Some highlights from year 2016.

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. Those 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?” But 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 that a summation of indolent theories stacked sky high; something with skills that support a lifetime of productivity and fulfillment; 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 [to] unearth 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 that 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 from 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 surely 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 – sixty 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 zeroes 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 shortsighted 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!

On March 6, 1957, Ghana set the tone for independence in sub-Saharan Africa led by the Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah (1909 – 1972). In the continuum of Ghana’s premier role on the continent, equally historic was the December 2016 political elections that evolved so seamlessly, with the loser gracefully conceding defeat. Soon after the contest, a political cartoon went viral: The sketch depicted a Civics class in Uganda (East Africa), where – to the teacher’s question, “What is democracy?” – various hands went up, with the decisive answer, “Ghana”. For those two feats alone, the nation needs to pat itself on the back, stand taller, and prop itself for the future of economic prosperity which it so clearly deserves and has to pursue relentlessly.

Nana Addo’s victory

This is a most opportune time in Ghana’s history. The tailwinds are in Ghana’s favour. And as William Shakespeare would advise, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.”

There are victories, and there are victories! The 2016 electoral victory of Nana Akufo-Addo as the president-elect is astounding; it resonates impressively beyond the borders of Ghana. Without a single shot fired or a fatal machete brandished in the electoral process, Ghana has made Africa proud once again. The nation continues to be a beacon of democracy on the larger continent, worthy of international collaboration and investments.

The enduring flame of political stability confirms the country as an oasis of peace, to be replicated across the parts of the wider world experiencing political instability and destruction. The spirit, experience and maturity of the man who endeared the people’s mandate so decisively matter. For that reason, Nana Addo must be commended, and wished well with God’s blessings and guidance.

The battle to the top

The former British prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), devoted a chapter of his book, Great Contemporaries, to Joseph Chamberlain (1836 – 1914), “the Radical Mayor” of Birmingham. In celebrating the man, Churchill wrote: “The amount of energy wasted by men and women of first class quality in arriving at their true degree, before they begin to play on the world stage, can never be measured. One may say that sixty, perhaps seventy percent of all they have to give is expended on fights which have no other object but to get to their battlefield.”

He added, “but it was not Chamberlain’s fault that he had only arrived at the commanding viewpoints in later life. He had meant to get there all the time, but the road was long, and every foot of it contested.”

That memory resonates with our own Nana Addo, born in 1944, now 72 years old. Like Chamberlain, he, too, had meant to get there all along, and fought several political battles, tooth and nail, angling for the prize, the room at the top. From his education, international exposure, years of activism, fluency in the French language, service to the nation and the sub-region, he’s clearly most prepared to lead Ghana.

The milestone adventures

By design or faith, he had prepared for his political future with sets of adventures which served him as complete careers. With measured steps he advanced and expanded his objectives and they helped to pivot him for the top spot. The milestones speak for themselves:

He co-founded Akufo-Addo, Prempeh & Co in 1979, where many of Ghana’s outstanding lawyers cut their legal teeth. He used the practice to champion human rights, rule of law, democracy, and equal access of all political parties to the state-owned media. In 1991, he served as the chairman of the organizing committee of the Danquah-Busia Memorial Club which evolved into local organs of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

In 1995, Nana Addo led the “Kume Preko” demonstrations of the Alliance For Change. He was elected three times between 1996 and 2008 as a Member of Parliament, and from 2001 to 2007 appointed as Cabinet Minister, first as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, and then as Minister of Foreign Affairs in president J.A. Kufour’s administration.

In his presidential bids, he lost the NPP primaries to Kufuor, and lost the presidential contests twice; one to John Atta Mills, and then to Mills’ successor John Mahama, both of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). The lessons we take from failures can be the stepping stones to later success; they serve as case studies of persistence and resilience, in the love of God and country.

At Last

There’s a blues song that came out in the 1960s or so titled, “At Last”. It had been sung earlier by the iconic Nat King Cole, but the rendition by Etta James shot her straight up into stardom. The lyrics flowed like this: “At last my love has come along / My lonely days are over / And life is like a song … / I found a dream, that I could speak to / A dream that I can call my own / I found a thrill to press my cheek to / A thrill that I have never known.”

The lyrics happen to be metaphoric: To win a bride – against a competing brigade of suitors, and prepare a sumptuous wedding to knot things up – is one thing: To make the marriage itself work fruitfully thereafter is another matter. In other words, once the state is secured – as this happens to be our case in point – the progress and well-being of the various districts across Ghana are the dominant duties of the new leader.

Will he succeed or will he falter? As Winston Churchill asked about the United States president, Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – 1945), during the Great Depression. He added, “That is not the question we set ourselves, and to prophesy is cheap.” But when, at last, he is in office, Ghana’s new president must prevail. The electorate is counting and courting his accomplishments. When he succeeds, it will be a “win-win” situation for both Ghana and the larger African continent. Amen!

Author: Anis Haffar