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Re: Education is Paramount: Why Akufo-Addo is Absolutely Right!

Tue, 12 Aug 2008 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

An August 6, 2008, Daily Guide news report that appeared on modernghana.com, titled “Education is Paramount,” was informative, inspirational and timely. In the said piece ? the author rather chose to remain anonymous ? Nana Akufo-Addo, the flag-bearer of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), while addressing a cross-section of students at the University for Development Studies, Tamale, on July 25, 2008, elucidated some of his policy goals geared toward ameliorating the deplorable educational standards in the nation, should he become president after the curtains are drawn on Election 2008. My article is not a polemic for, or a parochial espousal of, Mr. Akufo-Addo’ candidacy, but rather an in-depth analysis of the NPP flag-bearer’s grasp of the nation’s current educational exigencies and his plans for solving the aforesaid crises.

As a scholar myself, I could not be more excited about Nana Akufo-Addo’s iterative enunciations of the declining academic standards in Ghana and the NPP flag-bearer’s desire to see Ghana retake its once vanguard and enviable role as one of the continent’s leading providers of rock-solid education at all levels of academia. With education relegated to the background in recent decades, I unreservedly agree with Nana Akufo-Addo when the latter declared, “[E]ducation is the foundation on which any nation is built and [the NPP] is thus continuing its efforts to improve the standards of education across the country.” In fact, Nana Akufo-Addo has touched on a topic that is very important to many Ghanaians, both at home and overseas, and we can only hope that the NPP flag-bearer’s plans for reversing the dwindling educational standards in the nation will be implemented by whoever wins the 2008 presidential elections.

Nana Akufo-Addo, in the aforementioned speech, declared his willingness to “extend the School Feeding Programme and Capitation Grant to all schools”; provide “free education to Senior High Schools”; and also “construct public universities in regions that have none and upgrade existing universities.” These pronouncements by Nana Akufo-Addo are very noble indeed, and no effort should be spared to return the nation and its academic establishments to their former glories.

The School Feeding Program: This NPP-introduced educational program has led to a significant climb in school enrollments nationwide, a clear indication that the program is achieving its goals and should thus be sustained. Providing free tuition in Ghana’s senior secondary schools, if feasible within the nation’s budgetary constraints, is another objective that we must all laud and encourage, for a nation cannot sustain itself in this modern, technologically advanced world unless its citizens are guaranteed basic education ? at least to the secondary school level. The world is changing so fast that unless Ghana introduces programs that will entice parents ? rich and poor, educated and unlettered ? to keep their children in school, Ghana will continue to experience academic retrogression. Is it not puzzling to see able-bodied young men and women selling dog chains along the principal streets of Accra, a “vocation” that has very modest long-term benefits?

The construction of new public universities ? while each region may not need one at this time, due to the huge costs involved in building and equipping a modern, competitive university ? will help mitigate the admissions loads that the nation’s five public universities currently bear. Perhaps, five new public universities ? the locations of these yet-to-be-built universities must be based on a workable formula ? will help provide educational opportunities to the underprivileged, with the allure of proximity a strong incentive for many to enroll in these schools.

While I applaud Nana Akufo-Addo’s willingness to tackle the disproportionately large student-to-teacher ratio by “reducing class sizes,” (studies have clearly shown that children do better in smaller classes due to a greater access to, and attention from, an instructor), it is the NPP flag-bearer’s suggestion that he would “[employ] Ghanaian Professors in the Diaspora to teach” university students via online technology that really caught my attention! Computer technology and online education are so complementary, thousands of colleges and universities worldwide have adopted both technologies in educating their students. Not only are Web-transmitted instructions devoid of the encumbrances of getting educated in a brick-and-mortar environment, they are also more affordable in most instances. In the advanced nations of the West, many traditional universities now permit their students to take up to 30 percent of academic work online towards graduation, thereby allowing most of these students to keep full- or part-time jobs, for obvious reasons.

There are many fine Ghanaian intellectuals around the globe, many without the slightest inclination to return permanently to Ghana (I have several cousins who fall into this category!), so why not engage their services via modern technology? In view of the fact that many of these renowned men and women were offered free university education in the 1960s and 1970s by Ghanaian taxpayers, the least these individuals could do for their nation of birth now is to agree to teach the younger generation via the Web, mainly from the comfort of their homes and/or offices. I think this is a great idea that many people, including this writer, even while he is about to commence work toward a doctoral degree, will participate in as service to our nation, in return for a reasonable remuneration.

