Originally published, December 10, 2011
The euphoria and national confidence that greeted the 50th anniversary celebration of Ghana on the 6th of March, 2007 is commendable. Confidence in ourselves is a virtue we need in order to develop our nation. However, a superficial reading of the atmosphere of the 50 years celebration which cost us Twenty million dollars ($20 million) can convey misleading impressions about the true state of affairs of the nation.
We have spent half a century mismanaging our nation through political intolerance and corruption weft in every segment of our society which has brought wrenching negative alteration on our national outlook. It took a single century to give the world television, computer, the Internet, satellite communication, organ transplants, exploration of the galaxies and the decoding of the biological structure of life itself. We have just celebrated half-century nationhood and we should not delude ourselves into thinking that we are still a young nation.
Though our economic performance and record of reforms are among the strongest in Africa, there is still an eerie of economic and social challenges facing the nation which calls for serious responsible thinking and policy initiatives instead of the petty politicking which has become our favourite pastime. We have a serious national crisis concerning our inability to provide regular electricity to power our economy in an industrial age which operates within the frame work of computerization and satellite communication. Yet, petty partisan politics has clouded good reason in finding a lasting solution to this recurrent problem. This is an embarrassment to our policy makers and an indictment on the Intellectual faculty that is, the engineers and advisors behind the policy makers.
Education is also another challenge. Every initiated mind knows that the impact that goes with information technology is systemic since it affects the fundamental structures of society; therefore, our investment in human resource development should start with education. The literacy data captured in the 2000 population census compiled by the Ghana Statistical Service must challenge us to be more responsible in our approach towards education. According to the data, nearly 45.9% of the adult population is not literate. This poses a challenge to national development. Of the literate percentage, the highest level of education attained is up to the middle school and the junior secondary school level. Only 53.3% of the population (15 yrs and above) are literate in either English or a known Ghanaian language; 34.2% are literate in both. See the figures below:
There could be some marked improvement by now at the various levels of education due to pragmatic government policies, expansion programs by the universities and the rise in private universities, yet this is definitely not encouraging. But let me add that education is not merely the ability to read and write, but to master and apply information and have open access to knowledge. This is essential to human dignity, a key to creativity and a pre-condition of equal access to power in this active environment of science and technology. Our present attitude as a “downloading generation” which survives on the knowledge and products of others is a serious mental defect. When people are less endowed in education, they lack employable skills and therefore come short of quality industrial demand. Entrepreneurs with predatory instincts may soon take advantage of our arable lands and use our unskilled youth as cheap labour hands. Therefore, we need to continue to strengthen our polytechnics to develop highly skilled mid-level manpower to help accelerate industrial development.
In addition to the numerous youth selling on the streets, it is estimated that 20% of school-attending children are outside the classroom. Some are on the streets, in homes, on the high seas and on the farms, engaged in child labour. Ghana, cognizant that child labour mitigates against child development, was the first country to ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) convention 182 in the year 2000. However, little has been done in terms of policy implementation to protect the rights of the child. Our agriculture is still based on agrarian practices and the nation finds itself as a weak competitor in a fast changing industrial environment which has no precedent.
Life expectancy of 56.3% (average) for Ghanaians is generally low due to several factors in our system. It is unbelievable that people still dispense and prescribe drugs under dubious means for public consumption without license from appropriate authorities. There is no effective mechanism to check some of these practices because our local government concept and most of our national institutions are not well developed to meet these challenges. For example, the absence of effective residential address system or at least zip codes makes the work of law enforcement agencies like the police, immigration and the internal revenue service etc, very difficult. There are other serious social and economic issues which barely surface in the media that equally threaten our national aspiration.
It does not befit an independent and free nation to have a beggarly posture as Aid recipients. Our national budget is heavily cushioned by external donors. It is time to produce evidence of a true independent nation – showing political, cultural, scientific, academic and economic structures – capable of sustaining its economy. This should be our goal as a nation before our centenary celebration.
THE WAY FORWARD
In order to denude the generation with ever less resources on which to survive, we need to fashion a workable agenda that shall guarantee a better quality of life. The seismic shift in international politics and diplomacy demands that we take another look at where we are, where we want to go and how we get there, using our past experiences, past political history and culture as a barometer. I therefore propose the following:
- We should work to confront the new challenges facing our nation; for example, alleviation of poverty, the defeat of ignorance, creation of stable employment, building a confident and cohesive nation, investing in science and technology and stop shuffling along tribal, ethnic and petty partisan politics which is driving us the opposite direction of progress.
- We should stop the politics of muttering imprecations at anyone who does not see things the way we see them.
- We should not be made to be compulsorily sober to anybody’s wishes that is, on how any individual would want this nation to be steered, no matter the political, traditional or religious and professional status of that person. As a nation we should be freer than that.
- Let us move away from the excessive concentration on some of our political leaders which has taken the centre stage in the media, it is becoming “overkill”. Instead, let us for example, engage in a very critical academic and intellectual discourse (strategic thinking) that shall eventually promote indigenous scientific innovation in our quest for industrial self reliance. We should know by now that the dynamics of the emerging global market works in favour of those who control the fundamental technology. A media agenda like this shall go a long way to advance our national interest.
- We should not attempt to misdirect the blame for our festering economic and social consequences only on the crimes of past colonial masters. Let us demonstrate that as free people we have the power and the wherewithal ability to redirect our civilization.
- The unique status of independent and free Ghana shall not emerge from a rational economic blueprint we often append our signature to at international conferences and the volume of paper work we do at board meetings. It shall emerge by hard work and VISIONARY LEADERSHIP. A free and unique Ghana shall be born when State Institutions and the Civil Service rid themselves of corruption which sabotages the national interest. Let us work to protect the hard won democratic dispensation we are enjoying now.