Finding Solutions before Closing down Ghana’s Premier High School.
By: Dr. Kwaku A. Danso
The news that Achimota School is about to be closed down due to a damaged sewage system that can cause squalor and diseases in the school and neighborhood came as a shock to many of us within the last week of January to February 2010.
As the news spread, our Achimota friends copied me and our GLU (Ghana Leadership Union) forum. Some of us wondered about the role of Government, and I for one wondered how many in government have read the book I wrote for Ghana: Leadership Concepts and The Role of Government in Africa: The Case of Ghana (2007, Xlibris Corporation, ISBN 978-1-4257-2500-6, 978-1-4257-2499-3).
Achimota is one of Ghana’s most prestigious high schools, which have produced many professionals scattered around the world and leaders, including even two Presidents in Ghana. When we were growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s, Achimota had a pair of shoes named after it called Achimota Sandals, and it was a recommended or mandatory footwear even for us who attended what has been called the Kings College, Prempeh College.
Since I have been adapted as an honorary Akora or old Achimotan (smile), I wrote this for the Achimota committee and share it (few edits) with our nation in case somebody out there wants to help Ghana the way some of us want to:
On Sat, Feb 6, 2010 at 9:52 AM,
You were right I am allowed a few hours of sleep here (:-)). I am up early also but went to bed around 1am.
Wow! Achimota sits on 1,300 acres of land! I even forgot the golf course has some small ponds that may be linked to the drainage system. You guys want to sell the total land package to me? (Smile). I have an idea. I will give you the private phone numbers of EC Chairman Dr. Afari Djan, and old friend from California, and the Electoral Commissioner’s Directors. Go and see them with Attorney Rowland Atta-Kesson and Attorney Nana Darko Ofori (aka Prof. Nti Asare), and maybe some other friends and debate the topic of Decentralization and government’s failed responsibility.
DECENTRALIZATION, as done in the US, is where Towns and Districts have ownership of their schools, public libraries, parks, etc, and have a legal mandate to collect taxes from residents. We need to give ample notice, and have all residents of a District meet, discuss, and then vote to set up a legally mandated and chartered City Council, with powers to collect taxes and hire people to work for all residents, and then have it announced in the government gazette. That is how it started in 587BC in ancient Athens.
Once the EC agrees to help (he got his PhD in Political Science at University of California at Santa Barbara, USA), and to help conduct a small district election, and we also agree not to sue the government for criminal negligence which can cost about $500 million and World-wide embarrassment (smile), the next meeting will be with the Chief Executive / Mayor of Accra. We hear he was educated and lived for a long time in the USA. Ideally if you can all meet it will be great.
After agreement, all we need is a little seed capital to put advertisement in the papers and Internet for a set meeting of all residents, in say 3 month time. On that day, those who attend represent the whole district in creating the foundation of a democratic governing system. Trust me what we have now in Ghana is a confused joke and imitation in name only of democracy. It is an oligarchy (or Chieftaincy) with a vote.
There is a Discovery Channel documentary by Canadian Professor Thomas - I just came back to my desk and turned on my PC and did a Google search, and Boy! There are tons of articles on the history of democracy that anybody will find interesting to read (e.g., www.historyworld.net).
If we can have a vote, it will force every homeowner in the area to contribute towards the development of the public schools, development of public parks, covered central sewage system and more in that district. Even Haiti has public parks and covered sewage. Since Jan 12, CNN in the US has had almost continuous 24 hour coverage for two weeks, and now still being covered; one will notice the poorest country in the Western hemisphere may have an edge in infrastructural development over Ghana (don't cry, please, we can change our destiny if we want to!).
So Michel, friends (most of whom I have not met yet), please spread the word.
