Aug
04

THE UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES OF FRUSTRATION IN OUR DAILY LIVES

 

THE UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES OF THE FRUSTRATIONS OF DAILY LIFE

By CAMERON DUODU

If you want to study what is going on in real life in a country, one of the best ways of doing it is to study the crimes committed in that society.
For instance, we have all got stories to tell about ‘Dumsor. But are we all aware that Dumsor is creating a new type of criminal, who seizes upon  our current frustrations to exercise his cleverness?
Please read this story from the Daily Graphic of 3 August 2015 for verification:
QUOTE: “Three suspects believed to be behind the theft of power generating sets at Spintex and Baatsona in Accra have been arrested by the police. They … use a truck fitted with a crane, to steal from generating-set dealer shops, on the pretext of being hired by the owners of the shops to fix the generators, which they claim have minor faults….
At about 8 a.m. on July 27, 2015, the manager of Sulas Enterprise, a dealer in generating-sets, reported to the police that some men had used [this modus operandi] to steal two generating-sets, a 20 KVA and a 10 KVA Kipor, from the premises of his company …..The two sets were valued at GHc45,000 and GHc35,000 respectively. Police intelligence led to the arrest of [a man] who had displayed the generating-sets for sale at Lapaz, in Accra, for GH¢8,000 each.
Police investigations showed that though the generators had been sold to a buyer in Kumasi who had paid through mobile money, the [suspects] were yet to transport the sets to the buyer…
On July 26, 2015 between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m., [one of the suspects had gone] to the Kakari Shopping Centre, on the Spintex Road, where Sulas Enterprise was located, with a crane truck and told the security personnel that he had been hired by the owner of the company to pick up some generating-sets for servicing. [He] then sent the generating sets to [another of the suspects] at the Mannet Junction on the Spintex Road, who also called [the third suspect] at Agbogbloshie, informing him about the generating- sets which were up for sale.
[A potential purchaser was then called] in Kumasi and told … about the sets… [This man] agreed on GH¢8,000 as the price for the sets…
[The police further revealed that the the brains of the syndicate] was [already] wanted by them in connection with a [similar]  case where he was said to have hired a Kia Rhino truck, fixed with [a] crane … to steal generating-sets on the premises of [a] Money-lending Company on the Spintex Road, on July 21, 2015. The truck happened to be the same truck used for stealing the generating-sets from the other companies. UNQUOTE
A bit of a rambling story, agreed. But you get the picture, don’t you? It’s an “opportunistic” crime created by the current Dumsor conditions. Criminals are adept at hitting the populace where it is most vulnerable and therefore least likely to be suspicious. Generators are the hot subject of conversation, so what’s strange if someone says he’s been told to collect generators for servicing?
 
Indeed, criminals can be even cleverer than astute business entrepreneurs, for whereas an entrepreneur takes time to identify a line of business that will earn him good profits, a criminal only needs to locate the current “demand” psychology of the society in order to profit from it.
When generators are selling for between C35 and C45,000 each, who is going to be too interested in the source of supply, if offered one for C8,0000? Especially, if it is delivered in broad daylight by “a truck fitted with a crane”? That is the normal business of the people, the prospective buyer will say to himself. They are not hiding anything.
 
So, even though the stuff is relatively cheaply-priced, it must be legit. Maybe the owner is short of cash and wants to make a quick kill. “God has heard my cries;” says the purchaser. “Now my family and I can go to bed in air-conditioned comfort and also keep the things in our freezer fresh.”
The story reminds me of the kalabule days (from about the mid-1970s to the early 1980s). My young children were about to go back to their boarding schools at the end of their long vacation, and, like other parents, I was thrashing about everywhere, looking for soap, tinned fish, toothpaste and other things that they could store in those ubiquitous “chop-boxes” and use as needed.
 
But there were long queues everywhere. Sometimes, even when one managed to collect a “chit” from a storekeeper, there was nothing to collect with the “chit” when one got to the warehouse to which one had been directed! Imagine driving in the traffic to a warehouse, queuing again, presenting one’s chit, and being told, “Sorry, we are out of supplies. Try next week!” Next week? The kids are going  off in two days’ times! 
After one such unrewarding run-around, I was, of course, in a grumpy mood, and I just  unloaded  my frustrations onto a respected guy with whom I happened to be  talking.
He gave me the sympathy I needed. He did more: he immediately volunteered to ask his wife to get me something called, I think,  “Tom Brown” (porridge powder made from roasted corn, I believe).
 
