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Opinions of Friday, 1 January 2010

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

About Politically-Motivated Universities

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

During the 10th Congregation of the University for Development Studies (UDS), acting Vice-Chancellor Kaku Sagary Nokoe cautioned the Atta-Mills government of the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC) against the establishment of regional academies along ethnic lines. The unmistakable reference was, of course, to the proposed establishment of new universities in the Brong-Ahafo and Volta regions.

The rationale behind Prof. Nokoe’s cautionary note appears to have been squarely based on the fact that the massive “De-boardinization of secondary schools and automated admissions have already created problems relating to national identity, which need not to be cemented with regionally based universities.”

On first blush, we readily agree with Prof. Nokoe that establishing academic institutions on the basis of ethnicity is immitigably and unpardonably reprehensible. And it was precisely the latter impression that President John Evans Atta-Mills gave when, in the heat of his presidential electioneering campaign, the Mfantseman native promised the people of Brong-Ahafo and the Volta regions new universities. The tacitly stated subtext was that, somehow, the Brong-Ahafo and Volta regions had been deliberately left out of the national development process.

The obvious fact of the matter is that such progress-oriented established Christian denominations as the Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics and Anglicans had already put a woefully inadequate governmental apparatus to shame by establishing their own universities and degree-awarding institutions in many a poorly served enclave of our country. Needless to say, the preceding reminded this writer of a recently published article captioned “The Church Must Pay Tax Now” on, in which the author vehemently indicted the Christian Church in Ghana for being primarily and singularly culpable for the country’s low rate of development, on the patently specious and outright vacuous grounds that the Church had perennially escaped the tax net, even as its leaders shamelessly led untenably lavish modes of existence. A lot of unaccounted cash flows into Church coffers that need to be promptly brought to book as a matter of national emergency, the writer inveighed.

Naturally, my gut reaction was to simply chuckle and ask whether the same writer was poised to demanding that the Rawlingses account for the widely alleged substantial financial “assistance” afforded the bloody couple to enable them educate all their children abroad, even as they deliberately and incessantly shuttered the doors of Ghana’s major academies to the less privileged. Of course, I did not half-expect the rather brazen accuser to be honest and bold enough to effect the same.

The fact of the matter is that if, as the critic caustically claimed, the Church has become a veritable bottleneck in the path of good governance, primarily as a result of flagrant non-payment of taxes, then it also squarely stood to reason that the Government be called upon to promptly refund to the Church all the unpaid services, going back at least some two centuries, rendered as a direct result of gross functional default on the part of the central government. Such services, needless to say, would include the establishment of various levels of academic institutions and health facilities, as well as the creation of a salutary and moral sense of civic responsibility.

In sum, what we are implying by the foregoing is the incontrovertible fact that the formation and shaping/molding of the modern Ghanaian identity – both colonial and postcolonial – have had far, far more to do with the advent and development of the Christian Church in Ghana than any other societal institution or establishment, including both the theoretical and practical apparatus of national governance.

What was deliberately left out of the unabashedly pro-NDC critic’s tirade was the Mosque or Islamic religion in Ghana. Consequently, the unguarded reader was left with the dubious impression that Muslim clerics, or Imams, did not solicit any form of funding, whatsoever, for the prosecution of their faith. And also that even if they did at all, then, indeed, such financial solicitation was wholly legitimate in ways that could never be said of the Christian Church in Ghana.

Of course, the truth of the matter, as amply appreciated by nearly all Ghanaians, irrespective of ideology or creed, is that in terms of the material uplift of our citizenry at large, especially in the area of education, the Church defers absolutely to no other major establishment in the country, including the statal apparatus itself! One couldn’t in any logical manner claim that the accuser was actually alluding to the proverbial one-man, store-front churches; for his unmistakable target of vitriol and venom was airtight, as he kept fatuously and erroneously recounting how here in the United States, no Christian establishment operated without the tax net. Alas! How too little and a rushed taste of American democracy could make a complete idiot out of a flamboyant academic panjandrum!

In any case, Vice-Chancellor Nokoe, of the University for Development Studies (UDS), could also equally have alluded to the fact of the massive “De-boardinization of secondary schools” having been the vintage handicraft of the so-called Provisional National Democratic Congress (P/NDC). And on the latter score, the reference is to the P/NDC’s bogus Structural Adjustment economic agenda. Still, the implicit notion that boarding schools were originally established in the country in order to systematically foster cross-ethnic integration and thus induce the modernistic creation of a unified national identity could not be farther from the truth. On the other hand, if, indeed, the establishment of boarding schools did engender the formation of a cohesive, cross-ethnic national identity, as Vice-Chancellor Nokoe claims, then this could almost certainly be found to have been largely epiphenomenal or incidental. Indeed, a cursory glance at the geographical concentration of the first missionary boarding schools readily gives the lie to the “Nokoe Theory.” For most of the seminal boarding schools were established in the southern-half of Ghana, and then heavily concentrated in such major townships and sub-ethnic polities as Accra, Cape Coast and Takoradi, and the Fante, Ga, Akuapem and Akyem areas of the country. It was, indeed, only decades later that pupil enrollment came to encompass a trans-ethnic or trans-sub-ethnic geopolitical agenda. It is also significant to point out that the idea of “boardinization,” or operating these institutions as boarding schools, was primarily to facilitate the focused and concentrated education of the future leaders of Modern Ghana. Location in of itself does not in any way guarantee that an academic institution would become ethnocentric; rather, it is the laws of incorporation or statutory charter that is the operational determinant, else our three seminal universities – at Legon, Cape Coast and Kumasi – would have since long ago effectively lost their enviable status as bona fide national flagship academies.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Insttitute (DI), the pro-democracy think tank, and the author of 21 books, including his latest and 16th volume of poetry “Intimations of Love” (Atumpan Publications/ E-mail: ###