62nd speech & prize giving day
quality education, positive change for national development - guest speaker
Nanaanom, Honorable Ministers of State, Distinguished Guests, Parents, My fellow Old Boys and Girls of Aggrey School, Students, Thank you for giving me the opportunity to visit my alma mater and the chance to be enveloped in such a wonderful feeling of nostalgia, also the chance to meet with some old friends and colleagues.
It is about 23 years ago when I packed my stuff finally from Pinanko House and left this great compound and it all seem like yesterday when I entered Aggrey School premises today. Today is a great day and I will not take too much of your time with trivialities. Let me plunge straight into my message.
Education has been touted as the main tool for national development by many social scientists. Traditionally, education has meant schooling, evoking the idea of classrooms, apprentices, college students etc. The British Colonial government had intended to use education to create a pool of clerks to facilitate the exploitation of natural resources. In the end the products of these schools led the struggle to usher in our independence from colonialism. The first post-independent government used its educational policy to train Ghanaians for the Africanization of the civil service and other sectors of public service. We have come a long way since then.
Education today is perceived as the bridge between the rich and the poor, the local and the international, the rural and the urban etc. The expectation of the impact of education on the individual and the nation has increased exponentially, pressuring governments to introduce many reform programs, some well thought and others not too well thought out.
Most of the reforms (from Busia to Rawlings) have been geared towards three main areas: - Reducing Time of Schooling - Reducing Government's Financial Burden in the Education sector - Making education more relevant to national development through curriculum innovations. The result of these reforms are mixed. Some of the successes include: - Reduction in time spent in school at the pre-tertiary levels - Shifting of some of the cost of public education from government to parents and the private sector - Better Targeting of appropriate areas of development - Increase in production of intellectuals for both home and abroad consumption - Increase in foreign exchange earnings from locally trained experts working abroad. Some of the failures include: - Education cost still remaining high and stressful for most parents - Accelerating the Brain Drain (exodus of intellectuals and skilled labor for greener pastures outside the country) - Compromising of academic standards because of inadequate preparation, lack of resources and implementation problems.
Unintended long-term consequences of Reforms.
My main concern is on the less talked about unintended long term consequences of some of these reforms. Ghana has been luckier than most African countries in the areas of ethnic, religious and class relations. I will argue that the relative harmonious relationships we have enjoyed since independence has been due largely to the benefit of free, compulsory universal education that created an elite system representative of all major social groupings in this country.
Privatization of sections of the education system has the potential of creating the following problems: - Widening the Rural/Urban dichotomy (Elaborate…. From Mankessim to Accra Academy) - Deepening the gap between the rich and the Poor (from son of a farmer to a medical doctor) - Weakening Ethnic and Religious relations (ministers of state representing all ethnic and religious groups).
We need to start paying
attention and start tracking any significant demographic changes in school
admissions especially at the tertiary level if the reforms are threatening
the relative social harmony we have enjoyed in the past. We certainly need
to avoid the unfortunate civil strives we have seen in Nigeria, Liberia, and
Sierra Leone, to mention
privatization may save the government much needed revenue but the social and political cost may be too much to pay.
The Marriage between Education and Development There is a universal perception or acceptance that education is a sine qua non of development. However, not as universally accepted as the relationship between the two. More often than not, one defines national development in terms of the number and quality of infrastructures built over a period of time. One often hears the comparisons made of governments who built the Akosombo Dam, how many hospitals were built under this government, who constructed that trunk road etc? Sometimes development is measured by the level of Gross Domestic Product or Gross National Income or other abstract indicators such as Levels of Inflation or Unemployment Rates. I want to focus on other aspects of national development for instance, how does education affect Levels of Civility, Levels of Tolerance, between the People and the Government etc.
Education does not only train one to earn higher incomes and enjoy better styles of living, it also stimulates or develops the mental and moral growth of the individual and inculcate certain norms and values in a society. Education gives one the exposure and perspectives by providing the individual a new lens or prism to view the outside world. Access to information and acquisition of new knowledge changes one's viewpoints and creates a better understanding and appreciation of issues. If enough individuals in a nation can experience that type of mental and moral stimulation that inculcates democratic values in them (values such as tolerance, acceptance of opposition, accountability, transparency, civility), infrastructure development, economic growth, political stability ect. will follow indirectly.
Time will not permit me to expatiate on this point but suffice it to say that when you have individuals, who are honest, dedicated and hardworking through education, when you have a government of a moral foundation that is incorruptible, transparent and efficient, development (whatever way you define it) will occur naturally. Nkrumah once said that we should seek first the political kingdom and all else will be added unto it. His opponents ask for the economic kingdom first. I will ask us to seek first the "Values" kingdom; the economic and political kingdoms will then come naturally.
Aggrey School what kind of education did I receive from Aggrey school? My education at Aggrey equipped me with a new concept of friendship that I did not know before. I bonded with some of my colleagues to the extent that 20 years after we left Aggrey, we still share a very strong relationship. I am not one of the privileged few who ended up marrying their sweethearts at Aggrey (my colleagues will testify that I was not that successful in that department as hard as I tried), but I did establish strong bonds with many of my colleagues at Aggrey.
My house in Ghana was designed by my roommate at Aggrey, the structural engineering aspect was done by an Aggrey mate (all for free). I may add, I stay for free anytime I lecture at Oxford or Cambridge universities (accommodation courtesy of an Aggrey mate). My best friends now all over the world were made during my Aggrey days… We ate Auntie Fati's "wakye" together, we run off to Brafoyaw and got into trouble together, we risked going down the "common market" together, we studied and learned together.
To current students, I will
tell you Aggrey is a great school for many reasons not least, those that
I have enumerated. Do not be distracted by the few who will be up to no
good, be steadfast in your pursuit for knowledge and skills, foster friendships,
establish strong bonds, do not take things for granted and always keep
your eyes on the prize (whatever that prize is for you) If enough individuals
succeed in this regard, an aggregation of their successes will lay a strong
foundation for a positive change towards national development.