“My wife knows a shop owner. She can get you a bag.”
A bag?
A bag of anything was worth its weight in gold in those days when there was a shortage of everything.
I asked, “How much would a bag cost?” (I had never bought the said  “Tom Brown” before in my life!)
The guy went downstairs to talk to his wife and he came back with a figure. I eagerly produced the money.,
That was the last I ever saw of the money. 
But no “Tom Brown” was ever produced either!
I was too ashamed to tell my wife that I had been “had”.
Bad mistake. For almost simultaneously, a very good “friend” of hers (she used to sit up all night, sewing very nice clothes for this ”friend!) told her she knew someone who could get us a bag of rice.
 

What? A bag of rice?

She thanked her lucky stars!

 
Without telling me, my wife promptly gave her the money. Again, neither rice – nor money – was ever produced.
I shook my head when my wife related the story to me  later. I understood what had happened only too well.
Two friendships had thus been destroyed in the course of a single holiday period. Was it any wonder that the country soon encountered serious political difficulties?
Our shattered inter-personal relationships bore eloquent witness to the way things were falling apart in the society. The ruthlessness we were experiencing at the personal level was to be reflected at the political level, in a manner that few of us could ever have associated with “peaceful Ghana.”
Even in our worst nightmares.
Just imagine what could have happened to the people who defrauded us if we had been stupid enough to report them to some of the sadistic “revolutionaries” who rampaged all over Ghana in later years, preaching “justice”? How could wed have lived with our consciences if something terrible had happened to them — at the instance of we, their victims?
Yes, fraudsters and confidence-trick artists thrive best when a society is undergoing unusual stresses.
 
But, indeed, it isn’t only in the area of crime that frustration can cause acute vulnerability. Stress can also undermine our intellectual and moral standards. And thereby, our  self-confidence.
Right now, for instance, some sensible  people I know are cheesed off over a report that Kenya is to construct a 900-kilometre railway line to link Nairobi with the Kenyan port of Mombasa. A branch line will also hook Uganda into the system. It will cost over $13 billion.

 

Guess who will be financing and building the railway?

 

Yes – the Chinese.

 

What my fellow Ghanaians who have been discussing this issue want to know is this: how could the Kenyans, who got their independence six years after we had got ours, have crafted such a complex plan and convinced the Chinese of its efficacy to such an extent that they have agreed to finance and build this railway, when we in Ghana can’t even get the Chinese to complete a mere section of our main arterial road – the Accra-Kumasi road – for us?

The answer has nothing to do with the number of years either country has been independent for. If you get the Chinese to agree to finance a project, and you renege on paying the Cedi counterpart funds which you had agreed to make available for the project, and instead, spend money on  political projects such as GYEEDA or SADA, how can the Chinese take you seriously?

 

If you show that you are not committed to your own development, why should they be?

 

Go to China and see them at work on their own projects. Then you will understand what real commitment is.
Come to that, if you ask the Chinese for a new loan, and they look at your Annual Financial Statement, and conclude from it that you are already overburdened by debt (which constitutes over 60% of your annual GDP) will they provide you with new money? No – they will deduce that you do not know the meaning of fiscal discipline.
Yes, other people take you seriously when you plan seriously and execute those plans with single-minded commitment. That is how the Chinese got their train system, part of which is among the fastest in the world.
 
 
With all that experience, the Chinese have convinced themselves that  the Kenyans have the required level of  commitment to enable the system to be built for them, just as the Tanzanians and the Zambians demonstrated enough seriousness to get the Tazara Railway built for them by the Chinese in the mid-1970s. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TAZARA_Railway )
With us, the Chinese probably look at us in sheer bemusement: how can we be taken seriously when we are not even able to present the Chinese with a realistic, workable plan that they can back, to end the ghastly galamsey nonsense that is destroying our rivers, farms and environment, and threatening the future of cordial relationships between our two countries?

