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Opinions of Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Columnist: Sarfo, Samuel Adjei

How Ghana Descended to the Bottom of Global Education. Part II

By Dr. Samuel Adjei Sarfo

Attorney and Counselor at Law

The matter is even clearer when we concede that in Ghana, we do not even know what science is about. I wrote a long time ago that Ghana’s science education is useless, insofar as Ghanaian scientists have never used their science education for any purpose. They look to the west for help with tropical diseases like Ebola and a solution to the present erratic supply of electricity (dumsor), and they have never been up and doing in any inventions or innovations, constantly blaming the government for its inability to help them to be creative or resourceful or useful. But all their patent incorrigibilities could be excused one way or the other, and our scientists could be consigned, as other Ghanaian professionals, to the position of irrelevancy or redundancy within the scheme of things since they have made no contribution to the national growth. What is not forgivable is that these science educated Ghanaians are leading in the cause of spreading and promoting superstition which is inimical to the scientific principles. They cannot analyze or form any connections between fact patterns, establish coherent cause and effect, decouple flawed logic or assign an intellectual reasoning to traditional, albeit superstitious propositions. And yet they are supposed to be properly educated in the scientific method and its proper application. And if these cannot apply the basic principles of science in thinking through problems, why must we then be surprised that they finally fell to the bottom of the pack?

And how must we receive the news that our Math education is equally bad? For some time now, I was raising this issue of what purpose our mathematics education has served, and people were criticizing me for merely asking questions. Now we can agree that we apply simple math in solving everyday computation, and no doubt that to this extent, that part of math that helps us resolve everyday problems ought to be deemed as relevant. But beyond this, the more persuasive function of advanced Math should be to equip us to think logically and reason well through complex problems. And if the purpose of advanced level Math is construed this way, can we sincerely say that the study of Math has endowed any of our mathematicians with these exceptional abilities? Remember that our top mathematician, Prof. Allotey stated recently that he does not recommend solar energy as a solution to our electricity problem because it is too expensive. He did not explain further; and when some of us questioned his assertion, commentators came to his defense by reeling off his international academic achievements. They did not explain how these achievements coalesce with his take on solar energy.

Then enter the strange logic of Prof. Anku, the head of Mathematics Association of Ghana who has glibly stated that lack of proper teaching of Math is to blame for the lack of solution of the Dumsor problem in the country. He did not disclose how he, as a top mathematician in Ghana, has managed to apply math to resolve the electricity problem in his own village.

When one considers these two simplistic statements coming from the two top mathematicians in Ghana, the question arises as to how science and math scholars use their knowledge to confront problems in the country. And if these two top professors were being assessed on the basis of only these statements, where should one place them in the math or science rankings in which application of their knowledge would be of the utmost essence? At the bottom of the rankings of course! And if we have our science and math specialists leading the charge in ignorance and loose talk, how can we become surprised of the highly educated politician who is thinking that his language group is more superior to others’? Or the loud-mouthed demagogue who traces the national inflation figures to the activity of mischievous dwarfs? Or those church-goers putting thousands of their moneys into the offering platter in the belief that they are making profitable business investments? Or those scientists visiting the witchdoctor for so-called juju money? Or the person flogging his mother, sister or aunt for being a witch? Or even the one believing that our world can only be fixed by someone returning after his death two thousand years ago?

And if we add all these silly acts and beliefs to our persistent voting for those who we know are corrupt and visionless and inexperienced and foolish while still fervently believing in the power of our prayers to make the nation prosperous, why must we be surprised that we are put at the bottom of science and math knowledge or their application? And if we are lining the streets to give bribes to the police, or seeking to fudge figures to take financial advantage of a situation, or skipping work and lying about it, how do we propose that the growth and development of our nation will occur under these corrupt circumstances? In short, how have we applied science or mathematics in our quantification of the consequences of our actions? In which ways have these subjects helped us to weigh our actions and behaviors as they are reflected in our nation’s fate? And if we have failed to make these connections in spite of our education, aren’t we fit to be put at the bottom of the ladder?

And if any one of us is not guilty of any of the enumerated unscientific, irrational, immoral or incompetent actions and behaviors, then we can aptly say that the numbers produced by the global body putting us at the bottom of the pack is flawed. Because the issue tested by analysts of qualitative education is never about rote memorization or regurgitation of masticated facts. The issue is always about the application of whatever knowledge we have attained in school, and how these subjects have transformed us into good and capable individuals ready to think critically in order to solve our societal problems. And when one construes the issue in this term, one will conclude that our science and math education, and indeed the whole of our education, is practically useless in these respects.

And that uselessness of our learning permeates every corner of our national life, and even on the internet websites, and how we think about ourselves, how we talk about ourselves, our national goals and our future aspirations. And if all that is evaluated is the substance of our acts, thoughts and discourse, then we are properly placed at the bottom of this ranking because we do not measure up to much. And so the earlier we begin to regroup and restructure our education to achieve the ends of character modification and skills training for the purpose of our socio-economic transformation, the better will be our chances to do better in the next future rankings.

Samuel Adjei Sarfo is a practicing attorney in Austin Texas. He writes the weekly column, “Thoughts of a Native Son” for Ghana’s New Statesman. You can email him at