16.03.2003 Feature Article

We Ain't Funny Enough

We Ain't Funny Enough
16.03.2003 LISTEN

(The writer accidentally bumped into Official Ghanaian website during his research on Saturday 15/03/03. Carefully but interestingly read what he saw there).

There are two things bothering the writer's mind at the moment. But as a reader, I humbly invite you to visit this site briefly. Yes, that is the official website of the Government of Ghana. That is the website of the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa, which became independent from Britain in 1957. A country, which has for some 10 years embarked on export promotion drive to woo investors and tourists into Ghana. What disturbs the writer are two things: 1. Ghana as a country has still not come into self realisation of the global society that has engulfed its boundaries and beyond and 2. We simply lack people with passion, foresight, creative leadership and a sense of purpose, which will define our goals from our past. When one opens the web page, with the exception of the 'Coat of Arms' on the upper left of the screen and Ghana's flag on the right, there is nothing on the page that appeals to any individual to waste time and read what the web page has to offer. The design at the page, well, we may need some creative old men to tell us what it simply mean to us as Ghanaians and foreigners. Secondly, which part of the Ghanaian culture that the design tries to portray to the outside world. In addition to that the writer is not sure how the web page was designed and by who? Lastly, is it the Ministry of Communication that controls the sight or an individual (from where)? For example, a link on the right side of the screen says: "Investing>> If you are planning to invest in Ghana, you should visit this section" If you click this page what you will see is just news. It is news about business delegation who have visited the president or have visited some places in Ghana as part of business tour. It does not say whether they have invested anything. It offers no advice for Ghanaians abroad and other foreigners on investment portfolio or gives simple 'links' to web pages, say the Ministry of Tourism, Investment Promotion Centre etc. There is no advice on the success stories or failures of individuals who have invested in Ghana and for what period. It is the first time this writer has visited this site (Saturday 15/03/03). The investment advertisement site has caption of news of some supposedly investment delegation from 3 countries who met the President; and the District Chief Executive for Bibiani who has announced just the establishment of Business Advisory Centre in Bibiani. Is the caption 'if you want to invest visit this site' not deceiving? Should you become a curious person like this writer and fail to leave the site but tries to know exactly what is in there, try to click and read the above link, which says "studying…" Then appears news on education in Ghana with sub-titles on the left. Click on "Education in Ghana". The information on Ghana's Education is a full screen story. Here is the summary of this educational information: …..Government has also decided to upgrade at least one Senior Secondary School in each of the 110 districts that exist in Ghana, and also address the low enrolment of girls especially in the science disciplines. Education is increasingly becoming very expensive. The NPP government is in this vein, liberalising the sector and is looking for partners to sponsor education at an affordable rate. This year the Parliament of Ghana approved ¢1,800,027,000,000 for the 2002 fiscal year, last year an amount of ¢21,420,215,305,329 was approved by the Parliament of Ghana. This represents an increase of ¢379,812,000,000 or 26.7%. The allocation of ¢1,800,027,000,000 represents 70% of Governments total allocation to all social service sectors and 24.1% of the national discretionary budget. At present Ghana has 12, 130 primary schools, 5, 450 Junior Secondary schools, 503 Senior Secondary schools, 21 training colleges, 18 technical institutions, two diploma awarding institutions and five universities serving a population of about 18 million. This is in sharp contrast to the independence period in 1957, when Ghana would boost of only one university and a handful of secondary and primary schools. The writer has underlined some sentences for emphasis. Simply put, they are some sentences that one should think about carefully: 1. Ghana's Government is looking for partners to sponsor education at an affordable rate. 3. Ghana has five Universities to serve 18 million people with pride 4. The government is yet to upgrade one senior secondary schools in 110 districts