Aug
01

THE POLITICS OF INSANITY

Home / Columnist / The Politics Of  Insanity

The Politics Of Insanity

By CAMERON DUODU

Daily Guide August 1, 2015

cameron duodu
K1: Koo, what at all is happening in this our country?
K2: Ei, so you too have noticed?
  • Why shouldn’t I?
  • I know, I know! But sometimes we are not struck by the same thing.
  • I take it you are disturbed by the way and manner in which a judge
  • dealt with Charles Antwi, who unlawfully took a gun into the church where the President usually worships?
  • Bingo! What did you find strange about the case?
  • Well, some of the things he is alleged to have said about himself….
  • Yes, he said he should be the President!
  • Not even a District Chief Executive or Minister! But President!
  • Where do they get these ideas from?
  • Ask me!
  • Yes, I see where you could take this.
  • The cult of personality in our politics does create its
  • inconveniences.
  • Aand unexpected consequences.
  • But if you and I could see the ego aspects of the matter, although we are not trained psychiatrists, why couldn’t the judge?
  • Maybe he too has an ego problem!
  • So many elementary things went wrong in that court-room!
  • The judge should not have taken Antwi’s plea!
  • Once the question of his sanity had been raised!.
  • Indeed, the issue was argued by a lawyer in the court…
  • Yes, acting as an amicus curiae (friend of the court)!
  • Because he had not been formally instructed?
  • Yes. He sought to draw the judge’s attention to the need…
  • To send Antwi for psychiatric observation?.
  • Right!
  • But the judge ignored him and took the plea of a person whose unbalanced state of mind had been brought to his notice?
  • Yep! The judge should have ruled that the accused was “unfit to plead”; then entered a plea of “not guilty” on the accused’s behalf, pending a report from a psychiatrist, that the accused was fit to plead.
  • But the judge took the chap’s plea twice, right? First, he allowed him to plead “not guilty”, and later, that was changed to “guilty”? He allowed him to change his plea after he’d been talking pure nonsense?
  • It’s all extremely odd.
  • When the amicus curiaerequested the judge to send the accused person for psychiatric observation,  do you know what the judge said? The learned judge stated that he had observed the accused himself, and had found him “confident” in what he had  said and he  was therefore fit to stand trial!
  • Lord have mercy!
  • And he gave the accused ten years, after the accused had said in open court that it was he who caused the death of President John Atta Mills, and that he had expected to succeed President Mills, only to find that Mr John Mahama had been allowed to steal the accused’s “birthright” and become President?
  • Yes!
  • Koo, I am not a psychiatrist. But as for this, I can say that to judge from Antwi’s statements, he is both a schizophrenic and megalomaniac!
  • Tu bra! (Bring it on!)
  • I should add delusional into the mix! For Antwi does not live in the real world. He lives in a world which he has created for himself.
  • In other words, he’s living in a delusion. And he has more than one personality: he can at times behave quite “normally”, but at times he  takes on a different personality that makes him act in a “strange” way. For instance, he is alleged to have been able to drive a taxi in his home-town…..
  •  But he drew attention to his driving by going too fast. He probably regarded himself as having been given supernatural “powers” which would prevent him from being involved in motor accidents (delusion.) And there’s  also megalomania at work here  – a person who is bigger than everybody else.
  – Yeah – he thought he was even  bigger…
Than the President who was in office!
  • Yeah! The President in office was a ‘usurper’ to him! It was he, Charles Antwi, who had been designated to succeed Mills, after Antwi had “killed” Mills by merely wishing that Mills should die!
  • And the judge heard all this and concluded that Antwi was “sane” and “confident”?
  • Yes o! Methinks the Chief Justice would be well-advised to call for the papers of the case immediately and give them to a senior judge to review. This is not a matter that should go to appeal and waste taxpayers’ money. Antwi should be removed from prison and taken to a psychiatrist hospital, and if found to be insane, committed into psychiatric care.
  • Why is it important that this should be done?
  • The reason is that a person suffering from mental illness is not responsible for his actions and cannot, therefore,  undergo a trial. Mental illness is like any other illness – it incapacitates the sufferer; in this case, it is the sufferer’s mind that is incapacitated — which is worse than prdinary ailments, because, of course,  the mind controls the entire human body. A large number of illnesses, grouped under the single word depression, can deprive a human being of his mental faculties. A judge would not wish to diagnose the illness of someone who faints in his court, for instance, would he? No – it would be wrong for the judge to turn himself into a physician or doctor. Similarly, he shouldn’t turn himself into a psychiatrist, either. A psychiatrist is also a doctor, only that he deals with mental and emotional illnesses. A judge who neglects to send an accused person who shows signs of insanity to a mental hospital for him to be  professionally established as either sane or insane,  has patently infringed the constitutional rights of the accused person. And the earlier the head of the judicial service sorted out the injustice, the better. Otherwise bad judges would make slaves of all of us.