The benefits of an excellent education are too numerous to enumerate. Certainly, the more educated a people, the lower the crime rates in that society, as criminal behavior typically emanates from the mindset of a lack of access to the basic life-sustaining necessities: criminals sometimes rob others with the belief that the larger society deserves to be punished for not providing an equal socio-economic platform for all the citizens. It is also a known fact that having an educated, specialized work force increases productivity. We need to train the young minds in our nation to become the next college professors, engineers, doctors, nurses, accountants, financial analysts, technicians, artists, commercial farmers, et cetera, but with too few public universities, it is unlikely that many will get the chance to fulfill their dreams at the present time. This is a surmountable problem, however, and I applaud Nana Akufo-Addo for both identifying the flaws in our educational system and stating how he plans to correct these anomalies.

A healthy nation is a wealthy nation. How do we expect a poorly educated population to, for example, understand that high cholesterol is a danger to a person’s health, the incidence of which can be traced to eating foods that are high in fats? I want to challenge any of my readers domiciled in Accra to take a random survey immediately after reading this article, by asking his or her respondents if they knew what high cholesterol entailed. Ladies and gentlemen, instead of sitting on the sidelines and perfecting our propensity for negative political interlocutions, we ought to rather roll up our sleeves and get to work on behalf of our dear nation. The nation’s educational problems transcend party politics, so we must do what is in the best interest of the nation, by supporting policies that will reverse the academic mediocrity now entrenched in many of our nation’s schools. The more educated a people, the more they are likely to understand what it takes to stay healthy, and the less the nation subsequently spends on health care.

When we educate the youth, we are deliberately providing the latter with the tools to succeed in life. While a university education is not synonymous with success in life, it is a good predictor of living standards. Technical and vocational training, in the Ghanaian context, can be improved, provided those trainees’ energies are channeled into the right areas after their formal education ends. If we train someone in the finer elements of growing a certain food crop, then the nation must be prepared to offer that person a loan to establish a farm afterwards ? this is the role of the banks and other financial institutions. Most people are capable of eventually creating jobs for themselves and others, but they seriously need some financial help first. Offering loans to people based on the culture of “whom you know” is one of the biggest cankers in African societies. We complain daily about Africa’s underdevelopment, yet we are our own nastiest enemies. Also, government intervention in ensuring people are awarded jobs on merit in the public sector may help curtail the systemic abuse of venerable talent, a situation that egregiously weakens the nation’s human resources pool.

If we want to move the abjectly penurious and the penurious into the middle-class, a goal that we continue to yearn for but are unable to achieve due to poor planning, we must, as a nation, emphasize the need for wealth-creation. The secret to entrenching wealth in a family is understanding the importance of creating wealth (tangible wealth, for that matter), the kind that can be transferred from one generation to another. This is why putsches ? these pusillanimous actions by a disgruntled few are really mental pustulations unleashed on a population, Mauritania being an example of a nation in the throes of sedition and gangsterism, a political situation that we must all condemn unequivocally ? are so bad for any nation, because with such usurpations of power come the wanton and unapologetic “rescission” of other people’s hard work and entrepreneurship. I call on Ghana’s leaders to educate the citizenry on the need to acquire and transfer wealth to their progenies, as this is one of the fail-safe ways of making sure one’s family is spared the dejections that come with abject poverty.

Finally, I want to applaud Nana Akufo-Addo, once again, for his vision to arrest the falling standards of education in our dear nation. If, indeed, Nana Akufo-Addo can implement this great vision if elected, then I think he deserves a chance to serve in the highest office of the land. The need for an educated society is so essential that we must, as a nation, make the issue a priority, if we are to not retrogress any further into the doldrums of poverty, mediocrity and mismanagement. On a side note, I wish to encourage all those ambitious young people who write to me regularly seeking information about how to accomplish an objective that, despite their gloomy economic backgrounds, there are a lot of self-help books out there that can provide salient information for success in any endeavor. Please make the library your second home, whether or not you are a student at this time, and do not trivialize the power of the human spirit, for success is always possible if there is a willingness to work assiduously!

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.