“On the expansion of knowledge I stand.” – Martin Luther
I should like to damn the communications department of the main Ghanaian opposition party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
There we have a bunch of incompeteniks looking on in askance whilst the other parties bash the most laudable idea propounded by their presidential candidate to hell.
Gosh, what a bunch of imcompetendos!
Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo came up with the most praiseworthy programme of any political party since overthrow of the first republic – free education for every Ghanaian child up to the SHS level, and we have some people lampooning it to hell.
And more gallingly, the so-called communication team of the NPP failed to rally robustly to defend this most commendable programme. They allowed the opposition a field day to condemn a programme that every patriotic Ghanaian should embrace and support.
Since the nogoodniks at the communication department of the NPP are unlikely to do anything positive soon, I have given myself the task of drafting the following address for their candidate.
Of course, any political party can adopt it with the hope that they will remember to substitute their candidate’s name!
“Fellow Ghanaians, I send you my greetings. Few days ago I announced my party’s programme and policy on education. I announced my intention to take the burden of education off the shoulders of struggling parents and make the provision of free and qualitative education the state’s burden.
I announced that my government shall provide every Ghanaian child free education up to the Senior High School level.
Sadly, my political opponents, I shall not call them enemies, saw everything wrong with this proposal.
Without debating the merit or otherwise of this scheme, they condemned it as unachievable, utopian, expensive. My character was not spared the venomous darts of the people who, given their privileged positions in society, ought to know better.
I shall not insult my intelligence and my mind by taking issues with the puerile and often prurient arguments posited by my opponents. And I have too much respect for the good people of our blessed republic to resort to the types of gutter languages my opponents elected to employ.
The issue is not about me, Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Like every human, I admit to having foibles and defects; only the gods are holy and without blemish. As Our Lord Jesus Christ said:” Let him without blemish cast the first stone.”
I stand before you today, my fellow compatriots, to make a solemn and sacred pledge that I stand firmly by my proposal to provide free and compulsory education for every Ghanaian child up to the Senior High School level.
This is my sacred covenant with you and you can take it to any bank.
If even I did not do any other thing during my presidential tenure, but ensure that every Ghanaian child is not deprived of education because of the circumstance or situation of his or her parent, I shall feel fulfilled indeed.
It is quite simple, dear compatriots, but in order to confuse issues, my opponents chose to lambast my person. They say that I have inordinate ambition to become president.
My only reply to them is that for how long shall we continue with these types of pedestrian politicking that has not benefitted our nation in our over fifty years of our existence as a nation?
I am ambitious, so what? It is only the dead that have no ambitions.
They say that I am arrogant. If not engaging in guttersnipish politicking is arrogance, so be it. I offer no apology.
Yes, I am ambitious. I am ambitious to see Ghanaians and Africans performing at the same level as the other people and other races.
I have been truly blessed in life. Very few Ghanaians had my privileged upbringing. I had the best education there is to be had. I have led a very successful life that few people will ever be privileged to live. I am fully contented with my station in life.
My only ambition now is to render a service to the society that has been so kind to me. I should love to use the remainder of my time on earth to improve the lot of my people. It is an ambition for which I render no apology.
My reading of history and political economy taught me that no nation has made progress with an illiterate and badly educated citizen. It is equally true that none of the nations we call great today left the education of its children to any other entity but the state.
The foundation of every developed economy was laid by the provision of free, qualitative and compulsory education. Rescue and correct me if I’m wrong, please.
Even in the most capitalist of countries, the state provides the largest investment in education. We can cite the examples of the United States of America and the Royal Kingdom of the Netherlands.
In the technically-advanced countries, where the state does not provide free education, they make it possible for students to have easy access to grants or loans so that every child is given equal access and opportunity to quality education.
This is what I propose to do and it is what sent my opponent into overdrive.
They asked question about how we are going to finance it. It is sad that this question is being posed by those on whom our society has bestowed some privileges.
