Feature Article of Sunday, 12 August 2012
Columnist: Abdul-Yekin, Kofi Ali
A culture is said to be corrupted when any natural body is adulterated to influence it from functioning as would have been the case if it had been left in its original condition. Of course every facet of the African effort has been corrupted and the academic sector is as worse hit as any other. This unique sector that breeds the human brain to think beyond the norm and come up with rare solutions to human survival, has proven to have given practical answers to bettering and sustaining lives at such dark times in the history of what we today refer to as “Developed Nations”. In the case of the African Union states and Ghana to be specific, the academic community is just as useless in the faces of our challenges as any other facet of the nation. This in every sense calls for serious thinking to the possible causes of this problem and thus the possible solutions that this easy intended to explore.
It is not an uncommon thing to hear the ordinary man on the street of Africa expressing his/her frustration towards the African intellectuals. I have on several occasions heard such expression as “Our African intellectuals are just stupid and useless that all they do is to write big books and paid a lot of salary for doing nothing”. I have also heard of such other ones as “African intellectuals are just ceremonial academic tittle holders who use their titles to occupy political positions”. It is not also uncommon to hear such sayings as “African intellectuals buy their titles from foreign and questionable institutions with which they gain access into political position to loot the wealth of the people”. I am also very sure that you might also be full of your own versions of the ordinary citizens’ impression of the African intellectuals, for any of the above to be strange to you.
On the continent of Africa and Ghana to be specific, we adore individuals with academic titles. We revere such people and expect so much from them as their titles indicate. We speak highly of such people and never see fault in anything they do. They occupy the highest position of every institution of importance in our nation with fabulous pay pack to go with it. They are never faulted in our eyes just because of their titles, even when the faults are obvious. In short, we worship them.
One marvel at how almost every institution in Ghana is headed by a professor, doctor and at the least a titled professional, but with basically noting to show for this. We had a president with the academic title of a professor of law being the head of state of Ghana and the condition of the majority of our populace is not different from what it has been when a mere flight lieutenant in the army was our head of state. The best most can say about the professor at his death is that “he was a fine gentleman” during his reign of political office.
The poor professor came to meet a malfunctioning state with; corrupt minded individuals disguising under government contractors or private investors, over 45% of national budget by donor funding, underemployment of the masses, over dependency on foreign investment for national projects, mass unemployment, heavy foreign debt burden, poor infrastructure, over 4,000 school under trees, state paid employees passing judgement debt against the state itself, uninsured police vehicles plying our street to enforce the laws, incarceration of the poor at the slightest instance under the guise of justice, 130 detained persons for over seven years under probation awaiting trail, one medical doctor for over 600 prisoners, ritual murders, mass youth and under age prostitutions, massive housing deficit, underdevelopment in human resources leading to negative national technological deficit, poor medical facilities of which the president himself was a victim and intentional socio-eco-political mass misinformation.
Our problem as a people is a fundamental one and individuals of other nations with such academic titles earned them by coming up with practical solution at such desperate time. Academic and professional titles are earned not just by the work in the fore walls of a classroom and the writing of meaningless academic publications earning cognisance in the international journals but by what such individuals also did as physical output that addressed fundamental challenges of their people that turned lives around.
In terms of our population of individuals with academic and professional titles, the African continent and Ghana in particular has earned it share but when one come to the practical or physical things to show for this, the answer is zero. We have these individuals in all sorts of fields of endeavour by title but our needs in these same fields of attainments are seriously a concern. From diseases or ailment control in terms invention of medicines, medical and surgical instruments, we are all at the mercy of others. In this day and age, we are struggling with shortages of hospital beds and traffic light for our roads just because we do not make them ourselves. We are still struggling with the basics of food and machine productions.
The irony is that, the fairly non-academic achievers in leadership of the AU member states have been blame for the poor productivity of our academic achievers. It has been the assumed case of the sit-tight solders or dictators not allowing the academicians the right resources necessary to put to use their knowledge to better the nations. The sit tight leaders were blame for lack of the technological and scientific invention of our academicians.
The ascendance of a professor to the position of the Ghanaian presidency to decide what everyone does leave one wondering if there is any hope for us? The academicians of Africa and Ghana for that matter are more of “financialists” in nature. They exist as animals with extreme financial instinct than was traditionally associated with those academically inclined. Their dependency on money as a denominator of arriving at the solution to everything is stronger than whatever they learnt in the university. Indeed an average person in the Ghana Ministry of Science and Technology sees a mere “rabbit” by the amount of money the animal can be exchange for in the market than than an experimental spacemen whose rightful place is the laboratory for scientific purpose. I will be the least shock in learning that the ministry of Agriculture in Ghana has no even a single plot of land with one sheep being kept for research purpose. In short, the ministries in Ghana are mere centres for money making and money sharing as financial centres does than government institutions are traditionally known for.