5. Ghana after 46 years (1957-2003) has built 4 extra Universities than the previous one University that Ghana would "boost" of. Check the word 'boost' in the penultimate line 'Ghana would boost of'. The writer is being sure that no one is insulting the intelligence of Ghanaians in any way as the Government of Ghana would want to depict here. However, if the sitting government did not set up that website at least, they are using it. They have the name NPP government in there. So they are to be held accountable for anything on the web page. In the points enumerated above, the writer wishes to elaborate: a. There is no link from the official website of Ghana to any of the educational institutions. Not even the Universities or the Ministry of Education. The scanty information on the site only talks of how many schools are serving children, young adults and adults in Ghana. The information never explains what is the educational system in Ghana, specific skills that student are likely to achieve upon completion, etc. No reference to the balance of education, employment and the economy except the national old story of many years ago, "education receives 70% of the national budget". Every Ghanaian knows this unofficial anthem. This statement is an indictment on the seriousness purpose of we as Ghanaian and how we plan. In many countries, policies by governments have rolled in stakeholders who offer appealing scholarships to support education. When UK had financial difficulty in handling tertiary education, the government gave Universities the autonomy to enroll foreigners who could pay fees; airlines benefited and government had tax increase(s). The Universities integrated research and partnerships, which have helped many Universities to operate excellently till today. In Ghana, it is SSNIT, which offers about ¢1M ($118 a year/individual) to students of tertiary education institutions in Ghana who apply for financial help. That is good effort according the government! Our priorities are in question here! b. In a period of 46 years, the country has built 4 Universities for 18 million people is an excellent achievement. The writer is not sure if the one who wrote the information to be stored on the internet did read the history of Ghana's educational system in the past. The country's educational system, before, during and immediately after independence was to accelerate the establishment of primary and secondary (to sixth form) schools. That was what the British and the missionaries started and continued by Nkrumah with many secondary schools scattered all over the country. At least, the British's educational policy of pay education and the favourable currency exchange (between the ¢ and the ₤) rate in 50-70's made it possible for families to finance their University graduates out of the country. Again, there was no healthy competition at all and so the few who managed to get to University level were given recognition scholarship to study outside of Ghana. That is how many of our past leaders managed to 'brighten' their educational history with those 'big' University names. May be somebody would have to tell them that that was the colonial era. Not in scientific days. So 4 universities in 46 is never an achievement unless we sincerely do not value what education really is in our part of the world. For sure, that is the web of the global society whose tentacles have consumed us as a country. c. Ghana is not capable of outlining policies to streamline education, and tertiary education especially in Ghana. Education is too expensive and so the government is in world market looking for people from everywhere to "sponsor education at an affordable rate"; cheap rate. Until now, education is not affordable in Ghana and many people are struggling to enter our schools. No credit to hardworking parents who are trying so hard to educate their wards. We would have to inform our leaders that education is 'not just education; not any how thing'. Education is about awareness and training of people's potentials to lead creative, useful and fulfilling lives. We are not going to school to just read and write or as the order of the day. We are schooling to build local capacities for mutually beneficial lives and living. It is not just affordable rate of education folks! In any case, we 'do not need educational sponsors'. We need educational stakeholders. They are people and institutions that will sponsor individuals in Ghana through their partnership policies. Then students can pay back later or may be required to do some national service in our country. Not SPONSORS! It is dangerous to let sponsor's sponsor a whole country's educational system. d. We in Ghana have 4 more universities unlike the time of independence when Ghana had one University to 'boost' of. Firstly, I accept the word 'boost' instead of 'boast' as a typographical error or as the reason for our leaders to woo educational investors. May be it could also mean that the cost of education in Ghana is so expensive that we had hard time getting students to spell 'boast' for our Official Country's website. Yes, we could not wait any longer as the government was in a hurry to look for 'sponsors' and 'affordable rate' for Ghana's education. Secondly, the writer cannot understand why the government of Ghana will compare an improvement on Ghana's present educational system to that of independence! It is really ridiculous and extremely unthinkable for Ghana's reputation. The writer is not sure if there is any country in the world which even achieves independence today will compare its educational system to Ghana's 1957 for progress. Certainly not in Africa will any country make such educational comparison. If one University was available in 1957, that was the Socialists, Marxists and Communists ideological era. We are today in sweeping capitalist and 'unimaginable' global and technological picnic. This is the situation we find ourselves. We try to fit in or lose out. There is no reason for excuses that 'that country was like us……200 years ago'. So why compete with them now? They have moved. Why not create a New World for late comers? If we fail to accept the plain truth, then we will continue to hide behind our inefficiencies and pour tones of words for soul-searching, comfort and palliation. For, if we fail to see where we are and how to handle the situation, our economy and poverty is yet to blossom into its bitterest proportion. We haven't seen anything yet. Admittedly, we as Ghanaian's and especially our leaders are not ready for the society we live in. We are failing to see the amalgamation of a world, which is full of complex but interrelated entities in global village. It is a village where capital assets are in the hands of the power and autocratic Governments first and then the private sector second. But they pretend to say private sector first and less government control second. Where governments in the developed world hide behind capitalism and push their policies into the doors of poor countries. The era in which science and technology are peaking rapidly. A period of time, where strategic planning and excellent forecasts are so critical for global survival. A time, when a country shouts publicly of capitalism but closes its importation doors/borders more tightly than ever. That is the time. That is the time of efficient diplomacy. We say yes to the same thing and do it in deferent ways. For example, US is a developed country. It is perhaps the proponent of open market and capitalism. It knows the effect of industrialization such as emission of gas into the atmosphere due to capitalism and operation. It has many companies all over the world and trading under capitalist umbrella. The gas emission is causing serious global problems. The world rose up and showed responsibility to safe the ecosystem. The Kyoto Convention was prepared to check this emission. USA refused to ratify the convention. Ghana, which does not even have a cement manufacturing company near the Aflao boarder to disturb Togo was as usual one of the first countries to ratify the Kyoto Convention. The same developed country were the first to cry loudly on the effect of landmines on poor and innocent lives in developing countries. The 'poor' and developing countries do not produce landmines. If some do, the writer is yet to know. The civil society rose up and the late Princess Diana led a campaign to ban landmines. The world's most two powerful countries which were disturbed of landmines, whose companies produce the landmines and the governments get taxes said 'to hell in banning landmines'. They refused to sign any paper to that effect. The poor and developing countries were the first to see through the disturbing faces of its citizens and ratified the treaty. Of course, including Ghana. We are so good in signing any paper. Including free trade and capitalism that puts Ghana and US, Britain, Japan, Germany and etc in ONE market called free competition and no government control to compete on science and technology. Just think of what we are doing. We need to be aggressive and adopt the proverbial ants' adage in Ghana, to learn and to study the ways of the wise ants. We need to have leaders who know what they want to do for the people of Ghana. Not people who just want fame. We cannot afford to play around when the iron is still hot. When the world is not too far from us that we can catch up. That, countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea are doing excellently well. Where dedicated and aggressive leaders have worked to turn these countries into global toasts in few years. This we can do too. But with the current situation we shall still remain in the 'hands of the wind'. Where we cannot even portray who we are and identify our focus except just the word democratic government and the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to attain independence! Ha, we ain't funny enough! P/s: I welcome criticisms and comments.