Many of those leading the charges of ‘No money’ were those that enjoyed the free education our founding president, Kwame Nkrumah, provided when our country was poorer and has less resources than we have today.
Fellow citizens, it is quite simple, really. When we study history and look around us, the only lesson we can draw is that knowledge is everything.
We are called ‘poor,’ ‘third-world,’ ‘hipc,’ and other derogatory names because we have been unable to equip our citizens with the necessary education that would make them the equal of the best in the world.
But the fault lies not in our starts but in us. It lies in our inability to get our priorities right.
As the great Nigerian Playwright, Ola Rotimi, said: “The gods are not to blame.”
We have been lucky and very blessed in Ghana. By providing us with immeasurable mineral resources, the gods have certainly done their best for us. What is left is for us to provide the brains to transform these metals into products that will drive our economy and improve the lives of our people.
Fellow citizens, I say that it is time we ask ourselves some questions. We ought to ask why, despite all our vast resources, we remain poor and we continue to beg?
Our mineral resources are vast and plentiful, but without the human resources to transform them into usable products, we shall continue to rely on the technical help of other people. And let no one fool you that these technical help come cheaply. No, they don’t.
If you read that our nation receives between four and six percent as royalty for our gold and ten percent for our oil, do not be surprised.
These insulting arrangements are possible only because the foreigners know that we lack the technical capabilities to use our god-given resources. They know that without them, these resources cannot be extracted and exploited. So they demanded and got huge chunk of what should rightly belong to us.
Inasmuch as we hated this arrangement, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it so long as we refused to equip our own people with the required education. We should try to understand that the foreigners invested heavily in their technical education. Today, they are reaping handsome rewards from their investment in education.
And why do my opponents find it difficult to accept that we try and do the same thing? It is true that we have huge reservoir of oil and lots of gold and other minerals. But any geologist will tell you that these are finite products that will one day be exhausted.
What is inexhaustible is knowledge. The human brain possesses infinite and immeasurable possibilities and potentials. By investing in developing the brains of our children, we are building a large pool of inexhaustible reservoir of brain power that will benefit our country in years to come.
We currently spend between 5 to 7 percent of our GDP on education. My scheme will add about two percent more to this. That means we will still be spending less than ten percent of our resources on education. I say that this is price any serious nation should be to afford to pay.
It is sad that those that have no problem splashing huge sums of money on dubious judgment debt have issue with increasing education budget.
Let no one tell you that education will come cheap. It will not. But as the saying goes: “if you think that education is expensive, try ignorance.”
For years we have tried ignorance and it has not helped us. Today, fifty five years after our independence, we still rely on foreigners to do the most basic of things for us. We still do not construct the bulk of our houses; we still do not build our own roads; we still do not construct our own dams; we still do not grow our own food; we still do not participate at any level of science and technology.
But we are consuming all these things. And let no one tell you that they come cheap; they do not. Last year, our bill for imported rice was over five hundred million dollars.
Fellow citizens, my intention was not to bog you down with all these sad statistics. I only intend to put into context what my proposed education policy is set to achieve for our dear country.
The truth is that we simply cannot continue the way we are going. We need a paradigm shift. We need a change in our mindsets. We need to shift our gaze from consumption to production. We can do this only by acquiring the knowledge and the skills necessary to transform our lives and the future of our dear nation.
I do not say that it is going to be easy. But as your president, I intend to take harsh and hard decisions. One thing we all have to learn is that nothing good in life come cheap.
Nations are built by leaders willing to take the critical decisions that are necessary in order to change the destiny of their nations. Societies are built by leaders with visions who provided the necessary architectural visions citizens need to galvanise themselves.
We only have to look at the tiny statelet of Singapore to see how the provision of high quality education can transform a country from a backward state into a first world economy within a generation. Singapore has no mineral resource of any description. What the country has is high grade, highly educated people. Today, the around four million Singaporeans, occupying about 685sp km of land, enjoy a standard of living at par with the best in the world.