It is a normal thing these days to have our brothers with educational excellence excelling themselves in running to our colonial masters for money and guidance when confronted with challenges. But, why should this be the case?
Every independent nation has a duty to educate its citizens into developed human resources who in turn serve their nation in developing it. In doing this, instead of leaving every citizen with their biological parents to bear their educational burden, the state mobilizes tax from every individual legible for taxation and invests the money as resource to support the development of every child to the fullest of his/her potential. The understanding here is that it is the duty of each generation to prepare the generations after her enough to be able to sustain the coming generations and to be able to support the generation before her to move on with dignity. The wisdom therefore is that it is in the best interest of a state to build a stronger labour force or the working population as it is on this sector that the dependency sector of the population are to be sustain. The aged and children dependent on the productivity of the working population to move on as these two sectors are less able to do this themselves.
Our start at independence was purely on this footing. I grew into the Ghanaian educational system that is based on equal access to educational facilities to all citizens. The system was based on the fact that it is only when every citizen gets an equal opportunity of maximizing his/her educational potential that the best educational capabilities of the state can be realized. In actualizing this great national dream is the policy of allowing the individual citizen free access to educational facilities than by how much one’s parent can afford to pay. Tax are properly collected and wisely use with the sole aim of building the Ghanaian child into our common dream. Scholarships are even employed to encourage us to do more while in no way is the system allowed to be discriminate against any. Boarding and recreational facilities were put into place to give us all the best. Public schools grew daily light mushrooms with the ministry of education equipped in its supervisory role of ensuring that quality education is effectively delivered to the citizens. We grew with the full consciousness of our responsibility to our nation as our nation makes sure that we lack nothing in any way or form to hinder our potential. At this time in question, the stock of our functional public sector as institutions to support the growth of the teaming youths is just as what most European states boost of today. Building and funding academic institutions were unquestionably of a higher priority in our national agenda.
The turn started taking its toll when the head of states started yielding to the “conditionalities” of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund whose demand were for the state to withdraw its funding of educational institutions and other social sectors. The proponent of those in support of withdrawal of state funding of the academic sector is that the “mass” educational approach is rather contributing to negative growth of the state. The argument is that if education is cheap, then every dick and harry will be having it that will be resulting in potential employees without industries or employers to absorb them. The World Bank and IMF further argued that it is a wiser thing to do in saving scarce resource of nations that are not being able to honour their external debt than wasting such scarce resources on mass education only to have the same state leaning on external support to sustain itself.
Withdrawing funding from education therefore was one of the bitter pills that came with the assortment of Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) that we unwillingly swallowed. Tuition fees and other educational cost were then gradually introduced as the state withdrew its support. The burden of education on parents began to be heavier and most of the population started falling off the educational pool. The class system then began to take a more pronounce role in Ghana as education then become the exclusive right of the privilege few while to the majority, it is a rear privilege to have.
Having government withdrawing its important role as the bearer of the burden of the education of its citizens while the same government still collect the educational tax from the working masses, the cost of education become so high that most student start looking for external funding to actualize their educational potential. Foreign nations then started stepping in to be funding the education of our children as they advance along their educational quest.
With time, we then started to hear such terms as research funding or foreign scholarships. We heard of Commonwealth Scholarships, EU Scholarships, Dutch, German, French Government Scholarships, US Government Scholarships, etc for students with special achievement in higher education. We also become very familiar with multinationals corporations funding scholarships such as Liver Brothers, Cadbury, Elf, Shell, Coca Cola, etc. In short, these bodies replaced the state of Ghana in the funding of the education of the Ghanaians with rear abilities.
How then does the trick works in harvesting the African, particularly the Ghanaian geniuses? In the academic arena, both postgraduate student, assistant lecturers and full time lecturers do not only spend time in teaching but are also expected to carry out research work for submission at predetermined interval on the basis of which their academic progress are assessed. All these individuals are expected to submit their research work to a specified department within the university that are collated for national research adventure.
