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Opinions of Friday, 16 November 2018

Columnist: Clement Boateng

Epistle 3 – Education: …and the Tortoise Attended the Funeral at the Tree Top

Agyaaku, it’s your grandson greeting you once again.

‘Ohia ma adwendwen, me yonko pa… ma adwendwen, me yonko pa…’, so sang Kakaiku. I know you’re smiling Agyaaku. You love this song. Nana, we all know from that Kaakaiku song how the tortoise got to the tree top to mourn with his friend the spider monkey, on the demise of the latter’s mother. But for those who might not know of the story let’s sum it up. Using his wits, tortoise told the messenger, vulture, to attend to other things that vulture needed to attend to, but should return to pick a bag for spider monkey, even if he (vulture) does not meet him (tortoise) on his (vulture’s) return. Vulture should also deliver the message that he, tortoise, is on his way coming to the tree top to bid his condolences. And so it went, smoothly. Spider monkey and those at the gathering had a good laugh, in the midst of the sorrow, upon hearing that tortoise says he’s on his way to the tree top. I mean how could you, tortoise? You have no wings, you have no prehensile limbs; how can you get to the tree top? They opened the bag and, voilà, in sits the tortoise. Surprise!!! Then tortoise exclaimed ‘I have told you guys all the time that everything is achievable through strategic thinking and planning!’ Nana, as you know, the import of the story hinges on the good old adage that goes like ‘where there is a will, there is a way’.

The tortoise in spite of his limitations, managed to get to where it mattered – the tree top. Thus Omanfoforo town may not have the entire infrastructural setup, or all the funds to implement the go-to-high-school-free policy, but with strategic planning and implementation, it is achievable. Like the guy who asked about whether it is possible to prevent people from giving birth or whether it is possible to freeze people’s growth, current circumstances and rates of infrastructural development seems not to permit or give room for suspension or postponement of the policy, does it? Well, Nana that guy has not received answers to his questions as of now. (Please refer to Epistle 2 for the questions).

Another brilliant idea raised was the possibility of letting the go-to-high-school-free policy cover some people, but not all persons as it is now. That will save Omanfoforo some funds to prosecute other development agenda. But the big question in that regard is who should be covered and who should not? The idea was then expanded by its proponents: only needy students, or simply put, students from poor backgrounds should enjoy the policy.

Laudable, very! Agyaaku, something like that has happened before in our Mesuaamehunu village. Over the years, children and grandchildren of cocoa farmers from Mesuaamehunu village have enjoyed Cocobod Scholarships at the high school level. Yes, that scholarship was instituted for wards of cocoa farmers, it was not for everybody. So perhaps Omanfoforo Town can take some learning from it. Nana, I remember how you made us apply for the cocobod scholarship in our high school days, submitting all that there was to be submitted with the application.

You told us our uncles applied for it too. Agyaaku, you and Awo have been cocoa farmers for well over 70 years now. But, unfortunately, none of your children or grandchildren have ever benefitted from the cocoa scholarship even though we duly qualified by its standards.

However, there are allegations that people with no connection with cocoa farming, or simply put non-cocoa farmers, are able to get their wards enrolled onto the cocoa scholarship. Is that not magical? Can’t the free high school policy of Omanfoforo Town suffer same fate, especially judging from Omanfoforo Town’s inadequacies in data on its population? The powerful and elites in town take over things instituted for the less privileged, often times. Let us all be guided.

Nana I used to agree with the proponents of let the worthy or rich pay for their wards until recently.

I had a second look at it, dialogued with a couple of friends, and looked at taxation in societies. The common thing that stands out, which most people might be aware of, is that the more you earn, the more tax you pay. Thus if people’s taxes are partly to be used to finance the go-to-high-school-free policy, then why should the individuals that contribute more in terms of taxes be segregated against? I think that would be a cheating of some sort, and it can result in some of these high tax payers parading their wards as needy students.

Thus, in as much as I am all for Omanfoforo Town’s go-to-high-school-free policy, as a means to increase their educational standards and help alleviate poverty, I don’t want it to be implemented with the side-lining of anybody, including the higher contributors to its funding in terms of taxes. Another low risk factor that needs to be looked at should Omanforo Town allow the worthy to pay is the possibility of preferential treatment by school authorities, and pomposity on the part of paid students. Yes, it has minimal risk but it is worthy of consideration and, should accordingly be mitigated.

The policy, Agyaaku, is in its second year of implementation. And what a game changer it has been? It has substantially increased enrolment into the high schools in Omanfoforo Town. It has really proven that people wanted to send their wards to high school, but for money. But it exposed the inadequacies in the educational infrastructure as talked about by the infrastructure first proponents.

It has proven that the existing infrastructure is not enough. And that also brought another ‘ohiamadwendwen’ episode. The ruling chieftains have been able to roll out a policy that has made it possible for every qualified student to be placed in a high school. They call it double track system. I don’t have enough time to talk about that system now, Nana, but it has been revolutionary in addressing the challenges of inadequate infrastructure in the interim. However, they need to increase their educational infrastructure to meet the growing demand and take away the interim double-track system. They should not relent on efforts to provide adequate infrastructure.

The beauty of that would be that it will then amalgamate the propositions of both chieftains of Omanfoforo Town: i) there would be free high school for everyone, and ii) there will be adequate educational infrastructure to run the free high school. How lovely, Nana! Then they can all come together and sing Lucky Dube’s ‘different colours, one people’.

And yes, Nana, you guessed right, I am listening to that song right now…. ‘‘different colours, one people’’, while living with the maxim that every hurdle, every challenge or every issue needs strategic thinking and planning as posited by Kaakaiku in the ‘Ohiamadwendwen’ song.

How the tortoise attended the funeral at the tree top should guide us to surmount all hurdles, including making education available, accessible and free at least to the second cycle level for every citizen irrespective of their financial status. It is the best and easiest way to bring together the ayoyo eaters and kontomire consumers, as well as the alahu akbarus, the praise the lords and the obiri komfos for peaceful co-existence, while helping to alleviate poverty.

Thanks for your patience Nana. I will write you again, soon.

Mekyea obiaa, Agyaaku!!!

Written by:

Clement Boateng Consultant/Founder - ClemBoat Consult (www.clemboatconsult.com) Email: info@clemboatconsult.com