Feature Article of Monday, 12 November 2012
Columnist: Damoa, Adreba Kwaku Abrefa
Education for all has become one of the key pillars of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as a major catalyst to development. The Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring published its report in 2002 with a view to monitoring progress towards six Education For All goals enshrined in the historic Dakar Framework for Action. Compiled here are excerpts of some of the key points which dovetail squarely with Nana Addo’s Free Senior High School Policy if elected President of Ghana coupled with his envisaged redefining of Basic Education attended by some brief commentary. In their 2011 report, it was discovered that some sub-Saharan African countries are either adamant or lag behind in the Education For All Dakar Framework for Action. The EFA sought to pursue the following goals:
? Expand early childhood care and education
? Provide free and compulsory basic education to all
? Promote learning and life skills for young people and adults
? Increase adult literacy by 50 per cent
? Achieve gender parity by 2005 and gender equality by 2015
? Improve the quality of education to Education For All by 2015
The Dakar Framework for Action in line with Nana Addo’s concept focuses on equality for all as the overarching policy goal of any government and as a key to measuring the success of initiatives by the international community. Governments across Africa and most developing countries are failing to tackle inequality, as in Nana’s view which is rightly so, the government of Ghana under John Dramani Mahama and his deceased predecessor have not been up to the task in their current approaches to governance. Developing countries are not spending enough on basic education so donor countries have not lived up to their commitments for fear of diversion of aid funds. Stagnating aid to education is a serious concern for educational prospects in a large number of low-income countries especially Ghana. The report stresses that increased financing without provisions built-in to ensure equity will not benefit the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups as in the current NDC selective handling of basic education needs on partisan lines for Ghanaian children.
The World has the following to say with my commentary:
Progress towards Education For All is one of the defining development challenges of the 21st century. The right to education is basic human right and, as such, it should be defended as an end in itself. However, education is also means to wider social, economic and political goals. In the current situation of economic crisis and competition of various interests, it is timely to stress this critical role of education as this Report does. Only educated citizens can achieve economic growth and this requires equalized access to quality education, now more than ever. No country or society today can afford to exclude anyone from education because of poverty, ethnicity, religion or gender yet NDC is inclined to stifling access to education for all Ghanaian children by making it fee-paying to the disadvantage of poor families south of the Volta. The Report argues at length about wider benefits of education in economic terms. For example it cites several studies which have found that one additional year of schooling lifts average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 0.37% yet NDC has reduced SHS training from 4 to 3 years.
Education is more than skills for economic sustainability. Schools are cultural institutions where children learn the languages, history and culture of their respective societies, acquire social skills and self-confidence, broaden their horizons and address issues as full and active citizens. People who are denied this full broad-based education are less likely to participate actively in their societies and can hardly influence decisions that alter their lives and those of others. That is why education is also fundamental to democracy and government accountability.
Education for All is a Fundamental Human Right and Catalyst for Social Justice and Development; Education for All is social justice; Education for All is economic justice; Education for All is the path to development. Millions of teenagers have never attended primary school and many more have left Ghana’s school lacking the skills they need to earn a livelihood because they have inadequate training by ending up at JSS, not enough to enable them participate fully in society; therefore, Nana Addo and we in the NPP believe that every citizen of Ghana be given adequate free education at least up to SHS level from where all other vocational and socio-economic interests and developments would have been well groomed to maturity. According to Alexander Pope, C18th English Poet, ‘A little learning is a dangerous thing so drink deep or taste not the intellectual spring because shallow droughts drunken our brains and drinking deep sobers us again’. This is Food for thought. Leaving basic education at JSS is waste of time, and resources because the learner acquires nothing for intellectual and mental development. Unlike Japan where 98% of the population have at least a university degree, in the UK, only 25% of the population are university graduates. It has therefore been imperative for the government to set the minimum educational requirement for a job at General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), up to where it is free and compulsory. At GCSE level, ambitious employees and many individuals not in employment have what it takes to progress to higher heights of intellectual attainment.
Many are those of us in the diaspora who have followed the path of opsimaths, learning late in their lives and having pushed themselves up by their own bootstraps and contributing tremendously in Ghana’s socio-economic development because there has been a solid intellectual foundation laid earlier at secondary school level. Nobody who completes JSS would ever be offered any job in the UK or any of the countries in the diaspora, not even cleaning toilets but with SHS qualification, immigrants compete for jobs with the indigenous people. In child psychology, not all children develop intellectually at early childhood. This should not mean that children who have late development should be left-out. At least, up to SHS is enough a starter pack to ensure parity and social justice amongst Ghana’s children for the future.
Millennium Development Goals cannot be achieved without EFA, but neither will education goals succeed without progress in other development areas! The Dakar Framework for Action was adopted in 2000. In the same year at the United Nations Millennium Summit, world leaders adopted the Millennium Development Goals, which extended from the reduction of extreme poverty and child mortality to improved access to water and sanitation. The MDGs put education goals in this broader context, thus clearly linking achievements in one area with the development in others. Indeed, as this Report illustrates, it is difficult to sustain progress in only one area of development. Halving poverty or cutting child mortality by two-thirds appears not to be a serious proposition, given the slow and unequal progress towards universal primary education (UPE). By the same token, achievement of Universal Basic Education (UBE) will not be feasible without increasing and equalizing access to food, sanitation, medicine and other life-sustaining resources. Children whose lives are blighted by hunger, poverty and disease are clearly not equipped for realising their full potential in school. Public health and child mortality are both linked to education. Universal Basic Education cannot be compulsory if it is not free in the sense that the beneficiary does not pay for it.
Amongst the many world-wide organisations that sponsor UBE are Global Campaign for Education; Right to Education Project; UNICEF; Oxfam International; Safe the Children; Peace Corps; UNESCO; World Bank; Child Aid; World Food Programme; FAO; Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN); Fast Track Initiative; Building Tomorrow and indeed many more.
A John Dramani Mahama-led NDC administration proposes pro-poor approach to solving Education For All needs across Ghana without telling the people what criteria he is going to use to identify those who might qualify. If the pro-poor approach had been used, he wouldn’t have been a beneficiary of free education for being a Northerner because his greedy father who was wealthy enough to pay for his education benefitted from the then affirmative action put in place for Northerners of whatever socio-economic status.
Ghanaians should not be confused with the complexities of semantics when we talk about free education as some predator capitalists like Mensah Otabil expound the issue of things and services that are deemed to be free. Though someone somewhere pays for our goods and services that we call free, they are free because the intended beneficiaries do not foot the bills for those goods and services. There are various goods and services that we presumably enjoy free yet they have been paid for by tax payers in donor countries. The same applies to what our own taxes and natural resources cater for us. What sense would it make for the rest of us Ghanaians if for some weird reason some people must benefit from our taxes and resources whiles others do not. Now is the time to grab the bull by the horn. Vote for Nana Addo and the NPP for a people-centred approach to governance.
Adreba Kwaku Abrefa Damoa, LLB; MPhil (London) London UK