The National Democratic Congress (NDC) flagbearer for the 2008 elections, says he will make the provision of affordable and quality education and the welfare of teachers the priority of his government.
According to Prof J.E. Atta Mills any nation that did not offer better conditions of service to its teachers and provide adequate infrastructure to educate its youth would not make strides in the 21st Century.
Prof. Mills, who was addressing students of the Central University College in Accra as part of his door-to-door campaign, said teachers needed to be properly rewarded to put in their best. “They deserve greater reward than they are getting now,” he said.
The campaign also took him to the Mars Business Academy, Ashley's Business College, Great Lamptey Mills Institute, parts of Russia and Kaneshie, all in Accra.
He asked the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to apologise to teachers in the country for taking them for granted and looking down upon them during the 2000 elections.
According to Prof. Mills, during the 2000 elections campaign, when he asked students at the University of Ghana, Legon to take up appointment as teachers after school, the NPP twisted the advice and used it as a campaign message to make it look as if teaching by graduates was demeaning.
“It is no surprise that the country lacks adequate teachers. Because if a political party seeking to come to power could run adverts on the TV, radio and in newspapers misinterpreting my call on students to take up teaching after school as bad then we should know where we are heading to,” he said.
He said it was unbelievable that the NPP, which opposed the introduction of the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), was now taking credit for what it had used proceeds of the fund for, and added that unfortunately the NPP was not using the fund to complement budgetary allocation for education, for which the fund was set up.
Prof. Mills said that contrary to the proclamation by the NPP that the private sector was the engine of growth, it had failed woefully to support private educational institutions as if products from such schools were not Ghanaians.
He promised that in his administration, private educational institutions would also benefit from the GETFund, for “we should not discriminate against anyone in the disbursement of the GETFund” adding that “the time has come for us to match our words with action”.
He advised the students to study hard and refrain from attitudes that would undermine the peace and stability of the nation and to realise that they were future leaders of the country.
Prof. Mills reminded the students that ethnicity was divinely determined and, therefore, any attempt to use one's ethnic origin as a basis to belittle the other would be unfortunate.
He urged the students to be objective, impartial, modest and guard against selfishness and greed and to avoid the exaggerated show of dignity and self-importance over their mates.
He told the students to tolerate divergent views and not to regard others with different opinions as enemies, for “Ghana will come to a standstill if we all think alike”.
Answering questions from the students on the current energy crisis, Prof. Mills said the NDC anticipated such problems in due course, and put in place measures to solve them. The solutions, he said, were in the handover notes that were given to the NPP government in 2000.
He attributed the energy crisis to the unfortunate decision by the NPP neither to go by the handover notes nor what the Energy Commission had put in place.
He said apart from what the NDC had done in the energy sector such as the establishment of the Aboadze Thermal Plant, it also secured funding and awarded the Bui Dam on contract.
He said even when the NPP refused to go by the handover notes, “anytime they needed any explanation, they would invite our ministers to the police station for caution statements. They only claim that we left a mess, no wonder they have put us in this mess”
Prof. Mills pledged that his government would not abandon any handover notes, because governance was a continuing process.
Interacting with some residents at Russia, a suburb of Accra, he urged the people to cast their minds back to the unfulfilled promises made by the NPP and said “their positive change is no longer positive change but cocaine, poverty and dishonesty”.
He said under his administration support for the less privileged and the poor would be his priority and “when we are sharing resources, we will start from the poor, so that if it gets finished before it gets to the rich there would not be much problem”.
Prof. Mills paid homage to the Chief of Gomoa Akyempim, Nana Akoto Kofi Okine Annan, when he visited him in his house and presented customary drinks to him.
Story by Donald Ato Dapatem