It is a well known fact that almost all countries around the world are being ruled or governed by a constitution or some set of rules of which Ghana is not exceptional. It may interest you to know that about 90 per cent of Ghanaians who can read and write have no knowledge or do not know the content of Ghana’s constitution.
It will also surprise you to note that 70 percent of educated Ghanaians could not name the three arms of government. This simply means that our civic knowledge is abysmal. Why are we being rule by a set of rules and regulations that we have no knowledge of? Why can’t we expose Ghanaians to the content of our constitution and some basic or fundamental human rights? Have we as a nation, analyzed the cost of prosecuting constitutional offenders? Why are we not advocating for constitutional knowledge for all citizens? For all you know, about 90 per cent of criminal cases recorded in our traditional homes and judicial service are cases which could have been avoided if citizens were comprehensively exposed to the constitution and fundamental human rights.
To quote from a pamphlet of the American Bar Association, published in 1926: “while no one will deny that the teaching of history and general civics offers many opportunities to impress the lessons of patriotism and good citizenship, yet all should understand that the fundamental principles of our constitutional government cannot be taught in that manner. The constitution, being the source of all the powers of our national government, should be emblazoned on the mind of every citizen with a distinctness that can be done only when it is presented clearly and unobscured in its original setting and outlines”
This simply means that even though we have other courses offered in some institutions that deal scantly the content of the constitution, which is not the best way to teach it. The constitution must stand independently as a subject, has a well designed curriculum, and should be made compulsory in all schools. Teachers should be trained specifically to teach the subject (constitution).
Teaching constitution in our schools will help us know what we have in common as Ghanaians. Students come from different walks of life with different religious beliefs. For instance Muslims, Christians, Jewish etc. but as Ghanaians we share the same constitution. The constitution claims a unique status in this country because it is the only text that all of us- regardless of our identity, hold in common.
When citizens are exposed to the constitution, it will surely improve civic literacy which will bring to the fore and enhance our public discussion. Since the constitution is a set of rules by which we all agree to abide by, knowledge about the constitution can help solve fake news on social media, aggressive protest, and lynching (instant justice) of suspects.
In 1835, American Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, asserted his desire to “fix in the minds of Americans youth a more devout enthusiasm for the constitution of their country, a more sincere love of its principles, and a more firm determination to adhere to its actual provisions against the clamors of faction”
For us as a country to peacefully co-exist, develop sense of patriotism, improve civic affairs, reduce avoidable crimes, reduce cost of prosecutions and better understand our governance system, then there is the need for our educational curriculum to be restructured to include our national constitution, civic and fundamental human rights. Thus right from primary one through to the university and beyond, the must be compulsorily taught civic knowledge (constitution and human rights).
A law should be enacted to back or enforce its compulsory inclusion in all our educational settings. A well organized knowledge and practical base curricula should be developed to ensure uniformity in teaching the subject. It is only when the citizens of this country are made ‘pocket lawyers’ that violent acts, lawlessness, avoidable crimes and apathy towards national issues can be, if not totally eliminated, reduced to the minimal.
Making citizens ‘POCKET LAWYERS’ through the teaching of constitution, basic civic laws and fundamental human rights will obviously save government and public prosecutor (state attorney) millions of Ghana cedis since most citizens will be enlightened on the dos and does, behave responsibly and their actions will be in accordance with the laws governing the country.
We CAN and should do better in producing educated citizens, by teaching both the origins and historical development of the constitution. Other countries are doing it and we too can do it!
Amadu Abdul Hadi (geography lawyer)