Time to make basic education safe and sane again.

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· Stop the deterioration of the nation’s public schools.

Yes, it’s time to make education in Ghana safe and sane again – starting off, especially, by meeting the hygienic and safety needs of the nation’s children in the 14,000 odd public basic schools across the country.

In an earlier article, sub-titled, “A plea to the better angels in the nation’s leaders, chiefs, officials and parents,” I asked, “Are Ghanaian children any less important than children in other parts of the caring world? I’ve been on the verge of tears many times training teachers at the school sites – from Accra to the north. The deplorable conditions in which many schools are situated beg the questions: Do we really have serious elders in this country? Do we have enough concerned parents? Do the government officials care? Are stakeholders proud of the environment in which the nation’s children are dumped day in day out?”

Year after year, the various promises to serve the nation tend to result in costly lifestyles of the very people making and bungling those promises.

Views from Sakyi-Addo and Leo Tolstoy

A star journalist and broadcaster, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo’s address at Ashesi University’s 2014 commencement is worth repeating: “Ghana needs people who’ll speak up for the poor … people who’ll ask questions; and challenge our norms. People who will question the government; challenge the opposition; tackle the DCE; confront the MP! Ask the Assembly member to show you what he or she’s done for you and the community lately. Question your chiefs! Question your pastor. Why does he live in obscene opulence when members of the congregation wallow and rot in penury?”

That observation seemed to fit the iconic Russian thinker and author of “War and Peace”, Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910), who said, “I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by any means possible … except by getting off his back.”

Parental responsibilities

The way children are raised present a more accurate appraisal of their future prospects. For that reason alone, child safety and health concerns are suitable chapters in any good parent’s or government’s investment portfolio. How a clear headed person can see their own beloved children off into a hostile and abusive dusty grounds without toilets is a great question indeed! And yet, every school day, that is what numerous parents do. That indifference speaks to native cultures that embrace such heartlessness.

An abandoned school toilet blocked with twigs

Just as parents have rights, they also have an equal and balanced responsibility to not shrug off their duty but be part of the solution. That is a key reason why this supposed free education business can so dicey and misleading. To mean well is one thing, to do well is the important thing. As a Tanzanian law professor cautioned in Africa, “Our free education is also free of knowledge.”

The Rights of the Child

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) guarantees: 1. Rights of provision (adequate nutrition, health care, education, economic welfare); 2. Rights of protection (from abuse, neglect, violence, exploitation); and 3. Rights of participation (a voice in decisions affecting the child). It places an obligation on states to provide and protect these rights. Such rights knock out the various crude excuses that hurt children even as the norms parade insidiously as acceptable traditional and religious practices in some nations.

Ghana ratified the UNCRC, and became the first country to do so; but as usual in this country, that was more theory than commitment.

Feedback from readers

  1. “Yet the talk here is about free education without paying attention to quality. If children are taught in broken buildings with drab sanitary conditions how do we expect them to grow up with a high sense of hygiene? Children grown with filth will love it with all their lives, thinking that is the way to live. We must all tell government to improve existing basic and high schools before making education free.”
  2. “… these are great concerns raised and my school is absolutely out of contest when we talk about a safe environment. But we have succeeded in getting some NGO’s to come to our aid. One is currently building us a three unit Kindergarten block and another one is about to start building a six unit classroom block too. It took a lot of effort to get this through and am so happy to have played an instrumental role in this. Thanks a lot for being so much inspiration to me. I pray our leaders get to the point of placing education as a priority”.
  3. “ … you’ve been there and have experienced it and hoping and praying appointees in our Nation will read this article not with the view of criticizing but pointing out the facts and the need in doing the right thing for our public schools where we all started. Is just a basic common sense.”
  4. “You and I are products of a system that worked at the roots (cyto). Instead of dealing with the collapse of the basic, they are skipping it …”
  5. “A clean environment signifies a healthy people who can manage their own independent affairs.”

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)


Teacher training must include safety and good hygiene


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