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Opinions of Tuesday, 2 August 2005

Columnist: Sam, Leo R.

There Is Nothing "FREE" Under The Sun.

...especially EDUCATION !!!
Why politicians ( in government and opposition parties ) go around promising to provide FREE EDUCATION is mind - boggling !!!. As I wander on this earth, I wonder why citizens believe these politicians. No Government can create SOMETHING out of NOTHING. Good basic education is expensive both in the developed and developing countries. Parents, who value education and have struggled to sacrifice their personal needs to be able to pay for their children's education, know this FACT.

Grants provided by the central government to educational establishments should be considered as supplementary and not as panacea for free education.

Just visit the classrooms of a good Early Childhood institution. Estimate the cost of building and running the programs in this set - up. Thousands of dollars ( billions of cedis ) must be spent on the buildings and equipment. Materials used in these classrooms are very expensive. If modern technological audio-visual aids and computers are available, then it is obvious that the cost will sky-rocket. Many parents dream of providing environments of this standard for their children. However, we are aware that it is economically impossible to establish these IDEAL conditions for all the children in developing countries. We can, however, provide reasonably moderate conditions to serve our children quite well.

So far nothing has been said about the most important factor in making the programs work to achieve the desirable objectives. A well equipped classroom without a qualified and dedicated TEACHER is not of much use to any community. When will governments, especially in developing countries, recognize in a meaningful way that professional teachers are extremely essential in the process of providing good and effective basic education for the most precious possession of any progressive nation (our children ) ? This is a prerequisite for TRUE and SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT .

The cost of training one good Early-Childhood teacher is very high. These teachers must not just be placed in the same category as BABY SITTERS. Children who are lucky enough to pass through the hands of efficient early childhood teachers fare well during the higher stages of their education. Qualified early-childhood teachers must be paid to reflect the professional services they provide. The days when teachers were expected to accept low salaries and wait for their TRUE REWARD IN HEAVEN should now be over.

Considering all the facts stated above, parents should be willing to pay fees to cover a reasonable portion of the above expenditure. The major question now is how can the ordinary ( average ) Ghanaian pay for the early education of the child ?

The Government has a role to play here NOW. Let us all try to put behind us the actions or inactions of previous Governments. Too much time is now being wasted in blaming former governments including our colonial rulers for some of our present problems. Let us all put on our thinking hats or caps or turbans or wigs and find solutions to our problems instead of apportioning blame to others. Priorities must be properly set in using the financial resources available to the country as well as individual Ghanaians. Ghana is NOT a poor country as many people in top level positions would like us to believe. The real problem is that due to corruption, the resources of the country end up in the hands of only a few individuals who happen to be in responsible positions but are encouraged directly of indirectly by friends, relatives and questionable admirers to drink from the "FOUNTAIN OF CORRUPTION".

I am fully convinced that strict laws and IMPRISONMENT will just NOT solve the problem of corruption. If 51% of Ghanaians TRULY begin to admire SELF-DISCIPLINE and determine to practise the principle of " Do unto your neighbour as you would like them to do unto you " then we have a chance of reducing the "CORRUPTION CANCER" which is obviously at the ROOT of most of our problems.

Applying the principles of SOCIAL JUSTICE, the minimum wage paid to citizens especially those at the lower end of the economic hierarchy should be adequate to enable them to live reasonably well and plan ahead to SAVE for the education of their children. I would like to stress that these individuals must be engaged in PRODUCTIVE JOBS.

We need "REAL WORKERS" ( Definition provided at the end of this article) in Ghana. Real workers must be paid adequate wages and salaries. There are too many "VIRTUAL WORKERS" ( Definition provided at the end of this article ) in the public service.

At the moment It appears that only a very small fraction of Ghanaians are in positions, which allow them to earn enough GENUINE remuneration to SAVE for their children's education.

You and I know that there are some first class PRIVATE early childhood and primary education establishments in Ghana. Those who can genuinely afford to pay the high tuition, send their children and other relatives to these facilities. Many parents, who are not so well to do but realize that these private schools provide good education for children, find other means ( not excluding " KALABULEIC" and "GYINABUIC" methods ) to raise enough funds to enable them to educate their wards in these private institutions.

It is quite clear that citizens are willing to pay for QUALITY education. The proper role of politicians is to find ACCEPTABLE and HONOURABLE ways and means of empowering ordinary (average) Ghanaians to earn enough to be able to pay for the education of their offspring. Promising to provide FREE education prior to and during election campaigns should cease. Hopefully, citizens will clearly see through these empty election promises and refuse to vote for candidates, who promise what they fully know cannot be delivered.

