“On the expansion of knowledge I stand.” – Martin Luther.
Gladly, two of Ghana’s registered political parties have come out boldly to espouse a free education programme.
Sadly and, most regrettably, the incumbent party still does not buy into the idea.
The Minister of Education, Lee Ocran, recently reiterated the government’s stance when he said that, to his party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) , led by President John Dramani Mahama, free SHS can only be possible after the year 2032.
That is 20 years from now.
Mr. Ocran even remembered to tell us that were free education to be a feasible proposition, the Ghana’s first president, the Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, would have implemented it.
He conveniently forgot to remember that Africa’s favorite son implemented a free education programme for the most deprived areas of the land.
Whatever the nay-sayers say, and whether or not the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) the two parties that have endorsed the free education programme, implement it if they come to power remains immaterial: the discussion on free education has entered into Ghana’s political space and it never will go away. It shall continue to dominate political discourse as it rightly should.
I just find it difficult to understand why some people seem so dead set against the idea of the state funding education for our children. The excuses they give range from the flimsy to the utterly ridiculous.
I am yet to read a meritorious argument against the implementation of a programme that not only will benefit individual Ghanaian children, but whose benefits will redound appreciably to the country in the next few years.
It should be remember that until very few years ago, the most capitalist of countries in Europe had a free, qualitative and compulsory education for citizens.
In the Netherlands for example, until some few years ago, Dutch children enjoyed free and education up to secondary level, and there was guaranteed student loan scheme for those that desire to go to university. Economic difficulties have forced the Dutch to transfer the state’s guaranteed scheme to bank loans that attract commercial interests.
What is equally baffling is that it is the National Democratic Party, a self-proclaimed Social-Democratic party that seems opposed to a free education, while the NPP, supposedly a party of capitalist moguls champions it!
The question we ought to ask ourselves here is: If some people can announced, planned , find the money and launched a programme that put man on the moon inside of ten years, why should it take us 20 years to find the money to educate our children – the biggest investment we can ever have!
This becomes more baffling when we see all the wastage and leakages n the system.
Let us not rehash some old issues, but how could our officials who managed to get some GH¢858 million in three years to pay judgment debts, tell us that they cannot find the funds to implement a free education policy estimated to cost between 700m to one billion cedis?
How could our officials who managed to create some 280 parliamentary constituencies and are telling us that we need additional 47 more tell us, talk about the unfeasibility of a free education policy?
Aside from basic salaries and emoluments, each of our MPs also gets a car loan of US$50,000.
Multiplied by 280, that comes to a neat 14million.
We also have quite a number of presidential aides who get salaries of some 4,000 ceids; many of them do little apart from hopping from media house to media house to lambast critics and opponents of the government.
We also maintain a large retinue of ministers (cabinet and state) who also get loads of freebies from the state.
The state of the art fleet of four-wheel jeeps we gave our officials must also have cost us a small fortune.
In addition, we give free accommodation to all our MPs and all our ministers.
It should be said that MPs and ministers in most of the countries from where we borrow the money, to fund the lavish lifestyles of our officials, live in their own house. They buy and fuel their own vehicles. Our nation’s largest benefactor to date, China, operates a part-time parliamentary system of governments, and its officials use cars that are far smaller than what we give to our officials.
Whilst the British Prime Minister travels on commercial flight, we do our best to buy a jet (or is it two?) for our president.
We claim not to have money but we manage to operate a very expensive presidential system that is imperial in its opulent majesty.
When we tallied up all these expenses, they certainly must be substantial.
If we can raise the funds to give our officials such good lives, why do we continue to hear the lamentations about lack of money to fund a free education programme for our children?
Life is all about making choices; the economists call it opportunity cost.
The choice before is stark and it is, put simply, this: do we want to continue with our hit-and-miss approach to development or do we want to make a clean, decisive break, jettison old prejudices, become bold and make bold, if painful, decisions about our future?
Do we want to continue the to trod the same path we walked for so long, which has left us as the world’s under-achievers, or do we want to be bold and make the necessary choices that will enable us to join the rest of humanity in marching triumphantly into a brave new world of science and technology?
Our tragedy is this country, indeed in Africa, is that since the time of our Founding Fathers (Nkrumah, Kaunda, Nyerere, etc), we have not had confident and bold leaders who are willing to take us into unexplored territories.
Whatever we say about those pioneers, they were larger than life leaders who dazzled us with the architecture of their visions.
Whether or not they realise their visions or whether or not those visions were utopian can be debated, but no one can deny that they had VISIONS.
Very sadly we cannot say this of any contemporary leader in Africa.
Sadly, we are being led by mental Lilliputians and intellectual dwarfs, who lack that all important ingredient of all great leaders: VISION.
A visit outside our beautiful continent will only reveal to us the yawning gap between us and the rest of the human race.
It will only tell us the painful truth about how far behind we lag.
The Koreans, through firms like Rlg, Samsung and Hyundai daily dazzle us with electronic and engineering marvels.
The Chinese plan to send one them to space shortly.
Both nations follow the trail the Japanese blazed for the Asians three or four decades ago.
The Asians so thoroughly dominate science and engineering breakthroughs today that few people will believe that we started life at about the same time.
Modern Chinese history began in 1949 when the communists managed to drive off the US-imposed Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.
Modern South Korean history started after the bitter Korean war that led to its establishment on 15 August 1948. That is just nine years before Ghana threw off the yoke off colonialism in 1957, and blazed the way for Africa’s decolonization.
Malaysia, another of the Asian Tigers, got her own independence on 6 September 1963, and was reputedly poorer than our dear Ghana.
Today, we can only look at the Malaysians in awe. Without jettisoning its core Islamic values, Malaysia managed to build a thoroughly-first world nation in a generation. Its plants manufacture high-grade electronics and pharmaceuticals products.
Malaysians, like most Asians, now receive respect at ports of entries outside Asia.
As mention supra, our post-colonial leaders did their best. For one reason or the other, they failed to lift us to high level of development.
There is no need for us to continue to cry over spilled milk.
But there is a need, a very urgent one, for us to lift ourselves up and redouble our efforts to join the rest of mankind.
We are starting from a very low level and the optimism in us should tell us that we have nowhere to go but up.
But very few things in life happen per chance. We have to prepare to build the tomorrow we want today.
We must try as much as possible to remove the mental shackles with which we imprison ourselves.
We ought to change, very fast, the mentality that instinctively tells us that: “it is impossible,” “it’s difficult.”
Of course, it is difficult; who says that anything in life will be easy?
We need to realize that the main reason we lag behind the other races is that the quality and quantity of our education is POOR.
Of course, we have numerous schools and universities. But we have to think beyond the box as they say.
It is not simply enough to keep on graduating people with diplomas who cannot function adequately.
In a globalized world, we need to produce global citizens who can successfully compete with their peers from anywhere in the world.
We need to seriously reconsider our education system under which we continue to graduate people who cannot think critically.
We cannot continue to operate a system whereby our graduates are good at only quotology – swallowing and regurgitating facts like parrots mimicking human voices.
Our next leader should be someone prepared to break away from the crowd and lead. He should be a confident person and one that is bold enough to tell us basic home truths. Principal among this that there is no way we can continue the way we are going and expect to get anywhere.
Our next leader should be one emboldened to change the whole paradigm of our education system.
Our next leader should be an education President. If he only could successfully prosecute an education agenda that give our children quality education, linked intrinsically with our core traditional values, he would succeed beyond measures.