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Opinions of Thursday, 30 June 2011

Columnist: Afrifa, Akwasi

Ghana’s Future Depends On Nana’s “Teachers First” Policy.

You have to admire and marvel at the dedication and commitment to education by President Kufour and the NPP. By 2008, the President had increased the percentage of our GDP earmarked for education from a two decade average of 6% - under the P/NDC- to 11%. Enrollment in public universities increased by 104%; our polytechnics also saw a 60% jump. Our primary school enrollment increased by a whopping 50%. An additional 30,000 teachers were trained during the NPP era.
The beauty of the NPP educational policy was the introduction of the Capitation Grant. In order to encourage poorer communities and families to enroll their children and retain them in the system, the NPP established the grant to provide textbooks, school fees registration fees -plus nationwide school feeding program- etc to needy communities. (It was expanded to the rest of the country in 2006) It contributed greatly, among others, to an increase in 10% completion rate in the primary level.
These are all hallmarks unprecedented in post- 1970 Ghana. The NPP under President Kufour the Poverty Killer ("Okumkom") understood the dire conditions of our education system- neglected and polluted by PNDC’s lack of imagination - hence the above programs and reforms, making Ghana, once again, a pacesetter in education.
Unfortunately since Mills the Professor took over, our educational advancement has come to a standstill. For starters, Mills has decreased the percentage of our GDP committed to education from 11% in 2008 to 7%. The capitation grant and the school feeding program have also received cuts (not to save money but to divert funds to less important areas for political points. Nothing is important than education). With 64% of primary school graduates unable to read and write, the Mills government’s sense of urgency leaves a lot to be desired. Not a single original idea has been introduced in the system to help arrest this problem. The ones they inherited are collapsing. In fact President Mills seems very satisfied with the status quo. The only interest the President has shown in education since 2009 has been sod cutting and inspection of uncompleted school buildings. And that was only this year- two “late” years into his reign.
So it must have come as a relief to many Ghanaians when Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo- Addo unveiled his educational policy in a speech in Hamburg, Germany and then added that education, “quality education” will be the centerpiece of his presidency.
Now the most significant aspect of Nana’s “Teachers First” policy is the admission and the recognition that our educational system needs a major overhaul. This alone should win him the elections unlike Mills’ government which seems to be in love with the current system and prevailing conditions. For the admission of a problem is the most effective and important cure. Anyway, among the highlights of Nana’s policy – a one hour speech could only give highlights- are the need to make Senior High School a part of our basic school system and thus the first exist point for all Ghanaian children; a special focus on the need of the “front-liners”, our teachers and the most important of them all, “building a new society of opportunities by committing, BY LEGISLATION, a significant and constant percentage of our GDP to education.”
One needs no reminding what “by legislation” means. It speaks for itself. It will, in effect, launch Ghana into the spectrum of greatness. It will protect the future of our children’s education from the wimps of successive governments bent on retarding progress, as we are now witnessing under Mills- annual reduction in GDP percentage earmarked for education since 2009. Finally, it will place our educational funding above politics.
Nana only gave us a glimpse of his policy. But this sneak peek –like a Spielberg’s movie trailer- has been more than enough in wetting the appetites of Ghanaians. There is no doubt that when the full manifesto of the NPP is finally launched by the end of the year, spelling out the details, Ghanaians will be truly “excited”- as Nana Akomea, head of NPP communications team said- by its scope and hope.
After almost 40 years of educational wilderness the Kufour administration finally laid the cornerstones – launching pad- for our education and future by increasing tertiary enrollment by 104%, pre-primary enrollment from 21.8% to 97.3 %; by the Capitation grant and by the school feeding program among others.
Nana’s “Teachers First” policy is the second stage of NPP’s grand vision; the rocket booster that will propel Ghana into the next age.

The World Bank gave Ghana more than $600m for education in 1980s and 1990s. With the deplorable state of our education inherited by Kufour, it makes one wonder what might have happened to the money. “Probity and Accountability” indeed!