You are here: HomeNews2012 12 12Article 259167

Opinions of Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Columnist: N-Yaaba, Lawrence

Free Education for Northerners: the Undocumented Fact

The 2012 elections are over with the declaration of the results by the electoral commissioner Dr. Afari Gyan, a fulfilled mandate enshrined in the national Constitution. Despite the affirmation, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) seems poised to start a legal battle against the commission for not succumbing to its demand—the process was shrouded with irregularities. The National Democratic Party (NDC) was and is however agog with celebration of their victory with the pronouncement made by the commissioner—“Based on the results given, I declare John Dramani Mahama president-elect.” It is also sad to note that despite the famous Kumasi declaration, the celebration started by the NDC is marred with some ugly spectacle at Agona Nyakrom with the murder of an NDC supporter by an NPP enthusiast (Radio XYZ online). My personal advice to Ghanaians is that, whether jubilating for victory or failure to clinch victory for one’s party; in all the celebrations and grieves, let’s allow peace to prevail. We are Ghanaians first before we are members of political parties; Ghanaians must also note that this life is lived once and not two or more times, as such when it is “recklessly” taking away without fulfilling the intent for which it is put here on planet earth, it will never come back again. In any case, it is family members who are affected in cases of reckless deaths and not politicians; and it is Ghana that loses a son or daughter and not politicians in the event of reckless deaths.
Much with the declaration and its aftermath; and back to my topic Free Education for Northerners: the Undocumented Fact. Education as such free and quality education was prominent in the campaign of all the parties that took part in the presidential and parliamentary elections including the independent presidential candidate. The topic also show cased in the discussions of all the media houses in Ghana, and extended to include homes, mosques churches and personalities—Dr. Mensah Otabil of ICGC fame and his media encounter on “free education.” The issue was more pronounced between the NDC and NPP, with NDC clamoring for quality education, and their counterpart in the NPP advocating for free education up to senior high school level. In the discussions and debates, an impression was created that northerners after independence were granted free education by the first government of this country because of the economic circumstances of the north. In fact the NPP went further to even advance that it could not fathom why personalities like the president and my class and school mates such as Boya Gariba, Haruna Iddrisu, and Mohammed Ayariga among others who enjoyed this generous gesture provided by the first republic did not want all Ghanaian children to also experience the gesture. Indeed, I have nothing against free education as espoused by the NPP, and I am also equally for descent and quality education as hammered by the NDC. I must also state that but for free education probably a lot more northerners who are in both private and public positions would not have attained such heights.
The question that arises in the entire hullabaloo about the so call “free education” granted to northerners by the first republic is whether it was gained on a silver platter based on the economic circumstances of the north, while their southern counterparts were made to pay for their education because that part of the country is overwhelmingly resourced in materials? In other words, did the first republic decide on its own volition to grant this magnanimous gesture to people of northern extraction because of their economic status? A little oral history will enable us come to a valid reality on the free education enjoyed by northern Ghanaians.
Somewhere in the early part of 1994, whilst a student at Legon, the Northern Students Association (NSA), University of Ghana branch organized a conference for its members in the central cafeteria. At the meeting, personalities like Dr. Ibn Chambers, Alhaji Iddrisu Mahama, Dr. Edward Mahama, the late Dr. Hilla Liman, and the late B. K. Adama among others were invited to address members of the association. Speaker after speaker at the conference reiterated the need for making education a priority for people of northern extraction. The very elderly among the speakers repeated the fact that members of NSA generation at the conference and others to come were lucky because, some of them had to endure walking from their various villages across northern Ghana to attend the only available middle school in Tamale, which is todays Tamale Senior High School. Mr. B. K. Adama a close pal to Dr. Liman but a member of the Busia-Danqua tradition who spoke on the topic free education for northerners emphasized the fact that free education was not gained and made available to people of the north on a silver platter—it was fought for and granted to northern people on request. According Mr. Adama, during the colonial period, the colonial masters as a matter of policy decided that people of northern extraction were not to be allowed to undertake formal education, but instead be used to extract the rich resources of the south for the benefit of the colonizing masters and their country. The colonizers followed up with their designed scheme by failing to establish schools in northern Ghana, thus preventing people of the north from having formal education. Schools were established in the southern sectors of Ghana and citizens in the region were allowed formal education, so they could offer their services in the various offices that were established in the colony, including the few in northern Ghana. As a result of the no formal education policy for northerners, people of northern extraction were mostly engaged in the road construction industry others wise known as PWD, mineral extraction such as gold, diamond bauxite and manganese. Northerners were mostly also involved in plantations such as cola, cocoa and citrus farms. They were also found in timber felling. In fact the economic ventures mentioned here were no go areas for southerners until the 1980s, when the economy of Ghana drifted into a slump. These ventures were literally unattractive to the people of southern Ghana.
Now to the fact as narrated by Mr. Adama: at the period of struggle for independence from Britain, the leadership of the Northern People’s Party (NP), who were mostly the elite from northern Gold Coast among them Mr. B. K. Adama and the late Alhaji Bawumia the father of the 2012 NPP vice presidential candidate, advocated for the north to be excluded from independence. The NP leadership urged the colonial master to move to the north and establish its post so as to bring the north to par with development including education as it was the deliberate policy of the colonialist that prevented the north from development. The Convention People’s Party (CPP) leadership and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in particular did not take kindly to the stand of the NP leadership toward independence for the whole of the Gold Coast. Nkrumah in his wisdom sensing that the British were likely to meet the demand of the NP’s request, clinched a deal with members of the NP—an established trust fund to carter for the educational needs of the north for a period of fifty years. Following the deal, members of the NP dropped their request with the British colonizers. The agreement between the NP and CPP leadership culminated in Ghana’s independence with the north being part of the great agenda. Thus, Dr. Nkrumah never renegaded in his promise—established an educational trust fund to provide free education for northern people. As it were, if it was not for the leadership of the NP, and Dr. Nkrumah’s urge for a united Ghana, probably education would not have been free for northerners; and it is also possible that the north would not have been part of today’s Ghana if the British colonizers had agreed to move to northern Ghana to establish their new post.
As a further policy position to close the educational gap between the north and south, the military regime of Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, extended the Ghana Cocoa Board scholarship enjoyed by students of southern extraction to northern students too. The reason for this kind policy gesture was that, all the labor works on cocoa farms were provided by northerners, therefore the need to make the scholarship available to sons and daughter of people of the north who were engaged in cocoa plantations.
This true fact of history has been written off our history books. As to why this omission, I have no clue but I certainly believe that this oral history passed onto us by no mean person than our own B. K. Adama will erase the flawed impression to the fact that people of northern extraction were granted free education by our earliest leaders because of the economic circumstances of the north, and not because the early elite class of the north fought for it.

(Look out for my yet to come article on the history of the implementation of the free educational policy in northern Ghana).