It’s been said that, “Whom the gods wish to destroy, they give unlimited resources.” What else can possibly explain the mass poverty we see across Africa? Ghana, for instance, must be one of the richest countries in the world; not only rich in mineral wealth, but in agricultural wealth as well.
The missing links may include the following: One, the human resource packaged with skills to add value to the nation’s natural resources; Two, the love of God and country; and Three, the sense of beauty and cleanliness in preserving the environment. These three points are worth repeating as we straddle this New Year and this new dawn!
Let’s refresh our minds to some key highlights from last year’s columns:
The unacceptable rate of illiteracy
It is dawning on many that the persistently high rates of illiteracy and mass poverty across Africa is man-made. The deprivation results from the subconscious minds of many African leaders – both political and traditional - who benefit coyly but directly from an illiterate population not sufficiently exposed to be critical thinkers to question the status quo.
As a historical example, the suppressive apartheid mindset feared that, “If I help the African, what would happen to me?” However, the true leader would ask, “If I don’t help them, what will happen to them?”
Education for problem solving
The role of educators is changing so rapidly that the exit certificates must mean something of value; something much more than a summation of indolent theories stacked sky high; something with skills that support a lifetime of productivity and fulfilment; something that engages the head, heart and hands for lifelong learning and doing.
Why, for example, are teachers – in the basic schools and high schools - not taught (at the teacher training colleges and universities) how to add value to the nation’s natural endowment through scientific inquiry and applications? Sadly, that negligence is perpetuated by people who themselves are expected to lead in those purposeful objectives by [to] unearthing the possibilities in Ghana. Poorer nations tend to give the youth a false hope, a misleading education which can be ruinous in both the short and long terms.
March 6, 2017
In lieu of marching every 6th March, with holidays to boot, the celebrations of our independence must mean much more than a stifling tribute. The children need loftier prospects than merely marching on. The force of superior examples are hard to ignore. Let’s learn and practice for Lee Kuan Yew.
“We educated [the] children in schools by getting them to plant trees, care for them, and grow gardens … I got the ministry of defense in charge of national servicemen, the ministry of education with half a million students under its care, and the National Trade Union Congress with several hundred thousand workers … to make Singapore a pleasanter place for ourselves, quite apart from the tourist trade.”
The miracles that transformed the south-east Asian countries did not happen by marching, and they sure did not happen by prayers. The Singaporean leader’s determination for a cleaner, greener, prosperous nation spoke volumes.
Can there be any acceptable reason why by 6th March 2017 - a hefty 60 years after Ghana’s independence - a good many people will still be illiterate, meaning that they cannot read or write in their own mother tongue, and can neither read nor write in the official language, English? How on earth must a nation so richly endowed by providence be so heartless that it neglects meaningful education for its own children? How can a nation be so aloof that it should come to this! Illiteracy and independence are strange bedfellows indeed.
How to train up a child
In Ghana, when we quote Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” the only sensible action ascribed to the words by many are the whippings and devious punishments claimed to develop a good character.
What a world to grow in! Little did it occur to the culprits that the youth need skills to work productively and that is the way they should go to steer their future with determination and confidence. It’s amazing how the very word “skills” or “work” has become an anathema in the culture of the nation’s curricula developers.
Factories in lieu of offices
So how come that today - 60 solid years after independence come 6th March, 2017 – a sizeable portion of Ghana’s population borders on illiteracy, with schools in some districts scoring majestic zeroe in tests of basic literacy and numeracy? And why do the various governments – one after the other – continue to build majestic offices where some tend to bask in air conditioners listening to political insults, watching movies about superstitions and pushing paper? Won’t it be wiser to spend those resources building factories to produce for the nation’s needs? Wasn’t independence about avoiding dependence on others? Such concerns ought to keep rocking the nation’s conscience until they are resolved.
Science education for industry
Project-based learning is so important, especially for a developing nation, that to continue using scarce resources to build more lecture halls, examination rooms and offices while ignoring the workshops and laboratories that truly support industry is both short-sighted and negligent.
The proper science for industry is not in the spewing of theories or recitations of abstractions in the fashion of pastoral poetry. Science is to be used for functional purposes, and laboratories and workshops are the places where great possibilities actually happen.
A Happy New Year and God’s blessings to Ghana, including the nation’s children and youth and all readers of this column. Let us remember what a beautiful country we have! Let’s pray for good health, in the hope that this new era will be hands-on, pure and clean in more ways than one. Amen!