The academic community operate as a sector of the society that research and evolve practical solution of their society’s problems and teach others how to do the same thing. The research involve dealing with obvious or assume problems. This starts by identifying the problem, analysing it to expose its true nature, breaking down the whole into simple and separate components, identify and expose potential components of manipulations to influence the problem and coming up with practical solutions, to better the lives of the generality of the society. Having researched the problem, documented it and putting it into practical use, the academician and professional then embark on teaching the society how to make the best use of the proffered solution as well as preparing others on how to do the same thing.
The academic work in terms of the problems for which solutions are to be provided, just as nature itself, is majorly divided into the physical and the non-physical (social).
The academic community is an artificial enabling environment created to deal with problems beyond the day to day half-hazard inconclusive effort of the ordinary man towards problem solving. The academic community work on the principle that problems are better solve when their true nature are known and that most problems are better exposed for their unique nature to be clearly identify. These they said are better done when certain condition exist for which the academic environment serve this purpose. Thus every problem must be taken to its unique academic laboratory or clinic for it to be properly solved. So, truly known problem brings us to their truly workable solution to give us control over our own lives and better chances of existence.
The academic community breed citizens into individuals that put independent of their being first. This community pride itself as a centre where the freedom of citizens is practically put to test and allowed to flourish over societal dogma. This community that evolved from the effort of great socio-political philosophers, in their quest to create an environment of patriotic followers to fight dependency by societal ignorance and in favour of freedom by knowledge, provided solutions to national challenge that earned them titles. The invention of machines, medicines, explorations and research into better farm yields are all the work of the academicians as answer to their national call. The case of African academic community is just something else.
So the state removal of funding to the academic institutions mean all these structures are going to be getting their support from the same bodies that are funding the postgraduate students and their lectures which translate into determining whether these institutions will continue to exist at all or not. In fact we ended up with a channel of research work ending up in the hand of foreign bodies that pay for them.
Imagine the loyalty of a postgraduate student to his/her unknown benevolent spirit who is getting an additional basic of £500 pocket money after all his/her educational cost had been paid? Imagine such person being invited with all expenses paid to visit another college or research facilities in the developed nations at interval through which the funding is being facilitated? Furthermore, imagine a person with a doctorate degree just because of his/her loyalty to the funding body than his/her real academic capabilities? Imagine such individual then getting about £900 every month in addition to as little as £300 that the state of Ghana is able to squeeze out? Imagine the hope being nursed by the poor doctor to achieve his/her professorship status mostly facilitated or awarded by the benevolent external body? Imagine the fate of our children when it is a fact that the academic titles awarded by Ghanaian or any African academic community are not recognizable by non-African institution? Does this explains why our children pride themselves in the titles obtain out of the continent than those within the continent? Finally, imagine a professor who is on a basic of £500 per month from the Ghanaian government but having to have this topped up with £2,000 per month by the benevolent external body?
The above more than anything else explains and justify the irrational and abnormal behaviour of our academic “professors and doctors” that abound a country without electricity, water and simply social amenities. It is very uncommon these days to hear a Ghanaian academic doctorate degree holder justifying why Ghana has to go to the Americans, Europeans or the Chinese for loan to build a public toilet. It is also not uncommon to have a Ghanaian intellectual priding himself on the knowledge of all sorts of modern endeavours while the individual himself spend his last days hoping for solution in churches or shrines to ailments, where quark men/women of God pride themselves as saviours.
So as we deepen our mourning of President Atta Mills, we should also be thankful to our common fate in not having to announce to the rest of the world that our president who is also a professor of law died in a spiritual shrine in the ghetto of Lagos, Nigeria. If a whole professor of law had died in a synagogue than a hospital for whatever reason, one then would have start questioning what exactly does education mean to us? If the whole of ECOWAS exist without a law to regulate how things should be done by ECOWAS citizens, as it is in the case of the EU with developed regional laws for all member states and their citizens, then are we sure a single professor of law within ECOWAS is worthy of his/her salt?
Remembering the saying, “he who pays the piper determines the tune” explained how academicians of all levels ended up being trained and titles awarded to them with noting basically to show for it. The legitimized external pay masters then became the official partners of our nation in the development of our intellectuals and professionals who are working to earn their academic status as determined by others than our own tax payers. The dreams of our fathers of training our own children into inventors of industrial machines that shall be allowing us to replace the colonial master, who for some time has been hiding behind our inability to do these ourselves to freely exploit us, then, become the duty of our colonial masters. Giving the devil our most important problems to solve!
Kofi Ali Abdul-Yekin
Chairman/ Coordinator-ACTION GROUP OF AFRICA (AGA)
Skyp: kofialiabdul1, email@example.com