Feature Article of Thursday, 10 May 2012
Columnist: Nyamah, Adorye, Kumah & Glovers
Ghana has a poverty rate of 30% according to the United Nations. The incidence of poverty in the three Northern regions is more than double that of the national average, at a staggering 85%. The incidence of extreme poverty is even worse, almost 50% for the three Northern Regions. These unacceptable levels of poverty are the very reason why any government will have targeted policy options to reduce poverty.
In the history of human kind, education has been known to be the most important poverty liberating factor capable of unleashing every human potential. However, in the usual Mills / Mahama NDC fashion, the government is extolling all their good policies and projects especially in the three northern regions when the reveres is the case.
Government initiative in the three northern Region viz aviz SADA, road projects, sheanut factory, Agricultural mechanization among others are several programs cited as examples of gargantuan and unprecedented achievements up North when in actual fact, there is nothing on the ground to show.
The Young Patriots during our pro-SADA demonstrations brought to bear, the fact that some secondary schools in the three Northern Regions had been sent on break due to the NDC government’s unwillingness to release feeding grants. Characteristically the NDC government pays no heed to the call from the affected students and parents.
The truth, they say is like a cork and cannot be kept under forever. It has now come to light as was publicly announced that students of Senior High Schools in the three Northern Regions should stay home until further notice whilst their counterparts in the South go to school. These students will be covering the same syllabus over the same period and write the same exams with no excuses made for them in the time lapse.
The Young Patriots are dismayed by the feeble response from the Ministry of education to the effect that feeding grant arrears have been paid and so this should not recur. The ministry needs to get its priorities right and put its monies where its mouth is. If government could consider $40m for printing Atlas books but can only pay arrears of GHC 36m, then it is obvious that education of Northerners is not the priority for the government.
The Young Patriots also want to register our protest at the shifting of the debate from the provision of free SHS to a need base debate in which some highly respected educationist have sort to engage us. First and foremost, with a poverty rate of 85%, there is no question of need for free education in all the three northern Regions. Any attempt by the government to ask Northerners to pay for SHS should be resisted.
The introduction of school feeding program by the NPP government under H.E J.A Kuffour, increased enrolment in the three Northern Regions by an average of 90% according to some studies This was mainly because most of those kids who were used as farm labourers and shepherds to augment the family income could now have a good meal at no cost to the family.
We wish to pray the government to think out of the box and offer pragmatic and lasting solutions to the educational sector especially in the three Northern regions. An example will be for the government to consider the sources of funding for free secondary school education, as proposed by Nana Akufo Addo, the flag bearer of the New Patriotic Party.
The government of the republic of Ghana has used some estimated $400m to flare gas and has used over GHC 600m to pay hoax judgment debts. It is our humble opinion that the estimated $1b from the above areas could have at least sponsored free secondary school education for three years. It is about priorities and the government, has its priorities wrong.
Nii Kwartei Titus Glovers