Looking at how intricately corruption is woven into the moral fibre of Ghanaians, it sounds ambitious to propose tackling it through formal and informal education of children of all ages.
Unless some argue, it must start from the corridors of power, policymakers or the government of the day. But is it always the case? Orienting students’ mindset to give voice to universally accepted norms such as honesty, respect, responsibility, fairness, compassion and accountability may seem impossible to achieve. Nevertheless, Ashesi, a private university in Berekuso with a small population size, is using an approach to change the narrative.
This goes to concretise Margaret Mead’s saying: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world... indeed that is the only thing that ever has.” Unquestionably, the more the phenomenon is written on and talked about, the more it is practiced, showing that the mechanisms being put in place to address it are not working. It is, therefore, expedient to tackle it through education at all levels from pre-tertiary to tertiary level, and in families (homes) to create a better future.
The raison d’être of a good education is to educate people to have positive attitudes that bring about sustainable progress in society. This may be achieved if the Giving Voice to Values (GVV) framework is fused into the curricula of schools at all levels. The GVV framework was developed by Mary Gentile with the objective of showing how people can be taught to lead upright lives by voicing their values. The framework proposes that most people have values they desire to live by but would want to do so in a safe environment. It pays attention to developing students’ competencies and confidence to effectively live their values. Also, it advocates for ethics education in schools to comprise three “As”, which are “Awareness” (inculcating into students the ability to identify ethical issues and finding solutions to them), “Analysis” (ensuring learners can reason ethically), and “Action” (educating students to act by making good decisions).
Unfortunately, the ethical and moral education offered in educational institutions in Ghana falls short of nurturing individuals into images of uprightness. GVV could be used to fill this gap by emphasising education for action, which may enable Ghanaian students to act appropriately in most, if not all situations, to the extent that they reach a point where cheating during exams will be minimised. The GVV framework has seven (7) principles covering 1) values, 2) choice, 3) normalisation, 4) purpose, 5) self-knowledge and alignment, 6) voice and 7) reasons and rationalisation (Gentle, 2010).
These pillars show how ethical knowledge is practicalised during teaching and learning and encourage students to speak out (give voice to their values) anytime their good values are disregarded. The framework is extensively used in Ashesi University to orient students’ mindset into living their values throughout their undergraduate education. It has been woven into the culture of the institution to the extent that unethical acts are frowned upon by all and as a result, members of the community cannot help but behave appropriately since no one wants to be tagged a social deviant.
Likewise, if all educational institutions factor the GVV principles adapted to suit the national culture into their curricular at all levels and they are committed to its success, unprecedented changes will occur in the lives of recipients. This is because when theory and practice merge, great results are achieved.
Also, staff and teachers/faculty must be encouraged to practice and promote principles of GVV on their campuses, to create a conducive environment for students to not only conform but be transformed through learning and practice. Resultantly, ethically sound graduates will be produced and released into the various systems in the country, who may resist being socialised into partaking in corrupt practices and thereby, project their positive image making them the most sought after.
Informal education is equally important in cutting off the blooming of corruption. Homes have roles to play, and the efforts of parents must complement those of schools. The need for parents to create the right atmospheres in their homes for their children/wards to lead upright lives cannot be overemphasized. Parents must lead exemplary lives and create conducive atmospheres in their homes where their children are encouraged to voice their values using the right choice of words that promote peaceful co-existence. This will enable the careful nurturing of a new crop of future leaders who are ethically sound to champion the cause against corruption for sustainable development.
All in all, education to minimise corrupt practices will not be complete if the print and electronic media is not involved. News items that focus on the positives, emphasising those eschewing corrupt acts are keys to progress.
The writer is a lecturer at the Ashesi University.