Feature Article of Saturday, 18 July 2015
Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
July 15, 2015
They thought they could easily and cheaply get away with throwing one-size-fits-all uniforms and patent-leather sandals at our elementary schoolchildren. But what they actually ended up doing was to flagrantly expose their abject lack of any remarkable sense of what it really takes to educate our children and grandchildren. I am, of course, talking about the ballot-box-oriented educational policies of the erstwhile Atta-Mills-led government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and now the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress.
It was President John Evans Atta-Mills, late, who started distributing the one-size-fits-all cheaply tailored uniforms to our elementary-school pupils. And then the creatively challenged President John Dramani Mahama continued this cheap propaganda ploy with the selective distribution of some patent-leather sandals. Somewhere in-between, the NDC operatives also started throwing cheap laptops and Personal Computers (PCs) at a strategically selected number of schools.
When she visited the Akyem- or Kyebi-Kukurantumi Presbyterian Primary School recently, Second-Lady Matilda Amissah-Arthur went along with some five PCs. For what express purpose, she would shortly let on upon second-thoughts, when the Headteacher of the school, Mrs. Juliet Oppong, alerted the Second-Lady to the fact that the propagandistic distribution of uniforms and sandals did not a sound educational policy make. And also that what her school needed most were such basic teaching materials as chalk, log books – I suppose the latter was a reference to attendance or roll books – exercise books and textbooks. What happened next, while all-too-predictable, was the most irresponsible reaction to come from the wife of the country’s second-most-powerful politician.
In response to this simple request from Mrs. Oppong, Mrs. Amissah-Arthur is reported to have rudely riposted as follows: “The Headteacher has shocked me. She says you lack chalk and log books…. I am very shocked that you are today asking me about chalk…. How much is a box of chalk…. I won’t give you chalk today, I won’t give you chalk tomorrow….” All this, we are told, happened in front of the chiefs and people of Kukurantumi.
At any rate, in pooh-poohing the Kukurantumi Presbyterian Primary School Headteacher over the price of chalk, it is scandalously clear that her class arrogance had blinded Ghana’s Second-Lady to the stark fact that for poorly and irregularly paid teachers like Mrs. Juliet Oppong, a basic commodity like chalk is not that easy to come by these days. Moreso, when the Mahama/Amissah-Arthur government has shown itself to be more comfortable with splurging on by-election campaigns, such as was horrifyingly witnessed at Talensi, than helping teachers to give off their maximum best by promptly and amply supplying them with basic teaching materials like the ones humbly and earnestly requested by Mrs. Oppong.
But what was even more laughable and insensitive, was when the Second-Lady asked Mrs. Oppong to use the donated computers to set up a databased list of the school’s alumni and members of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) for the purpose of soliciting stationery and other pedagogical supplies. Maybe the most logical question to ask Mrs. Amissah-Arthur is why she had not counseled her husband and President Mahama to productively and constructively channel the nation’s scarce monetary resources elsewhere, while the alumni and parent-teacher associations of these public schools took care of the provision of sandals and school uniforms for these poor children.
Indeed, in chiding the Kukurantumi Headteacher for having facilely allowed herself and the parents of her pupils to become “spoilt” or inordinately dependent on the wrongheaded educational policies of Messrs. Dramani Mahama and Amissah-Arthur, Mrs. Matilda Amissah-Arthur was being rather presumptuously preposterous, if also because it is inexcusably hypocritical and puerile for the Second-Lady to blame the victims of such grossly misplaced priorities. At any rate, what was the wisdom in throwing five PCs at a school in a country where “Dumsor,” or perennially erratic supply of electricity, has become very much the norm than the exception?