birthday.
The government has established a Ghana@60 Committee to plan for the celebration. I was hoping that the Committee would recommend something other than a celebration. The nation has been told that an amount of 20 million Ghana Cedis, approximately US$5 million has been earmarked for the celebration. Apart from the usual parade and a proposed psychiatric hospital we have not been given details of how the money would be spent.
Now, let me go back to my analogy of the 60-year old grandparent and give some details of what he or she could have done with any amount of money to cater for the needs of his or her children. I have already mentioned education, good school buildings, adequate supply of books and well-trained, adequately-resourced and well-remunerated teachers.
The grandparent might also have been interested in the health care needs of his children – hospitals, well-resourced and well-remunerated staff, adequate electricity and water supply for the children. I need not continue as we all get the drift of what it takes to bring up responsible children, the next generation and generations as yet unborn.
What is Ghana celebrating as the 60-year old grandparent; what are our achievements as a nation? Ghana has recently given the English language a new word “dumsor”, just as the Gold Coast gave the world a new word Kwashiorkor some years back. Most parts of the country still suffer from acute water shortages.
The country’s medical needs are nothing to write home about; ditto for the schools. Just about a couple of weeks ago a school building collapsed killing six 4-year and 5-year old girls. In 2017, we are still losing our young women during childbirth, leaving their babies behind; pregnant women have to walk miles in order to access inadequate maternal care. The roads are dismal and housing needs cannot be met. I am sure if we search, and it does not have to be hard, we can come up with many more examples.
As the Ghana@60 Committee deliberates on the details of how to celebrate or spend the money, let us give them some suggestions. My first suggestion is to scrap the march pasts and all the ostentatious celebrations. But that is negative, and so let me give some positive ideas.
To start with the President may wish to address the nation on the eve of the anniversary and ask all of us to be introspective and ponder how we can rise to the challenge of rebuilding Ghana. Those who believe in going to church can do so and those who wish, can celebrate privately and thank whoever they believe is responsible for their well-being or success, or curse whoever they believe is responsible for their failures.
As to practical suggestions for the use of the US$5 million dollars, we may apply it to establishing a state of the art human breast milk bank to look after the orphans who lose their mothers through inadequate health care during childbirth; maybe, we could improve health care so the mothers might not have died in the first place; we could buy mammogram machines and supply films so that women would be screened for breast cancer; we could probably equip the whole of one of the regional hospitals that have been built; we could build good schools so six beautiful children would not die because a dilapidated building collapsed on them; our teachers and doctors would not be out on strike because they are not adequately-remunerated and as such have lost their motivation for mother Ghana and its children; we could improve the conditions of our roads so the carnage could be minimized; water supply is essential for life.
What can’t we do to with US$5 million to supply this necessity of life? This, by no means, suggests that the approximate US$5 million dollars would cure all the ills of the nation but, as has been expressed in many quarters and many times, every penny or cent helps.
We have been told that the money will be contributed by private industry without any or much draw from state coffers. That is fine, but can the Committee not ask the same private industry, in return for tax deductions, to adopt a hospital wing or a road or to fund some of the initiatives suggested now and may be suggested by others?
Change has been promised, Ghanaians believe that change has come and Ghanaians expect to see change manifested in the national agenda and discourse. March pasts by school children in the hot scotching sun have been the norm for the past 59 years; it is not a change. Let us demonstrate change in a manner that will benefit the children of Ghana.
I hope this will be seen as a constructive and not a destructive contribution, and urge all Ghanaians who voted for change to add their voice – to lobby their MPs, lend their fingers to type their messages, and whatever they can do to urge our new government, the change agent, to do things differently.