Living in Alberta, Canada has taught me that " NOTHING IS FREE UNDER THE SUN". One has to work very hard at whatever work one does ( as a labourer, lawyer, doctor, electrician, carpenter, banker, consultant, farmer, fisherman, teacher, plumber, etc ...) to earn enough to live on. It is possible for hard working plumbers, carpenters and farmers to earn more than doctors lawyers and politicians. Before coming to Alberta, I did not know enough about Income Taxes. Now I know that one pays a high percentage of one's income to both the Federal and Provincial governments. Local governments also collect sizable property taxes including SCHOOL TAXES. The taxes are used for improving the infrastructure, providing some health services and basic education. In addition to taxes citizens pay fees for various privileges and services. NOTHING IS FREE !!!

Citizens should be paid FAIR WAGES and SALARIES instead of promising to provide free EDUCATION . It is assumed that employees will work hard and be productive. A teacher who accepts a teaching job but spends the school time on private trading is obviously not a productive employee. A bank teller, who spends the working period on the cellular phone engaged in private conversation instead of serving customers cannot be considered as a productive employee. A member of Parliament, who spends his/her time in Accra on private business instead of appearing at the Chambers is NOT a productive representative. Consultants, who just engage themselves preparing reports that they themselves KNOW will never be used for any beneficial project are not productive workers. Large amounts of money paid to these fraudulent consultants must be retrieved.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in citizens getting involved in businesses other than their regular jobs BUT they must be honest enough to discharge their responsibilities at their regular jobs at the APPROPRIATE times.

Many Ghanaians overseas have two or three Jobs but they are fully aware that if they are negligent at their major workplace, they will be FIRED.

Employers ( Government and Private) should seriously consider paying FAIR WAGES and SALARIES.

Our Tax collection system needs to be improved. However, citizens should be able to earn adequate incomes before they are expected to pay taxes.

So far only Early Childhood Education has been mentioned. One should bear in mind that all stages in Education are expensive. Parents should be prepared to pay tuition fees. All levels of Governments have the obligation of using the resources of the country, taxes, and fees collected to support the services needed by the citizens. Promises to provide FREE services are fraudulent. We must learn to accept the fact that all services have to be paid for directly or indirectly. Free-loading at any level is unethical and unacceptable.

Ministers of the government, Deputy Ministers and other bureaucrats, at home and abroad, should start acting as servants of the people instead of assuming they are MASTERS/BOSSES with special privileges. Questionable allowances and bonus designed by bureaucrats for bureaucrats should be drastically reduced by bureaucrats, who believe in social justice.

Ghanaians, who have educated or are educating their children and relatives in developed countries know that GOOD FORMAL EDUCATION IS EXPENSIVE. It is better to find ways and means of paying DEDICATED and REAL workers in Ghana fair and reasonable wages and salaries to enable parents to plan and save for the education of their offspring.

With careful planning including well educated professional TEACHERS, who are adequately paid to reflect the importance of their contribution to society, the system of PUBLIC education in Ghana will improve to a respectable level AGAIN.

God Bless the TEACHING PROFESSION in Ghana.

DEFINITIONS: "REAL WORKER" :An employee, who holds a job. He / She actually performs all the duties expected. All the specifications in the job description are conscientiously executed to the best of his/her ability. A teacher may be classified as a real worker when she/he has genuinely earned a recognized Professional Teaching Certificate; prepares lessons carefully so as to stimulate the students to learn not only to pass examinations but also to cultivate the habit of analyzing issues before drawing conclusions. A good teacher should be involved in professional development activities so as NOT to become stale. Obviously a teacher of this calibre needs to spend a lot of time during the normal school period and also during extra curricular activities associated with true education. Employers and parents should not be reluctant to pay " A REAL TEACHER" a decent salary.

"VIRTUAL WORKER" : An employee, who holds a job BUT does NOT perform all the duties expected of him / her. A teacher may be classified as a virtual worker when she / he just shows up in the school to be able to stay on the pay roll and collect the salary attached to the position. She / He may hold a professional certificate but does not prepare relevant and accurate lessons. Teachers of this calibre should not be in the classroom. However, many of them manage to manoeuvre their ways into administrative positions just because they have the " RIGHT " connections.

Leo R. Sam
Edmonton, Alberta Canada.

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