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Opinions of Saturday, 16 May 2015

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Ghana's Poor Academic Ranking Is Not The Least Bit Surprising

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
May 14, 2015

Some are calling it "disgraceful," but I simply think that it is a wake-up call for Ghanaians to come out of our prideful stupor that has made us deceive ourselves into thinking that we ranked among the best-educated people and nations in the world. Of course, not when you had Akua Sena Dansua, then-Minister for Women and Children's Affairs, or some such cabinet appointment, telling Ghanaians that the main aim of education was to get women pupils/students out of school as soon as possible so that they could be "gainfully married" (See "Ghana Comes Last In Biggest Global School Rankings" / 5/13/15).

The rot did not begin today; it has been with us in an admittedly considerably abated degree since Ghana's declaration of sovereignty from British colonial rule in 1957. Indeed, as a parliamentary oppostion leader, Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia had occasion to hotly debate President Kwame Nkrumah on the qualitatively poor and grossly undisciplined manner in which the country's education was being managed. Predictably, Busia would be accused of being otiosely elitist.

What is at stake here, and one that may well have caused the country to place 76th or "butt-naked" last in the latest OECD rankings of global quality of education, is the morbid fear of healthy competition among the country's leadership, except where bragging rights involves the inordinate and criminal acquisition of wealth by politicians and public officials. Recently, for instance, one Ghanaian politician that I personally admire appeared before the media - he is a media mogul himself - bragging about owning 108 houses and 13 children, and also why he had every good reason not to use condoms while having intercourse with his brood of readily available women. Personally, I would have ranked Ghana 77th among the 76 nations ranked by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development think tank. The country's education sucks like rotten eggs!

It goes without saying that we may have to revisit the proverbial drawing board in order to examine how education has been funded by the central government for the past 30 years. As well, how the education of our professional teachers has been designed and executed. Then also, our curricular objectives and learning outcomes. Not quite awhile ago, for instance, the Ministry of Education, deputizing for the Mahama-led government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), decided to deny teacher-trainees their long-established monetary incentives that had been regularly disbursed in the past in the form of stipends and allowances. The rationale was that in a budgetary austerity moment something had to give. And those National Democratic Congress' loud-talking "socialists" had concluded that education was last on the list of priority projects.

As of this writing, the leadership of the teacher-trainees were fiercely fighting for the restoration of their allowances which far pale in value or public burden, compared to the periodic "gratuities" generously paid representatives of Ghana's white-elephant parliament. And not too long ago, a former teacher turned politician - he was also once the mayor of Ghana's second-largest city, Kumasi - was widely reported to have attempted to put striking non-politician teachers and doctors in their place, by castigating them for daring to measure their worth and social heft against the country's parliamentarians and other highly placed government officials.

The painful fact of the matter is that our leaders have absolutely no respect, whatsoever, for teachers. And you are certain to be readily able to determine this by conducting a casual comparison between Ghana's education budget and that of each of the 75 nations that out-performed our country in the OECD rankings, and then drawing the appropriate conclusions. After all, wasn't this the reason why Mr. and Mrs. Rawlings shipped their children abroad for schooling, after literally running the entire Ghanaian educational system aground?

And let no one be tempted to take solace in the fact that Ghana's former colonial mistress, Britain, placed 20th on the global school-ranking table, with the United States of America, presently the sole global superpower, placing 28th. It means little for the inexcusably dismal ranking of Ghana because, at the end of the day, both Britain and the United States will continue to maintain their enviable positions in the global economy for the foreseeable future. Both post-industrial nations are also forces to reckon with in science and math education, something which cannot be comfortably and proudly said of Ghana. In short, what we need here and now is a radical attitudinal change and promptly so. And, of course, the fruits of such positive realignment of our national priorities are not apt to be realized overnight.

Indeed, the rot may have reached its most unenviable level or apogee with the forcible accession of Flt.-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings on December 31, 1982 and his pathologically anti-intellectual decision to summarily shutter the country's flagship academies for criminally long temporal spells, even as Chairman Rawlings spirited his own children out of the country, and out of harm's way, for advanced studies at some of the most expensive colleges and universities abroad. This is precisely when and how the current rot set in.