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Feature Article of Friday, 2 November 2012

Columnist: Yeboah, Kojo

Pastor Otabil’s Logic on Free Education is Fallacious

Ghana’s Pastor Mensa Otabil’s Logic on Free Education is Fallacious

This article does not question the “man of the cloth’s” calling, wisdom, insight or intentions. It only exams the logic of the argument or arguments advanced on the supposedly edited tape, attributed to the “man of God,” albeit doctored, manipulated, elaborated or clarified as one is wont to believe.

This article also does not espouse any political view point or agenda. And it finds the age of the much publicized tape irrelevant to the argument. The fallacy of Dr. Octabil’s reasoning on free education is the same ten (10) years ago, yesterday, today, tomorrow or ten (10) years from now. His logic is simply wrong.

On the tapes, the reverend doctor Mensa Otabil champion’s five basic arguments; 1.) Education can never be free. 2.) In places (countries) where citizens pay taxes, Education can never be said to be free irrespective of what politicians say or governments do. 3.) Free Education is mediocre in quality – citizens have no control of it because it is free. 4.) Parents like him should be paid well (their due) so they can have the dignity of paying for their children’s education. 5.) Government can pay people badly and give them cheap education.

His first argument, “education can never be free” is flat out false. Many nations around the globe (including some African countries) have some form of government run free education. Northern Ghana has had free education since Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Until recently, attendance of Ghana’s traditional Universities; Legon, KNUST and Cape VAS was free for all Ghanaians. The government picked up the tab including boarding and lodging.

The good pastor surely knows about government’s role in education hence his second argument. Citizens pay taxes to the government; the government in turn gives them education -fair exchange. Therefore government run free education is really not free. This argument is risible in its simplicity.

Dear reader, keep a straight face as you digest the following. Dr. Mensa Otabil and pastors like him collect tithes and offering from their congregation. Nothing is wrong with tithes and offerings. They are enshrined in the bible. In return of the monies, Pastor Otabil gives the congregation the word of God – fair exchange, right? Well, by his own faulty logic, Dr. Mensa Otabil is selling the word of God to his congregation. Remember, he says on the tape – “nothing is really free;” money goes, gospel comes.

On a serious note, the pastor’s simplistic logic dismisses all major sources of government revenue. What happened to our traditional earners; gold (minerals), cocoa, timber and oil export? When did taxes become the main revenue generator for Ghana’s government? And do citizens pay taxes for a particular service? Do taxes go up every time the government provides a new service?

The pastor is wrong when he says that free education is mediocre or lacks quality. The Scandinavian countries of Europe lead the world in quality of Education. Education in those countries has traditionally been free to citizens. On the home front, does anybody think the quality of education Pastor Otabil’s Central University is offering compares to what Legon or KNUST offered for free before 1997? Ludicrous!

Do citizens have control of the curriculum of Central University? Doesn’t the school’s board design their curriculum? What choices do citizens have in that? Send their children to other schools? Well, free education will not rob citizens who can afford exorbitant bills, the joy or dignity of paying for private education. As a matter of fact, when Central University was founded as a pastoral training institute in 1988, Ghana’s university Education was still free.

“Pay me well, my due and let me have the joy of paying for my own child’s school fees;” pastor Otabil’s fourth (4th) point does not hold water under scrutiny. What is the Kayayo’s due? What is the watchman or unspecialized security man’s due? What is the arable farmer’s due? What is the petty trader’s due? Who pays the latter two their due so they can share pastor Otabil’s joy and dignity of paying for their own child’s school fees?

How much is Central University paying the laborers who cut the lawns or work in the kitchen? Pastor Otabil, how much are you paying your driver, maid or cook? If you personally don’t employ any of these folks how much would you say their due is? There are many Ghanaians who cannot feed themselves with the revenue from their jobs. Pastor, are you advocating that the minimum wage in Ghana should be set so that every Ghanaian can earn enough to afford University education for their child? How much will this be and what if they have many children? Hmm! Some deep thinking, isn’t it?

Let us go back to pastor Otabil’s second argument. Citizens pay taxes so when government gives them free education they (the citizens) have paid for it. Taxes fund the government, remember? Based on this logic, if the government increases wages and salaries to pay people their due as he is asking for, government will have to increase taxes to get the additional revenue to cover pay increases, right?

What exactly does the pastor mean when he says “you give me cheap education?” Judging from pastor Otabil’s age, if he attended a university in Ghana, his tuition, boarding and lodging were free. If he did not attend a University in those days, he surely knows a ton of folks who did, including the current President John Mahama and the late President J.E. A. Mills. Does the pastor believe the education these men receive or in the case of professor Mills the education he imparted to others was second-rate?

And what purpose does the discourse about a parent telling a grown child that “I paid for your education” serve? Isn’t it vain glory? Has the good pastor forgotten the story of the Widow’s mite in the bible? Isn’t it better for a parent to look at a grown child and say “despite my limited means I gave you all I could and thank God, you have the best education?”

No country on the globe pays every one of its working citizens enough wages / salaries for each citizen to be able to afford their child’s /children’s formal education. As mentioned earlier, there are however many countries that are able to afford their citizens free education to the University level. If Dr. Mensa Otabil does not know this, then he is actually the person who needs to seek knowledge.

Written and submitted for publication by L. Kojo Yeboah Raleigh, NC USA on 10/30/2012.

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