The SHORT TERM solution will be to "beg" for money our usual style from volunteers and donors. We would raise more money if it was a funeral, as you all know in our culture. We should not wait till the children of Achimota school die! This might take 6 months to raise say $500,000 if we are lucky. "Begging" from international sources might take the same or longer, and Michel, Audrey and others with experience in this may start the paperwork right now. I am sure America has a few millions sitting somewhere one can tap into if we find the right level to raise. For God’s sake, when are we going to learn to work together, let everybody contribute a little, learn to use the Computer to help us manage the money, and do it ourselves! We need a long term solution.
The LONG TERM solution - It will also take 6 months to set up a long term democratic system - from meetings, to announcement, voting and ready to execute action! I am working on turning my hometown of Abetifi and residence town of East Legon into Townhoods, and why not Achimota town, where we have the mother of all high schools in Ghana!! Huh!
During the Achimota golf club anniversary where the Vice President Mahama was an invited guest speaker, I saw those nice homes in the area as one drives by. Can anybody tell me these homeowners cannot come out with $500 each in property taxes, for an estimated 10,000 homes!!? Come oooon!! Moreover I understand many of those homes were built without proper permits on Achimota school lands! Come oon! You can make them an offer they cannot refuse (remember the Movie the Godfather?). Please use the California /American real estate taxation formula, the larger your house the more you pay (I can help you guys on this, as licensed Real Estate Broker also). Sounds fair to me! BTW I went to one of those homes with my Electrician for him to show me a super-silent power Generator – When I came back to the US I searched for manufacturers and that machine costs $20,000 in UK! And it’s for only his "SFR- single family residence" house (as we call it in California), with about 12-15 rooms and only 5 people at most living there, as I evaluated. Please note that all this lack of distribution of wealth has come about due to the failure of central government and their inability to manage in a modern way! Does it make sense for say 10,000 homes each to spend say $20,000 on private water reservoirs, power generators and private sewage? That amount comes to $200 million which is being wasted in Ghana if you work out the numbers had we found the formula to work together! Let each of the residents pay say $500 per year average and you have a Budget Revenue of $5 million, which can create a complete City Council with their own Offices, and hire a City Manager ($100,000 per year), 4 City Engineers and Architects ($80,000 /year each), a staff and workers of say 20 working for the City local government and the community, with vehicles and trucks and enough left over to build the sewage system! We can do this on an Excel ™ spreadsheet and adjust the numbers if need be to make this a modern way of management!
Folks, the man they called “savior”, Kwame Nkrumah is dead and gone and the rest is up to us educated folks. This is our own land, as the national anthem says! Is the youth of Ghana going to allow the old system that did not work shackle you down? And what do we the slightly older ones, and you brilliant ones behind, leave for our kids? Tell them that Achimota School closed down because you and we could not figure out a solution? We know better now, folks! The strategy to change our society and my recommendations for long term solutions are as I have outlined in my earlier correspondence and in this dialogue, and in my book.
1. Every district and town in Ghana should have their own local governing body, a Town Council with paid staff and a legal mandate to collect taxes and manage their town.
2. By pooling our funds together, towns can have enough money, negotiate and pay for world class expertise to set up modern water delivery, high speed (broadband) telecommunication and road and transportation systems and develop our towns like any in America or the West that will bring Africa out of the dark ages and into the modern era.
3. An investment climate can be created for each town as they generate wealth and develop their infrastructure, and soon Ghana will not be centered on only Accra but government services will spread throughout Ghana. 4. Central government can demand a contributory tax as revenue for the regions and districts towards first class transportation system of highways as done in America and most of the West.
Our children deserve better than open gutters and sewers that breed mosquitoes and kills an estimated 55,000 to 100,000 every year! Ghana’s youth are seeking a better condition of life, and see a better life daily through the Internet and on Television. Ghanaians have proven in the last 50 years that we are intellectually at par with our counterparts everywhere in the world.
So, please, let's just do it! (as Nike would put it). Some of us older members of society scattered around the globe and in Ghana are willing to help. Is the government asking for help?
Kwaku A. Danso, M.Eng., PhD
East Legon, Accra, Ghana & Livermore, California, USA