Sunday, 7 August 2011

Remember the children

Not too long ago in Ghana, it didn’t matter where one was born, grew up or which school one attended. If you were determined enough, you could move from a basic school by the river beyond the bushes to attend any of the nation’s prestigious secondary schools and universities. Our socio-political systems are full of men and women who grew up in the most remote, deprived, unknown parts of the country but are some of today’s most notable, respected leaders. My question to them is, can the child in your village reach the level you’ve reached, attending the very same schools you attended?
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I’ve been fortunate enough to travel through the nooks and crannies of this country. I’ve been fortunate enough to teach in Fumbisi and Sekondi as a national service personnel. It’s heart breaking to watch very brilliant minds go to waste due to the horrible foundation they received. I had 18 year old SHS 3 students who couldn’t spell. The saddest part is, most of these kids were as useful as a half-baked bread. You can’t eat it… and yet you’ve wasted your flour, butter and time.
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This is what I mean: When children grow up in villages, they get introduced to farming or fishing or whatever vocation is their primary occupation of that village. By the time they are 15, they already might be owning their first farm and by 18 marrying their first wife. But when you take the child to school, they spend the time they were supposed to be learning the vocational skills, sitting in a classroom with teachers who pretend to be teaching them. The result is they come out half-baked, not good enough to be employed in the job market and also not good enough to even function in their village environment.
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I know it’s easy to play ostrich on the issues that matter in Ghana. You just have to pretend the complainant is from the opposition. We forget that when a man picks up arms out of hunger or frustration, he doesn’t go for the opposition; he goes for anybody he can get. When an incompetent health professional is making the wrong diagnosis or administering wrong medication or dosage, their victims are not necessarily from the opposition. When a person who can’t read but needs to survive feels compelled to bribe their way to a driver’s licence, school certificate or even set up a mechanic shop, we all become victims.
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Sometimes, I wonder if politicians prefer illiterate citizens. Sometimes, I wonder if we are serious about anything that really matters. The children really matter. Their future is the nation’s future. Quality Education is the single, most important gift any government can give its populace. If you teach them to fish, guess what? They’ll never come begging for food. For the rich, empowered, capable Ghanaian who can do something about the quality of education in this nation, remember: “If you do good, you do for yourself… If you do bad, you do for yourself”.
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