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Opinions of Tuesday, 28 September 2004

Columnist: Antwi, William

The Odious Politics Of Educating Our Children!

As has been our tradition at least once a year, we go on our knees begging the power brokers in our society including the all-powerful president and his coterie of special advisors to pay particular attention to the suffering of millions of children particularly those from the very poor families. One such area where the children of the poor and unconnected continue to be brutally shortchanged by the political elite is in the area of education. Sadly, our pleas have gone unattended.

UNHEALTHY VALUES!

Naturally, this is the best time -the campaign season - to bring attention to the cruel inequalities existing in our education system. Indeed, the growing divide between the rich and the poor in our society can easily and vividly be captured in the way our children are being educated. Fortunately, the poor and unconnected in our society have come to the frank realization that the surest way out of their present grinding poverty is to get the best education for their children. However, their conscientious efforts to educate their children are being thwarted by the powers-that-be through various discriminately schemes. For instance, last year, we drew His Excellency?s attention to the immoral and illegal scheme of legacy admission, a practice whereby the relatives of alumni of our top SSS gained admission to these coveted schools through the back door based not on their superior grades at the BECE but merely by being the relatives of members of alumni associations. In other wo! rds, some Ghanaian kids are treated more Ghanaians than others merely by their random birth. Painfully, our President who swore to protect all Ghanaian children no matter the station in life of their families did nothing to correct this obviously discriminately matter. We do understand the basic thinking of the President: After all why should he put his weight behind eliminating such a corrupt elitist scheme which goes a long way to protect one of the many undeserved privileges enjoyed by his class?

As the President, our parliamentarians and their cheerleading political entourage traipse the corners of the country soliciting for votes, I am wondering aloud if they are able to look into the forlorn eyes of thousands of neglected children who are being under-educated without feeling any guilt. Nobody with a modicum of brains can dispute the great role human and physical facilities play in offering good education for our children. The economic, social and political opportunities presented by good education are closing fast on millions of our children not because of the iniquities of their parents or families but by lack of political will, heartlessness on the part of our political leaders, corruption and ineptitude.

BOTTLENECKS

Education which should be the nation?s gift to our children has been priced out of reach of the poor and unconnected. Inarguably, majority of our children are not getting the necessary foundation for future academic work. In fact, the legitimate question has always been that ?how can we give all these poor children all the education they need in a country where putting food on the table is a constant struggle for majority of the people?? The argument by the elite has always been that the nation lacks the funds to underwrite all the essential components necessary to educate our children. ?Lack of funds? means dilapidated school buildings, lack of tables and chairs, grossly underpaid teaching and supporting staff, practically non-existent teaching aides, namely computers, blackboards, pens, pencils, textbooks, story books, no refresher courses for our teachers etc, etc; What presently pertains in our poor rural and urban public schools is only a shell of what we call ?basic ed! ucation?. Folks, our villages, hamlets and our poor urban neighborhoods bear depressing testimony to this state of affairs. How do our leaders expect our children to learn anything sensible if they do not provide them with the necessary educational materials? As it is, they just want them to go through the motions. In all honesty, would they want their children to study under such depressing conditions? They should for a moment imagine their beloved children studying in one of the decrepit classrooms in any of our villages or urban areas! Their lack of compassion for the under-class is mind-boggling. Ironically, the political elite have always found the means - by whatever means possible- to foot the educational bills of their wards. Nobody should begrudge them for seeking the best for their children, nieces and nephews but then they should not by their activities deprive the rural and urban poor of the opportunities offered by getting a good education.

So the sensible question is: why can?t they get the money to invest in the future of our little ones? The demand for money for the poor and powerless to educate their children should transcend class politics - the politics where those in power have always had the best for their children. How on earth can we as a nation prosper in this fast pace technology world, if our leaders do not equip our population especially our kids with the basic tools to seriously compete with other nations? The demand for money for these tragically neglected children should therefore be more imperative now than ever before. Our nation needs more men and women who can read, write and synthesize complex issues in this global economy. In all fairness, because our education system is dangerously under-financed, our children come out of school functionally illiterate thereby contributing to our inability to lift our nation from its ?perpetual? underdevelopment.

It is not for nothing that Article 25(1) (a) was enshrined in our constitution. Do they think that this article was meant to decorate our constitution? How can we truly expect to build a truly sustainable democracy if majority of our people are poorly under-educated? Isn?t an enlightened population a true barometer to measure a viable democracy? The framers of our constitution firmly believe that an educated and enlightened citizenry could form the bedrock of our democratic development. They were perfectly right. No wonder they mandated that ?basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all?. Which means that everything humanly possible should be made to provide ?equal educational opportunities? and adequate facilities to ?all? including our children. How can we compel our children to go to school if there are no facilities to carter to their educational needs? Again, this does not only call for the infusion of money but also how the monies so infused are monit! ored and managed so that they get to the poor.

The real point here is that ?the lack of funds? argument is just hogwash and in fact patently baloney. In other words, when they need money to finance their pet but senseless elitist programs like creating thirty new constituencies, increasing their per-diem allowances, giving themselves vacation money (like the $15,000 given to the Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Peter Ala Adjatey), taking care of their health care needs abroad and still getting allowances in hard dollars while on admission, buying ?posh? official cars, writing themselves $20,000 car ?loans?, educating their children abroad, they have always found the way to get the money. Talk about misplaced priorities!!

Lastly, we may ask: For how long can we look on while our leaders make victims of these innocent children? It is high time we appreciated the gravity of this national disgrace and did something concrete about it. We know this piece is going to infuriate many powerful Ghanaians, but what they should never forget is that they are either contributing or creating a very dangerous society which will in the long run explode from within maybe at a time when they are long gone. Unfortunately, their privileged children may not escape the wrath of the ?always-cheated crowd", namely, the ?we-no-go-sit-down? crowd.

For our society to move beyond the present decadence in our educational set-up, children of the rural and urban poor have to be accorded good education. Money for such patriotic venture must necessarily come from the government whichever way possible with some input from charitable organizations in and outside Ghana. All that these purely innocent children and their poor parents need is a ?little something? from the government. They are simply calling on our government to give them accessible education which will open the doors to a good future not only for themselves and their families but the country as a whole.

The government should accordingly make good that which has been entrenched in our constitution.

As usual, we rest our case for now.

WILLIAM ANTWI (BAFO AKA OYOO BUSANGA)
NEW YORK, U.S.A.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.