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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Columnist: Akoto, Akwasi A. Afrifa

Re: Politicians And Phantom Promises.

Over the past month or so, The Ghanaian Chronicle has taken Nana Addo to task over his educational policy. In the said policy, aptly titled “Teachers First Educational Policy,” the first point of exit for pre- tertiary education would be at the Senior Secondary (SSS) level instead of the current system that has, over the years, thrown at least 50% of our children on the streets every year. To make the SSS exit point possible and accessible to all, Nana’s policy would make SSS education free.

To the Chronicle, Nana’s vision is too ambitious to be possible. As such, in an editorial, in I.K Gyasi’s column and recently, by Emmanuel Akli- in an article, “Politicians and Phantom Promises”-the question posed, in different forms, was how Nana was going to fund his free education. While the funding question is legitimate, it is surprising that after three major policy speeches –the Liberty Lectures, the Hamburg and the TESCON speeches, in which Nana laid out his main points- citizens are still not aware of how Nana would fund his educational policy.

In the Hamburg speech last June in Germany, Nana clearly made it known how his educational policy would be funded if giving the nod. “We intend to enhance quality of education in every public school in Ghana in our overriding goal of building a new society of opportunities by committing, BY LEGISLATION, A SIGNIFICANT AND CONSTANT PERCENTAGE OF OUR GDP TO EDUCATION," stated Nana. In short, what Nana intends to do for education is what has been done for local government through the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF). Currently, 7% of our GDP is set aside for District Assemblies. So why can’t it be done for education? And as Nana rightly pointed out in the Hamburg speech, “the current situation, which has seen the percentage of GDP devoted to education decreasing gradually since 2009 …. do not show a nation serious about its future.” And indeed, we are a nation with misplaced priorities. For how could we devote 7% of GDP to District Assemblies (DACF) - toothless body due to patronage- and ONLY 2% of VAT annual receipts for the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund)? At the first meeting of the Volta Regional House of Chiefs this year - after the House had vowed to change voting patterns at last year’s general meeting- Togbe Afede XIV expressed his outrage and surprise at the high cost of SSS education and how it was making it difficult for the poor to access SSS education- in his region. The government representative at the meeting, Ghana’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Mr. Dan Abodakpi, promised the House that he would take it up with the Education minister- lip service.

But Togbe Afede XIV and all well meaning Ghanaians know that nothing is going happen, for education is not Mills’ priority. A perfect example is how the government intends to waste money on providing motor cycles to all assembly members instead of giving them to teachers or National Service personnel posted in the educational sector in remote areas- the first batch had already been delivered to members in the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly of all places…for votes I presume.

As a nation however, our only hope for the future in this globalized world is to put education first. And only Nana Addo has been able to spell out a vision meant to achieve this goal through his “Teachers First educational policy.” To the naysayers, there is nothing phantom or unsustainable when it comes to Nana’s educational policy As long as a percentage of the GDP would be set aside, backed by legislative instrument, Nana’s free SSS education is as feasible as the DACF….unless a P-ndc majority in parliament decide to vote against it when the time comes.

Akwasi. A. Afrifa Akoto