  • But what about the politicians who are using the case to….
  • Make accusations at one another?
  • They are doing real harm to the country.
  • How?
  • By over-publicising the case, they could put ideas…
  • Into the heads of weak-minded persons, who…
  • Might want to seek attention for themselves, too?
  • Yes, by imitating the behaviour of an equally diseased person.
  • Imitative crime?
  • Sure! Especially when targeted against people in the public eye!
  • Such as Presidents.
  • It  is in fact a nightmare for every security service in the world.
  •  So, people like the NDC General Secretary, Mr Asiedu Nketia
  • “General Mosquito”?
  • They ought to be very careful…
  • Yes. Because  they might create unnecessary problems…
  • For the professionals trained to protect our bigwigs?
  • You’ve got it in one, Koo!.

Jul
28

PARLIAMENT AND DEMOCRACY

PARLIAMENT AND DEMOCRACY
By CAMERON DUODU

A robust debate has broken out – mainly on the Internet – over whether Parliament has the right to punish people for “contempt of Parliament”.

Some people do not think that Parliament has the right to lay such a charge, given that we live in a country whose Constitution guarantees “freedom of speech”. Others say that the Constitution empowers Parliament to punish people for contempt, but that this power should not be used lightly.
Certainly, the Constitution offers full protection to “freedom of speech” and other fundamental human rights. It says:
QUOTE:
(1) All persons shall have the right to –
(a) freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media;
(b) freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom;
(c) freedom to practise any religion and to manifest such practice;
(d) freedom of assembly, including freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations.
(e) freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form or join trade unions or other associations, national and international, for the protection of their interest;
(f) information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society;
(g) freedom of movement which means the right to move freely in Ghana, the right to leave and to enter Ghana and immunity from expulsion from Ghana. (2) A restriction on a person’s freedom of movement by his lawful detention shall not be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this article.
UNQUOTE
But at the same time, the Constitution also provides that:
QUOTE: An act or omission which obstructs or impedes Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes a member or officer of Parliament in the discharge of his duties, or affronts the dignity of Parliament or which tends either directly or indirectly to produce that result, is contempt of Parliament.
Where an act or omission which constitutes contempt of Parliament is an offence under the criminal law, the exercise by Parliament of the power to punish for contempt shall not be a bar to the institution of proceedings under the criminal law.
UNQUOTE
On the face of it, the second provision of the Constitution may appear to contradict the earlier one. But that is not the case.
Freedom of speech is to be exercised “lawfully”, which means it must – for instance – not be exercised to defame others; or incite citizens to breaches of the peace, or to engage in treasonable acts, and that sort of thing.
The Constitution also implies, further, that freedom of speech must not be used to “affront the dignity” of Parliament. Whoever uses freedom of speech to that effect can be punished by Parliament.
In fact, the Constitution – exceptionally, it seems – allows the possibility of such a person being punished twice for the same offence – first the offender can be punished by Parliament, but then (the Constitution adds) Parliamentary punishment “shall not be a bar to proceedings under the criminal law”.
Does this mean that in a case where a person had, for instance, committed perjury before Parliament, Parliament could, if it so chose, punish him for “contempt”, but still hand him over to the prosecution authorities to be charged with the criminal offence of perjury?
Perhaps, the provision must be viewed more as a deterrent than as a licence to visit “double jeopardy” upon the head of the offender.
But that is by the bye – the discussion on the Internet has been largely concerned with examining whether Parliament is empowered to punish people who make utterances that MPs may find “insulting”; i.e. which constitutes (in the technical language of the Constitution) “an affront to the dignity” of Parliament.
There is no equivocation over the Constitution providing Parliament with that power. The reason why Parliament is thus protected is that Parliament is responsible for passing the laws that govern the daily lives of every citizen. In order that we should live in harmony, the state uses coercive power to ensure that these laws passed by our own elected representatives are  obeyed.
Yet, can we obey laws passed by people whom we despise? If we despise MPs, then we also disrespect the laws they pass, and if we disrespect the laws of our country, then we are living in anarchy.
That is why those who incite us to despise Parliament can be punished by Parliament.
For when a country descends into anarchy, everyone in it tries to do what he or she likes. The only limiting factor is the ability of individuals to organise violent acts to back their disrespect for the law.
For instance, if people in the country organised “land guards” and used them to grab lands and houses that did not belong to them, without the police and the army stopping the land-grabs, we would have an anarchic situation on our hands. Eventually, bands of “land guards” could even  be used for other purposes, especially,  to achieve political objectives. How? Well, “land guards” could be used to break up political meetings, couldn’t they?
So, the protection given to Parliament by the Constitution – and thereby its laws – is to prevent individuals from undermining the rule of law, in the final analysis.
Of course, Parliament must be very careful in exercising this power. For democracy is achieved largely by “compromise” – each arm of the state must understand and co-operate with the other arms. And that includes taking account of enlightened public opinion.

