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29.09.2005 Feature Article

Insulting Presidents to be criminalized, a rejoinder

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A Dr. James Flolu, in his capacity as Dean of University of Education, Winneba was reported to have paradoxically suggested the criminalization of insults of past, present and future presidents. The heading of the story as it appeared on this website did not do justice to the speaker. Dr. Flolu used his free speech rights to touch on other subjects besides the criminalization of insults of presidents. He offered suggestions on the national anthem and national pledge. As an educationist, and may be from his vantage point, these are the pressing issues that deserve immediate attention to meet the daunting and the hydra-headed “socio-economic challenges of the 21st century”. If my conclusion is true, then I beg to state that Dr. Flolu has distorted priorities.

Thanks to an odd confluence of circumstances, on the same day that this criminalization of presidential insults suggestion was published here, there were two news items which were pertinent to education, the purview of Dr. Flolu. One story described hysteric parents besieging the Ministry of Education in Accra challenging, if not questioning the random assignment of their wards to some schools they have never heard of before. The other story was from Nkran-Nkwanta in the Brong Ahafo Region. A headmaster of a local secondary school appealed to the community to come to the aid of the school by providing the institution 'with basic operational requirement to save the school from collapse'. The headmaster was reported to have said that he perforce had converted classrooms for accommodation for female students. When these two stories are placed side by side with the Dean's speech, one could not help but to conclude that the Dean is out of touch with his own area of expertise. To put it mildly, the Ghana educational system, the envy of tropical Africa on the eve of our independence is now in shambles. Dr. Flolu does not seem to be aware of that phenomenon. He just does not get it!

John D. Imperialist, in his wisdom, established an educational system that adequately supplied him with only the essential clerks he needed to administer Ghana, experimental creation. He gave free latitude to the various Christian missionaries to establish and run their schools. To insulate the budding Christians from the 'infidels', it was imperative to have boarding schools. Circumstances in Ghana now are fundamentally different from the era when John D. Imperialist held sway. But because we are insane, we are not changing the boarding system we inherited in any major way. Present day conditions demand that we revisit the boarding school system. To be frank, the system is obsolete. A secondary school student who attended primary school at Ada Foah should not be randomly assigned to continue his education in La Bone Secondary School, in La even though both Ada Foah and La are in the same administrative sub region of Ghana. It is preposterous and grotesque to expect such a student to be assigned to a school at Akrokerri, in the Ashanti Region. Yet it is within the realms of probability that such assignments could occur. All Ada Foah landlords should pay real estate taxes. Substantial amount of the revenue so generated should go to fund educational institutions at Ada Foah. Same should be the case for La and Akrokerri landlords. Ada Foah, Akrokerri and La schools thus funded by revenue from their respective communities should educate only the students from communities. To adequately articulate and implement such a system, in my opinion is of more 'socio-economic challenge of the 21st century' than how reverently Ghanaians refer to the presidents.

Respect is earned; it is not coerced. Our presidents have to earn our respect to avoid the waves of insults. We should not be enjoined under the threat of imprisonment to genuflect and kowtow before them, dead or alive. If they are dictators, we shall aptly describe them as such. If their physique is beer bottle-like we shall poke fun at them. If any of them happen to be clueless as to their duties, so shall we refer to them. Those who fail to read prepared speeches intelligently would not escape our creative mirth and pillory. In the process of making fun of them through writing and casting of innuendos, we may improve our English Language thereby.

Dr. Flolu, it is not only amenities that are woefully lacking in the educational system. The content and the standards leave much to be desired. A visit to Ghana website including this SIL and Classified pages, would reveal how difficult it is for many of us to express ourselves cogently, even though we are supposed to be the cream of Ghana's education system. As educationist worth your salt, you should concern yourself as to how to improve the standard of our education system. The relevance of the content of the system in a very dynamic world should always consume your waking hours if not your sleeping hours some times. With proper quality education, we shall appreciate the leadership role of our presidents. We would not need laws and fatwas to coerce their respect.

It is not only the timing and the content of the Dean's speech that is disingenuous and incongruous; that he is the messenger too as well is uninspiring and a source of concern in addition. Though coercion is natural and freedom is artificial, a Dean of any University worth its name, should essay uncompromisingly to nurture and promote freedom; particularly freedom of speech and thought. For the good of Ghanaian society the Dean is obliged to champion freedom of expression and thought. He rather finds it proper to suggest the curtailment of freedom of speech in deference to past, present and future presidents. This is a cynical and myopic undertaking.

It is not by chance Dr. Flolu, that Ghanaians do not hold their past and present presidents in low esteem. Let our presidents act presidentially. When our presidents supervise unmitigated graft practices while in office or out of office expect nothing but irreverence from the electorate. A word to the wise is enough Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Nikoi Kotey
Nikoi Kotey, © 2005

The author has 23 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: NikoiKotey

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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