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Big Egos And Big Logos Who Cares About The Basic Problems?
 
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22-Feb-2017  
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“Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves… A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.”—Nelson Mandela.

Precept upon precept, idea upon idea, we have never lacked big ideas in this country. The big logos (logical arguments) have often been flaunted by people with big egos. With time, we have seen their egos grow bigger but the problems in our country have gotten worse. In the end, we wonder why there was so much noise about the big ideas.

We didn’t need to spend so much energy on the big ideas; the problems assailing our development are pretty basic. They are like the broken windows on a government building that need fixing before building the vice president’s $13M mansion. The basic problems do not require big egos. They are mostly presumed to have been fixed because nobody talks about them anymore. They are too basic for those with big logic.

Education in rural north

We are in the thick of things and many things are getting thicker by the minute. Even the most well-intentioned positivists among us appreciate the difficulties ahead of us. Take, for instance, the quality of education in Ghana. We may have encouraging reports on enrolment figures and completion rates, but the real problem is at the basic level.

In my line of business, I work with the most marginalised and deprived communities in rural Ghana. In those communities, the great debate on whether senior secondary education should be free or not sits on the backburner of things that are not immediately important. Basic education is in crises. Children go to the farm to help with work or crack stones at the galamsey yards.

Those who are lucky to enroll in school lose interest very early or drop out due to the harsh living conditions. In these poor communities, children walk many miles to poorly resourced schools. Teacher absenteeism is very high and learning hours are usually disrupted by harsh weather patterns and other preventable factors. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is taught without the aid of computers.

Sitting on bare floors in dilapidated structures and sometimes on stones and cement blocks under trees, the sad end of these disadvantaged children is already realised in their poor beginnings. For many years, the BECE results in the three regions in northern Ghana have been very poor. Most of them do not pass to start senior secondary school. They are not part of those set to benefit from the free SHS policy.

Peri-urban communities

Child marriage, teenage pregnancy, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other cultural practices stand in the ways of girls in these poor communities from completing school and pursuing their professional dreams. With one (1) out every five (5) girls in Ghana marrying before 18, the education of many of our girls is threatened daily.

In peri-urban communities around the national capital, the quality of education is as bad as the standards in rural Ghana, and sometimes worse. Here, people live in terrible economic and environmental situations, hoping against hope that they will get enough to eat for the day. Tomorrow is always a big gamble and the agile youth in these communities gamble it away in search of nonexistent opportunities.

Last week, I accompanied some Hungarian journalists to Kpobikope in the GA West district of the Greater Accra Region. In Kpobikope, I was confronted with a new reality about poverty, discrimination and social exclusion in Ghana. Kpobikope is not far from Pokuase, where I live. On the Accra-Nsawam road, Kpobikope is only about five (5) minutes’ drive leading inwards from the main road.

Apparitions of Apartheid

Kpobipoke is a veritable apparition of Apartheid where the biting imageries of inequality and discrimination separate the haves from the have-nots. Real estate developments are gradually pushing beyond the traditional boundaries of the poor community, but the people of Kpobikope, mostly Ewes, are completely cut out from any social and economic development. They are forgotten species paying for urban gentrification.

The youth in Kpobikope have no profitable economic activity besides hawking plantains, secondhand clothing and motorcycle transport business. More than 70% of the young ladies I interviewed did not complete basic education. They are mostly single mums struggling through the harsh realities of an incomprehensible life to feed their young families. They make a profit of GH5 ($1) on a good day from the sale of plantain.

The young men are engaged in motorcycle business (Okada), transporting passengers from the main junction to the community. They don’t own the cycles; they had been contracted to do the dangerous work of plying bumpy roads without helmets or insurance. They account for their daily sweat to the owners of the cycles for a small fee. The ambitious ones among them are training to be commercial drivers.

There a few public schools in the community but some of the children do not go to school. Like their parents, the few who are in school may fall out along the way to pursue small trades, or become young mothers and face the certainty of a very uncertain future. The conversation about free SHS means nothing to these women.

The quality of Free

What does my nephew, an SHS student, think about the proposed free SHS education? Beyond the foolery on social media and the buffoonery in the digital entertainment space, you wonder whether our children care about the world around them. In our time, we called it current affairs and you were required to know something about the war that broke in another country or the government’s policy on tax. Not Phillip.

Which aspects of SHS education are going to be free? Will a free SHS fix the problem of quality and raise our standards? Parents would want to have pride in paying for their wards to get quality and world class education. If we do not have to pay anything, how do we complain if the quality is bad? I do not mind paying twice what I pay for my nephew. I can afford it. My friends in Kpobikope cannot. We left them behind log ago.

 
 
 
Source: Today
 
 

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