Actually, if Parliament tries to use its powers of contempt arbitrarily, without respecting the democracy that underlies the spirit of the Constitution, it could end up seriously ridiculing itself.  I shall illustrate this possibility with a personal anecdote. 

As Editor of the Daily Graphic, I was tipped off one day in March 1970 that some Russian trawlers that belonged to the Ghana Fishing Corporation, had been sold cheaply to a British businessman called Victor Passer, and that he was about to sail with them to Brazil, where he was expecting to sell them at a good profit.

I was puzzled: if the Brazilians wanted them, then Russian-manufactured though they were (there was much anti-Russian prejudice about, at that time) they were not as useless as the Ghanaian public had been led to believe. Why could we not use them ourselves to catch fish and bring down the cost of living for our people?

I published the story prominently  on the front page. The Government of Prof K A Busia reacted promptly by ordering that the trawlers should not sail. But this decision was apparently leaked to the purchaser, and he tried to sail away with them clandestinely out of Ghana’s territorial waters, and thereby, to present the Government with a fait accompli!

But again, I was tipped off  that this was about to happen and published the news of the attempt to sneak away with the boats. Very prominently on the front page.

The Government then sent the Ghana Navy to bring back the boats!

They were brought back to Tema. I went to Tema myself to report on the return of the boats by the Ghana Navy. The memorable headline to the story was “BACK TO BATAAN!”

Meanwhile, the publicity surrounding the boats had alerted Parliament, and some MPs got the Speaker to set up a Parliamentary Committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the sale of the trawlers. But as soon as Parliament became involved, party politics reared its head over the matter. Opposition MPs became anxious to use the affair to embarrass the Government, which then closed ranks around the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Kwame Safo-Adu, whose Ministry was in charge of the sale of the trawlers.

Simultaneously as the parliamentary tug-of-war was going on, the Ghana Government was put under tremendous pressure by the British Government, which was demanding to know  why a lawful sale agreement between a Ghanaian Ministry and a British company, was not being honoured.

Meanwhile, I published a list of questions about the sale of the boats, and challenged the Parliamentary Committee to find the answers to them.

This annoyed some of the MPs, who claimed that I was “usurping” the work of a Parliamentary Committee!

Ridiculous as this attitude was — I mean,  why couldn’t the Press and Parliament each carry out its own functions autonomously? —  the MPs persuaded the Speaker to write to me to ask me why Parliament should not summon me before it to answer a charge of  “contempt of Parliament!”

But even as I was thinking about how to reply to the Speaker’s letter, I received a report that the Ghana Government had caved in to the pressure from the British Government and allowed the boats to leave the country’s territorial waters!

