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Opinions of Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Columnist: Bolus, mercy Adede

What exactly is Ghana’s Priorities - Education or Ceremonial awards?

While I appreciate the desperation of our current Government too fully acknowledge their own achievements, there are some reality checks which need to be done.

I am also aware of the country’s desire to award service men and women for their great achievements. However, is this initiative an essential objective long planned by the Government or just a panic reaction (like President Bush deciding to try to ‘solve’ the Palestinian question in his last year as president after 7 years of ignoring the problem)?

Ghana @ over 50 is still a real issue, there is still a lot to be done, as our process of development is a continuing one.

What is Ghana’s precise strategy anyway?

Who are we benchmarking our country against?

This is Ghana, which calls its self-a poverty-stricken country, needing loans and aid to feed its people and finance its core strategic objectives.

Is this the same country where most of its intellectuals are fleeing poverty to greener pastures and working conditions abroad?

This is Ghana @ over 50 where the poor, disabled, vulnerable mothers, aged people are struggling to make ends meet.

This is Ghana @ over 50 where maternity care has only just been considered.

This is Ghana @ over 50 where the youth lack the career opportunities to reach their full potential in life.

This is Ghana @ over 50 where people are still in are living in places like Sodom and Gomorrah Zongo’s (filthy surroundings with no sewerage systems nor fire evacuation measures).

This is Ghana @ over 50 where vulnerable children are still using under tree education with no security measures or purposeful play grounds.

This is Ghana @ over 50 where no there no proper sewerage system in the majority of the country and the whole city is stinking.

Why do we rely on NGO’s, countries and individuals to help all when we live in a land of plenty, for example we have the sun, waters, mineral resources, forests, natures and friendly people etc.

Why are we not seeing the bigger picture in terms of developmental projects?

Ghana @ over 50 yet our farmers in towns and villages struggling to transport their produce to the open markets, due to lack of infrastructure (roads and other transport).

Our hospitals are under funded and staff over stretched and lacks the basic equipment that makes the working environment enjoyable.

In a recent report, Maamobi polyclinic (near Accra New Town) was highlighted as a hospital with no running water for over 10 yr. How could Ghanaians join in a National award ceremony when the basic amenities to its populations are lacking?

Prempeh College offered many of the countries leading men an excellent education yet by today’s standard it does lacks the basic infrastructure a school of its kind needs to be counted as a top school. There are lots of potholes in the college streets. The gutters blocked with silt and whole atmosphere is nothing to talk about really except the history it carries. These are some the issues worth addressing. There is basically nothing new to talk of. On the other hands schools like Labone Secondary School and Wesley Girls school old students are busy making a difference.

Why do we have to copy the West with their award ceremonies when Ghana has more serious issues? Is Ghana truly ready for such awards? 515 medals, costing £717, 000 (Kuffour’s cost £33,000). The average cost is about £1,400 pounds per medal, what are they made of - solid gold? It does not have to be gold to be valued – British medals are rarely made of precious metal – the most famous medal (The Victoria Cross) is made of Brass! £10 would be enough for a medal. The total cost was double this, so giving out each medal cost about £1,400 also. The cost of every medal, and every award ceremony, would keep a poor family for a year. Then we go cap in hand to donor countries and say we cannot afford to feed the poor. No wonder we get a sceptical reception. Or, this money would have paid for water for the polyclinic and a few proper village schools.

Government Ministers in Ghana should learn from some of our Africa neighbours for example Tunisia. There is at least good infrastructure, law and order, no slums and little sign of poverty. This is not paid for by oil money (they are not a major producer), fairly dry (40% desert) but with a good mixed economy (considered the most competitive in Africa in 2007). It might be worth introducing some of our Ministers to Tunisia perhaps benchmark against some of their best practice. Why is Ghana still struggling to get to grips with tourism whereas in Tunisia, it is a booming business and everyone is making a slice out of it?

In view of above grave concerns we read on Internet and newspapers that the National Awards cost $1.4 million. Is this what we call money well spent in the eyes of our Government or its people?

Was this initiative debated in parliament?

As we are aware, one of the awards was for the President himself money better spent on helping the people, schools, hospitals etc. Well done Kuffour for placing our nation second to your own personal gain.

Our President perhaps realised that to rise to fame is good while one is alive but only to be forgotten by the next generation hence this initiative to award himself an award for everlasting memory.

Ghana has so much gold but then why make the medals elsewhere when we have goldsmiths and other specialist in Ghana. Does he not realise that Ghana is the second biggest gold producer in Africa?

When some individuals inappropriate investments into companies like Valley Farms have been rewarded with 5 years in jail. One wonders when Kuffour will get another, more appropriate reward for his inappropriate use of state funds?

It is ironic that in the same country the very poor among us are dying due to inability to pay up their hospital bills and at times been locked up for this.

Would it be the same judgement as well? Or there would be an inequality of any judgement?

Whose responsibility is it to ensure that all our youths have quality education thus emphasising on better educational systems throughout Ghana and not just the cities? Our failure to address this issues is turning our arrogant youths to drugs couriers for easy money rather focus on the longer benefits that education brings.

Would it have been better to perhaps invest in these youth’s rather then ceremonial awards? Who could be accountable held accountable for under achievers within our society? Would it not better to nip such evils in the bud through better education thus offering opportunities for all instead of award ceremonies, which is worthless to the ordinary Ghanaians?

Why does mortal man glory himself when well positioned to given task? Is making a difference for the voiceless and vulnerable not the pivotal part of our Government’s agenda?

Ghana @ over 50 well, while the President and his Ministers are rejoicing over their achievements, the nation at large on the other hand is crying and lamenting on empty a stomach behind closed doors.

Reflecting on the few mentioned reality checks it becomes obvious that perhaps Ghana is not quite yet ready for such awards as we are still desperately short of resources to invest in more strategic objectives. Greatness is earned, deserved and judged by the ordinary people on our streets, not by the gold dangling from our necks.

Ghanaians and some African nations must learn to be like Bill Gates and his wife and others who are trying to make a difference to the worlds vulnerable.

Mortal man desperately needing praise from fellow humans! Lord has mercy. Would it be a great idea to perhaps start benchmarking against other countries that are perhaps more ahead with the development countries?

By all means a country should reward those who have significantly contribution to its development but to what extent? It is good to give thanks and praises where it is due. The bottom line question is that is Ghana ready? Why such a rush for a National Award ceremony when we only have a limited resources. Who are we trying to show off to?