RE: What Is Good For Northerners Is Equally Good For Southerners

It is your right to express your personal opinion, my dear Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, and see Northerners as parasites sponging off hardworking Southerners. I am convinced that the majority of Ghanaians do not share this view, and it is good so. It is also all right if Dr. Bawumia is the only sensible Northerner in your estimation. At least, the North can boast of one person who has not taken leave of his senses, but has resisted the temptation to marry many wives and make many children who would deplete further the resources of the benevolent South. Ghanaians are proud of the achievements of their brainy citizens, and do not see them through the lens of a political party. The suggestion that Northerners should be contented with the position of vice-president does not speak much of your admiration for one of Ghana’s eminent economists. What if Dr. Bawumia had been the NPP presidential candidate and had won the presidency, would it have changed your perception of the matter? Would you have injected Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri genes into him to replace his northern roots? That being impossible, I guess you would have demanded a DNA test to challenge his northern identity. I do not think it would have been good so. It is my hope that Mr. Ibrahim Mahama will one day fly you to the North in his private jet for a visit. Northerners would be highly honored to have one of the highest representatives of their benefactors in their midst. And rest assured that the jet will not be loaded with its usual cargo on the return flight. The President’s brother is a fine gentleman. He will make sure that the jet does not carry cattle, goats, guinea-fowls and sheep before leaving Tamale airport, so that his distinguished guest can have the best of comfort. Does this console you? Your assertion that Northerners enjoy free education and the belief that it discriminates against Southerners who do not have the same privilege but pay high school fees in addition to financing education in the North contain, sadly, sensational pieces of information that only encourage tribal bigotry and prejudice in our beloved country. Adolf Hitler used similar flimsy arguments to justify the mass murder of Jews in Germany under his Nazi regime during the period between 1941- 45. Today, racists and right-wing extremists across Europe also make immigrants the scapegoats for their own failures and misery. How would you feel if you were the victim of a racist attack in London simply because you are black, live in Britain and enjoy some of the benefits of the welfare state? Northerners no longer enjoy the kind of free education that Nkrumah put in place. Northerners pay school fees. A research conducted by Dr. Apaak for the Forum for Governance and Justice has this to say (Press Statement, Ghanaweb 2012-12-05 / Northerners Do Not Enjoy Free Education – FGJ), “students, including Senior High School students from Northern Ghana, pay all fees except the subsidy on feeding for students in boarding institutions. There are even cases where they pay more”, as the table below shows. Name of School Part of Ghana Fee Wa Senior High Technical School North GHC 464,50 Apam Senior High School South GHC 271,13 Kaleo Senior High Technical School North GHC 300,50 Holy Child Senior High School South GHC 440,70 Nandom Senior High School North GHC 389,70 Okuapemman Senior High School South GHC 376,80 Much as Ghanaians wish to have free SHS education for their children, they are aware that free education is a hard nut to crack, especially today, which partly explains why they rejected it in the December elections. Nkrumah’s Free Education policy in the North was successful because the political will that gave birth to it was sincere and strong, and devoid of an intention or a desire to solicit electoral votes in the first place. Secondly, there were fewer schools, besides good infrastructure and well-trained and highly motivated teachers. Also, enrolment was not as high as it is today. Need I stress the fact that effective free education is dependent on solid infrastructure and qualified teachers who receive better salaries and other attractive incentives? Anything short of these two basic requirements automatically leads to diminishing returns. The deplorable conditions that prevail in our public preparatory schools today despite free basic education for all, the low quality of teaching and learning, and the resultant growing number of private schools at that level (and parents would rather pay to have their children taught and learn well than keep their money and have the mental and emotional faculties of their little ones mashed up) are all pointers to the serious challenges that need to be tackled first before any free education policy can be effectively implemented. The horse pulls the cart, not vice versa. Most important, the owner has to make a strong cart. And woe betide anyone who makes a cart out of cocoa leaves! Frankly speaking, do you think Ghanaians are that gullible as to swallow the tantalizing bait of free education when our gutters are still gaping and choking in all kinds of rubbish (plastic waste, especially), when many of our roads are still death traps, when we do not have uninterrupted electricity and water supply, when the majority of our farmers still heavily depend on the