KB Asante: Voice From Afar column
Building fine malls to sell foreign goods - Not economic development
For the Philistines in high places in charge of purported government land, open spaces and museum sites are anathema to making money. Since the days of the Gold Coast Aborigines Rights Protection Society, land in this country has belonged to the chiefs and people.
Government therefore acquired land for public purpose from the owners by purchase or by legislation backed by payment. The money used by government to acquire land belongs to the people, or you and me.
Government land is, therefore, the people’s land and the people have the right to question its use. A few individuals cannot decide to turn any prime land into malls or estates to
make money. I was, therefore, delighted when students of the Survey School approached me about my views for the future of the School. Somehow they knew that I was interested in the history of the early opening up of the country and in the survey school.
Any attempt to demolish the Survey School which is near the Military Hospital should be resisted. There is too much ignorance about history in high places.
Culture, monuments and the arts are therefore not really appreciated. To many, culture is nothing but drumming and dancing. Without knowledge and true appreciation of past structures and art forms, talks about promoting indigenous art and culture are mere ignorant wishful thinking.
The Survey School is an essential part of the opening up and development of the country. At the school our people with modest education employed chains, cutlasses, azimuths and constellations to determine and forge paths through the bush. At secondary school we struggled with four figure logarithms while at the Survey School, elementary school graduates worked for
precision with seven figure logarithms. The school should be preserved and made a visiting Mecca for those interested in the opening up of the country and development. Somehow, we are not that interested in the many things around us. Somehow, we have become slaves to pressing buttons and getting information which we believe to be true. But we learn to ask why and how and our understanding expands.
Why are the Survey and Lands Department alone out of the Ministries and Departments of state sited at Cantonments with the military? Simple.
The Survey Department was run virtually as part of the military establishment with discipline and efficiency. Platoons with survey labourers carrying equipment and arms supported survey officials they trusted to venture into uncharted territory to determine roads and paths to agricultural and mineral wealth.
Governor Guggisberg the leader with a passion for exploration, planning and development therefore promoted the Survey Department as a major Department of state. Our experts in this and other fields should be inspired by the work and achievements of our forebears especially the ancient surveyors and the Survey School.
With regard to the Survey School a major reason for leaving that particular building and the area from the developers of malls is the need to have a green belt and a place for reflection in a scientific area. Offices of the Institute for Scientific Research are situated in the area. The Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences has its auditorium in the area.
Surely our scientists should not be expected to be cloistered in laboratories and offices all the time. They should be free to relax with colleagues in gardens near the institutes.
Do we expect our budding scientists to go and merely listen to lectures by the great of the land and leave without discussion with others? Surely it would be fruitful if they could relax in nearby gardens and discuss issues and points over a drink and sandwich. The University of Ghana rightly has a green area where true academics can wander and reflect. I hope the vandals would always be kept off the place.
Arguments that government acquired the Survey School area for a purpose which should be maintained are phoney.
It is the people from whom land was compulsorily acquired who may complain and take the matter to court. If government paid for the land or acquired it legally it is the people of Ghana who have a say about its use and not officials with desiccated money minds. I applaud the students of the Survey School for their concern. Fortunately, my walking stick will allow me to join them in a march to press home their desire.