Delivering the keynote address at the 75th-anniversary celebration of his alma mater, the Asante-Effiduase (Efidwase?) Senior High Commercial School, recently, the Executive-Secretary of the Ghana National Media Commission (NMC), Mr. George Sarpong, was reported to have told the nation’s education policymakers not to scrap or phase out the double-track system introduced by President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to ease the burden of intake incapacity, but instead use this emergency system to attract students from neighboring West African countries who may be interested in experiencing Ghana’s relatively higher or more qualitative public school system (See “Ghana Must Maintain Double-Track System – NMC Executive-Secretary” Ghana News Agency / Ghanaweb.com 2/19/20).
I find such thinking to be inexcusably absurd, if only because the stark factual reality is that the quality of Ghana’s public education system leaves much to be desired when evaluated on a global scale, as was done less than a decade ago by the Paris-based and United Nations-sponsored Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in which Ghana’s public high school system was ranked 145 out of 145 countries. It is also scandalous for Mr. Sarpong to cavalierly cite as his authority for claiming Ghana to be possessed of a superior quality of education, compared to those of our West African neighbors, a single article published in Bloomberg News that allegedly declared Ghana to be “Africa’s Candidate for an Economic Leap.”
You see, I thought our leaders had since long weaned themselves of this cavalier neocolonialist mentality whereby we routinely assessed our worth and that of our statutory institutions and establishments by what was put into the global mainstream about us by the foreign press, especially the European and American media. Somebody needs to inform Mr. Sarpong to fully concentrate his attention and expertise on building and strengthening our national media culture and leave the question or subject of our academic, intellectual and professional development to those with the expertise and the requisite knowledge and skill in the field, as it takes much more than a single news report published by the foreign press to arrive at a credible and definitive conclusion about the quality of the country’s public education.
The NMC’s Executive-Secretary also needs to be reminded of the fact that the double-track system was not established as a means of milking students from neighboring West African countries for funds to run or sustain the Akufo-Addo-implemented fee-free Senior High School System. Rather, it organically arose from the imperative necessity to exponentially maximize the talent pool of our youths, our best hope for the present and future development of our country.
You see, the Ghanaian electorate did not put our leaders and technocrats in office for the purpose of serving the nationals of other countries, even nationals of other neighboring West African countries; for, sovereignty is first and foremost about catering to the basic needs of Ghanaian citizens. And it is preposterous for any Ghanaian politician or leader, or even technocrat, to be looking towards the provision of qualitative education to foreign students, when decades of abject neglect has created a shameful situation of socioeconomic and cultural inequities whereby an unacceptably sizeable percentage of our youths still attend schools under trees and in barely livable conditions.
There are, of course, better ways of raising adequate funding for the fee-free Senior High School System, including a drastic reduction in the level of official corruption and fiscal-spending discipline. Still, one expects a prominent administrative executive like Mr. Sarpong to come up with far more creative and economically sustainable ideas and strategic initiatives for boosting up funding resources for the fee-free Senior High School Policy Initiative than cheaply and tawdrily resorting to the milking of the parents and guardians of the youths of our neighboring countries whose income levels, by the way, are generally fairly as depressing as that of the average Ghanaian parent or guardian or even much worse.
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By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York