cutlass and hoe (have you ever wondered why our markets are full of imported food items which can be produced locally; rice, maize, sorghum, onions, tomatoes, meat - chicken, pork, beef, turkey-tails, cow-tails, heads, pig-feet, whatever?), and when millions of young able-bodied Ghanaians are caught up in despair in the prime of their lives, without real prospects of employment and a future in which they can call themselves proud parents and heads of families enjoying comforts of life such as decent and affordable housing and good transportation? You would say it is because Ghana’s earnings are squandered on free education for Northerners. It is your right to express such an opinion. Yet again, the majority of Ghanaians do not subscribe to it, and it is good so. Countries like Germany, Finland or Britain give their children free pre-university education partly because they enjoy better terms of trade and have the money to invest in it. It is also because they did their homework properly before implementing the policy. They have no need to go round grovelling and begging for development aid. Yes, if only we had our oil all to ourselves, and we have never had any of our natural resources – gold, timber, bauxite, manganese, name them, all to ourselves, unless the earnings from these have been wasted on ungrateful Northerners who use them to build mansions in the South in which they house their many wives “and produce children as if they are drinking water.” There would be no need for us to put up our oil as collateral for loans if we had absolute control over it. We would invest the earnings in our needs; infrastructure (good roads and railroads across the length and breadth of our country), good education, health, agriculture, the environment. How do you find that, Mr. Katakye Kwame Opoku Agyemang? In the African context, Kenyans are struggling against odds to effectively implement free education for their children. How about giving ourselves time to dissect the matter, seek audience with the Kenyan experts on the matter and learn from their experiment? How about starting a serious non-partisan national debate on the matter, far away from the maddening crowds and emotionally charged atmosphere of elections time, before determining how best to go about the matter? Reggae legend, The Right Honorable Robert Nesta Marley cautions against jumping into deep water before learning to swim. Free education is deep water. And it takes a skillful swimmer to enjoy its invigorating quality. Does this make sense to you somehow, Honorable Free SHS Ambassador? It is, and will be a hard road to travel, and there will even be more rivers to cross unless our policy makers, be they members of NDC, NPP, CPP, PPP, PNC, QRS, UVW, or XYZ, fully understand the meaning of service to Mother Ghana and disabuse their minds of the distorted belief that political office is a gold mine and a self-serving four-course menu restaurant. In general, the civil and public service machinery will have to be drastically reformed, with little or no room at all for corruption (no defense of the cancer as coming down to us from Adam and Eve), less bureaucracy, sluggishness and waste, and redesigned to deliver well. That way, the populace would have confidence in the social and economic corporate body called Ghana, and would be motivated to see and think beyond their individual noses and ethnic affiliation, the exception being the few die-hard crusaders of their so-called glorious tribes. If these potential martyrs choose to die chasing windmills, it is their free will and choice, but they should die alone, and leave Ghanaians to live in peace. Do you think the global economy cares whether Ghanaians are Northerners or Southerners, Ga, Ashanti, Dagomba, Fante, Bulsa, Gonja, Ewe, Brong, Frafra or whatever? My dear Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Ghana’s problem is not a desultory “what is good for Northerners is equally good for Southerners”. Well-meaning Ghanaians focus on the Ghanaian nation, short-sighted Ghanaians fan the destructive flames of tribal sentiment. Your stance is unfortunate, and does not augur well for a cool-headed and objective discussion of relevant national issues, and how to make our system of education cope with the demands of an increasingly technological and knowledge-based global economy, so that it can serve the pressing needs of nation-building of which it is an integral part. “All die be die” is not a solution to our problems, neither is it an alternative to meaningful dialogue. The few Ghanaians who are chanting war songs and beating paths to Kigali (and they should know better) in the heat of the current very polarized political atmosphere in the country should think twice. Countries like Ruanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone would turn back the hands of time if they could. They would not sacrifice millions of innocent lives, burn down their homes and bridges to discover and learn commonsense. Do we have to put our hands in fire to be convinced that fire burns, distinguished native of Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri? The answer is at your gate, and in the answer lies your fate. If you don’t believe me, go back and read your history books. May The Most High guide and protect Ghana, the only Ghana Ghanaians have got, be they in Europe, Asia, The Americas, Australia, Ghana itself, or in other parts of Africa!