Cuba is another example of a country that managed to transform itself by providing free and qualitative education for her people. Today, we very enthusiastically welcome the help the tiny Island is rendering to our country in the field of medicine and agriculture. Cuba’s population is about eleven million; we are twenty four million. Cuba is earning good money from her prudent investment in education and is able to afford to send us high-quality medical staff. And let It be remember that it was Cuban troops that broke the back of the South African troops and ensured the independence of Angola.
If the Singaporeans and the Cubans can do it and my opponents say we in Ghana cannot, our retort should be: “Any why not, massa?”
We can also cite the example of South Korea. This is another country that dramatically transformed itself into a world power within a generation.
I was told that one of the South Korean giant conglomerates has as its motto” Korea can do.”
That is the whole spirit. A people must believe in themselves. They must have confidence in themselves. Without this self-confidence, no transformation is possible. We must also say: “Ghana can do!”
My opponents ask where we are going to get the money to fund our education programme. It is hard to understand why the same question is not being asked as to how we find the money to import rice and buy al the comforts for our Power Elite.
When it comes to paying dubious judgment debt, we find the money without problem. But when it comes to educating our children, we hear lamentations of “where is the coming going to come from.”
Fellow Ghanaians, I made a compact with you today. Let no one tell you that it is going to be easy. Life is about making choices. Do we continue on the same sad path we have walked over the years without getting anywhere, or we make the decision to do something different, however radical.
It is true that we have sectors like defence, health, agriculture and housing that require huge investments.
But when we consider it critically, the simple truth emerges that the best defence our nation can have is highly educated, motivated and patriotic citizens. If the people of Ghana see their government invest heavily in their education, no one needs to exhort them to become patriotic and defend the country stoutly. We can be truly secured only when our engineers and scientists are building for us the tools and equipments we require to defend ourselves.
The foreign content of our agriculture, housing and industrial inputs are what drives the cost high; this can easily be remedied when we start to rely on our indigenous technologists to provide them using our readily available materials.
Another thing that I learn from my study of history is that every society that has succeeded has sacrificed a generation.
It simply means that a generation must commit to make itself the sacrificial generation, defer its enjoyment so that the society can save and prosper for future generation to enjoy.
That is the crust of the matter. The question and the choice before us today is stark: are we prepare to make this sacrifice?
As your president, I am ready and prepare to lead this transformation. I do not say that I can make Ghana become a developed nation in my first four years, but I can and I shall lay the foundation to set us on the path to become a power to be reckoned within ten to fifteen years.
If the South Koreans, the Cubans, the Singaporeans can do it, I say: Ghana can do!
To show my commitment and seriousness, I have assembled a bi-partisan study group of the most qualified Ghanaians to study submit to me within the next four weeks a total and holistic plan to transform our education system. Their sole remit is to produce for us an education system that is directly and organically linked to our industrial, agricultural, scientific, technological and cultural policies.
I shall share their report with you as soon as it is ready. But I wish to start clearly and unequivocally today is that my first act as a president is the enactment, by an Executive Order, if necessary, that will introduce a free and compulsory education up to SHS level.
It is said that pessimists see problem with every proposition, whilst optimist sees proposition in every problem. I am by nature eternally optimist. When they say “it is impossible; it cannot be done,” I say “why not?”
Fellow Ghanaians, I make a confession to you today: I have just one wish in life, and that is to die with a smile on my face knowing that I left behind a Ghana, nay an Africa, that has finally woken up from centuries of deep slumber and is rightfully taken her place among the comity of nations.
Fellow compatriot, I conclude my address with this paraphrase of the saying by a US president: “It’s education, stupid.”
I thank you all for lending me your ears. May the ancestors continue to guide us and light our path with wisdom, love and understanding.
God bless our great republic, Ghana.