Analysis: The elephants are gearing up for another circus performance – By Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The elephants are gathering to re-enact the 2008 circus performance that ended disastrously, resulting in their being chased into the political wilderness. They are gearing up, using the same old tactics of fly-blown promises, outright lies, wild allegations, fear-mongering, vain threats, and cacophonous rhythms that won’t turn anybody’s crank. None is enthused by such a dry performance.

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They are promising a utopia that the electorate won’t be interested in. No lesson learnt after their 2008 electoral disaster.

The ululation has already begun and we can hear their shrill and ugly noises. What is missing from their stagecraft is the kangaroo dance that characterized their 2008 performances; but we won’t miss much. We have a hunch that they will use a new signature tune woven around the vacuous promise of free Senior Secondary School education to re-enact the circus. That signature tune may as well be their death knell at the polls.

A group calling itself Creative Arts for Change is already ululating as part of the preparations to re-enact the scenario, trusting in the Messianic posturing of their unctuous flagbearer for whom its leaders pledged their unflinching support last Saturday.

Made up of the musicians, producers, actors, writers, and other professionals in the creative arts industry who constituted the 2008 circus and energized the nationwide carnival, the group has assured Akufo-Addo that just as they did for him in 2008 so will they repeat in 2012.

Here are some personalities in this group: Kwabena Kwabena, a hi-life musician; Socrate Sarfo, a movie producer and Public Relations Officer of the Film Producers Association of Ghana (FIPAG); and Mark Okraku Mantey, music producer.

Their raison d’etre? Akufo-Addo’s promise of a free SHS education, which they have agreed to propagate even without knowing anything specific to inform the electorate about beyond what they have known it to be—a mere promise for political convenience.

Kwabena Kwabena cited the NPP’s intention to implement free Senior High School education as one of the many justifiable reasons why the group has thrown its support behind Akufo-Addo.

Ask him for details to know what this promise is and you will be given a blank but annoying stare. That is the problem. No one, not even the promise-maker himself, has any concrete confirmation on how the promise will be fulfilled. A promise is what it is—a whiff of hot air being blown about for votes!

The circus will indeed be met with the same air of disappointment that has been the cause of the elephant family’s political woes all these years. Probably, these musicians are also composing a dirge on the sideline.

Contrary to the line of argumentation adopted by the NPP followers to suggest that anybody opposing this promise is against free education, the message reaching the electorate is clear. It is re-echoed by Sidney Abugri in his opinion piece (“Can Akufo-Addo steal back his thunder?” on Ghanaweb, Nov. 4, 2012):

Invest in the strengthening of basic education as a foundation on which subsequent stages of formal education will be built. Invest in the provision of adequate teaching and learning materials and equipment.

Invest in adequate infrastructure at all levels of formal education. Invest in the training of and remuneration of highly qualified teachers as a prerequisite for improving the quality of teaching and the rewards will take care of the rest while you continue to discuss possible strategies for making education accessible to one and all.

These are the fundamental areas that the NDC and critics like us have drawn attention to. Unless Akufo-Addo wants to tell us that he is not conversant with the problems facing our system of education, he will rush to isolate the SHS as the focus and hope against hope of a ready source of funding it.

He is creating very good grounds to put the cart before the horse for it to jump into. No movement expected. What a wasted effort! And to imagine that this is the issue about which he is daring Ghanaians to take him to the cleaners. What effrontery!

Don’t get me wrong. I value formal education and wish that it will be made free at all levels if the economy and our ability to manage affairs properly will allow. After all, my children attend school where I am in the United States without my having to bear the full cost directly out-of-pocket, although I know how my high tax money funds that venture.

But implementing fee-free education in the US didn’t happen as Akufo-Addo is misleading his followers to perceive. Those of us who oppose him are wary that his approach would create more problems than the country can handle.

Even though George Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” policy might be seen as a solution to the problems that necessitated that policy, a careful analysis suggests that it has compounded problems that would have devalued the system of education but for the resilience of the US’ economy. We are not there yet.

Kenya and Uganda have been implementing what Akufo-Addo has promised, but can’t thump their chests to celebrate it as the solution they’ve been searching for to repair their system of education. Let Akufo-Addo’s followers do some basic homework on such examples to see things for themselves.

We in Ghana have our peculiar problems to forewarn us about the danger ahead and must not rush into disburdening parents of that responsibility. After all, those of us who paid fees at all levels of our education aren’t the worse off.

The arguments that I have raised so far aren’t against the lessening of the burden on parents and wards of the senior secondary schools if such a promise is successfully fulfilled. Far from that.

We agree that formal education is good and must be provided to build the enlightened and capable human resource base for our political economy. I wholeheartedly support any move toward uplifting standards at all levels of the country’s education sector. What I detest, however, is the duplicity that undergirds Akufo-Addo’s promise.

Some questions continue to nag us:

What exactly motivated this promise from Akufo-Addo? Is it because he thinks that the economy is strong enough to shoulder that responsibility or that parents have become so poor as not to be able to take care of their wards’ education anymore?

Or is it because by making education free at the SHS he thinks that the requisite conditions will be created for a better human resource base for the country? Even at the SHS level when the products aren’t mature enough to know what their contributions to national development are—or even how their future looks like?

Will an Akufo-Addo government abolish private SHS or spread the “fee-free” bonus to them too? Or will they be compelled by his largesse to fold up? No more private SHS to operate in Ghana when the fee-free policy begins being implemented?

More confusion in town already!! The making of this new-fangled promise came easily but providing concrete facts and figures to persuade Ghanaians on how that promise will be fulfilled isn’t so. It has proved to be too difficult for Akufo-Addo and his supporters to tackle.

All we hear day-in-day-out are statements of intent that end up exposing their promise as a mere ploy to delude (to deliberately mislead) the voters into making an error at the polls. We will continue to tear apart this promise.

Do you remember Chinua Achebe’s okeke bird and the hunter? Okeke says that for as long as the hunter has learnt to shoot without missing, it has also learnt to fly without perching.

Transfer that adage to Akufo-Addo’s promise of free SHS education and our stance. For as long as Akufo-Addo cannot provide facts and figures to persuade us that his promise is the best solution to a part of the country’s problems, we will continue to take him on. We refuse to be deluded.

We shall return. 

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The opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of and