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Opinions of Monday, 26 February 2007

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Towards A Relevant Education Legislation

The idea of the Ghanaian Minister of Education, Papa Owusu Ankomah, introducing a new education bill that will make the Ghana’s education system more community-oriented further demonstrates the fact that since independence from British colonial rule, the formal education system is yet to relate to the Ghanaian/African the environment properly and drive the country’s progress.

The schism has occurred because the Ghanaian education system, like the foundational values of Ghana as a modern nation-state, started on the wrong footing, wrongly touting the ex-colonial values over indigenous Ghanaian/African ones. And in the interim, creating crises of confidence and the impression that Ghanaians/Africans have no better sense of what education is in the larger progress of the country. This has made the Ghanaian/African who has gone to the heavily foreign-structured formal school and speaks English or French or Portuguese or Spanish look down upon who have being to these schools, as a Democratic Republic of Congolese PHD student at Canada’s University of Ottawa told me, but may have huge indigenous knowledge and wisdom needed for progress. Such bizarre Ghanaian/African education system is partly responsible for Ghanaian/African development troubles.

It is in this sense that the impending Ghana education bill’s focus on decentralization of education management at the district level and the deepening of community involvement in educational management and development a wise way of appropriating Ghanaian/African values in the education system. What the legislators and policy planners involved in the education reforms should do is holistically involve not only the communities but the values that have sustain them for years, especially traditional institutions, in the designing of the education policies, and merge a Ghanaian/African component to all subjects’ core curriculum. In a sense, a more balanced education should be the goal of the education bill.

In all the education planning and education management, the respective Ghanaian communities should be involved as deeply as possible as part of the broader sustainable development of Ghana. That Ghanaian/African cultural continuity should reflect deeply in Ghana’s formal education system and progress is unarguable. The idea here is to prepare the formally educated Ghanaian not only to have a deeper understanding of the Ghanaian/African environment, and having a good sense of both the inhibitions and the good aspects of their values, but at the same time able to think highly from within the Ghanaian/African cultural realm and mix it with the enabling aspects of global development values for progress as the Japanese and others have done.

How are the education managers and policy-makers to do this? Apart from their own experiences they can borrow one or two ideas from the Canadians in relation to their indigenous Aboriginal people. Here all formal Ghanaian education questions shall conscientiously address themselves to balances between the Western ones and perspectives of inquiry that are typically Ghanaian/African; appropriate sources able to shed light on those indigenous perspectives; how, if any, Ghanaian/African knowledge challenges in any way assumptions brought to the subject; and how Ghanaian/African knowledge or perspectives portrayed in education matters are validated? The broader thought here is to the balance Ghanaian/African education system with the already operating ones, working to level the two values, and aiming to bring the inhibitions such as Pull Him Down, increasing weakening of traditional communalism, and disturbing superstitious believes that have been inhibiting Ghana’s progress.

It is from such educational “base,” as the prominent Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o (formerly James Ngugi) would argue, driven by Ghanaian/African values that challenges any international value systems, that Ghana/Africa can be rebranded not only in the international media, since news reports about Africa around the world are often dominated by negative stereotypes, but in the realm of international development. For, because of the damages Africa has suffered as a result of colonialism, more especially in her development process, the only way to resolve this is first of all a deeply balanced education reforms that attempts to rebrand Africans to Africans and Africa to the world.

More seriously is how to make Ghanaian/African languages as imperative as the ex-colonial ones at the national level. For, as the Liberian scholar, Doeba Bropleh, argues in “A Cultural Paradigm for Liberia’s Reconstruction” (Pambazuka News and carried by the Vancouver, Canada-based thepatrioticvanguard.com, of Friday 16 February 2007), “Language is a cultural agent that needs to be strengthened in Liberia. Ngugi wa Thiong’o, (who now primarily writes in his native Gikuyu instead of English), asserts that the loss of language is a loss of culture. He writes that: “Language carries culture, and culture carries, particularly through orature and literature, the entire body of values by which we perceive ourselves and our place in the world.”

What all these means is that, from Papa Ankomah to the education planners to education managers, the Ghana/Africa environment has to be understood deeply before embarking on any education reforms. It is from these attempts, driven by Ghanaian/African values and experiences, that the various Ghanaian governments’ struggles to reform Ghana’s education system in relation to its progress since independence will have relevance to Ghana’s progress.



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