I could have wept! I wrote a strong reply to the Speaker’s letter, telling him that it was my duty, as a Ghanaian, to do everything in my power to prevent my country from “bolting the stable door after the horse had escaped”! While he and his MPs were fussing about who should say what, the boats had gone, I pointed out!

It was a  cheeky reply, but I was so enraged that I would gladly have suffered any punishment the Speaker and his MPs thought fit to inflict upon me.

The Speaker did not reply to my letter!

Yes – Parliamentarians have power, but they must not exercise it without taking the real interests of the people who elected them, into account. I hope the discussion that has attended the Ebola test trial incident has been a good lesson to us all. It is such an airing of issues that enables democracy to grow deep roots in a country.

Jul
26

WELCOME BACK TO AFRICA, MR DRONIDENT!

WELCOME BACK TO AFRICA, MR DRONIDENT

By CAMERON DUODU

WHO now remembers the excitement with which most black people in the world watched the steady progress with which Barack Obama raced into the American presidency?
I do!
I’d never heard of him until a posting on the Internet heaped fulsome praise on the ‘keynote speech’ Obama had made at the Democratic National Convention in July 2004.
“Dare we dream?” the posting gushed. “Are we going to see a Black US President in our life-time”?
A Black President of the United States our lifetime? Alice In Wonderland stuff, surely?
However, I began to take an interest in Obama and followed his contest against Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic candidacy in 2007.
The Clinton camp threw all the resources of a former presidency against Obama. Nevertheless, Obama’s simple, optimistic campaign slogan: “Yes, we can!”, captured the imagination of optimistic-minded Americans.
He defeated Mrs Clinton at the Democratic Party primaries in 2008. He was now the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate. But was he electable nationally in an America with such a history of racism?
He was!
He roundly defeated the Republican candidate, John McCain, in the 2008 presidential election, and was inaugurated as President on January 20, 2009.
The Nobel Prize Committee, as astounded as we all were, hardly waited for him to embark on any earth-shattering policies in the direction of world peace before naming him the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.
But Obama must have disappointed the Nobel Peace Prize Committee profoundly. His acceptance speech was, to say the least, churlish. It could just as well have been penned by the [G W] Bush – [Tony] Blair speech-writing cabal.
This is what I wrote of the speech at the time:
QUOTE: “At first, I felt pity for President Barack Obama as he stood at the podium in Oslo, Norway, on 9 December 2009, to speak to the world, after being handed the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009. For he must have been aware that during his election campaign, he had aroused hopes — world-wide — that if he won, the world would see a new United States.
But there he stood, having just dispatched 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan! A new America?

“Obama’s words did not convey a sense of ‘Please don’t laugh at me. I didn’t start the war! I inherited it!’
“On the contrary, he must have astounded — if not shamed– the Nobel Peace Prize Committee by defiantly lecturing them on “just wars”. He stated bluntly: ‘As a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone [he was referring here to Gandhi and Martin Luther King]. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people.’

I said to myself: Hey, “George Bush, Dick Cheney — come back! All is forgiven! This is Obama? The Obama who said at a civil forum with John McCain at the Saddleback Church, in Lake Forest, California in 2008, that ‘a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil’?

“Holy Moses! This is orthodox American Imperialism addressing the vassals it saved from Hitler! This is history in which the CIA’s destruction of progressive regimes around the world does not exist; in which killing a democratically-elected Salvador Allende in Chile was justified because he was a Marxist; in which parachuting armed men to the Bay of Pigs to overthrow Fidel Castro and bring back Batista to keep oppressing the people of Cuba, and imposing a trade embargo on the island when the invasion failed, and forcing other countries to observe the embargo too – are all airbrushed from history.
“Oliver North stands absolved in Obama’s version of US history….
“‘So yes,’ Obama added, ‘the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace’.” UNQUOTE
Did John McCain hear Obama say that?
As he addresses the African continent in Addis Ababa during his July 2015 visit to Kenya and Ethiopia, I have only one question to ask him: “Do you think, President Obama, that if the British had killed Jomo Kenyatta with a drone during the ”Mau Mau” insurrection in Kenya in the 1950s, they would have done the world a favour? Remember please, that Jomo Kenyatta was trained in Moscow; that he was the associate of ‘Cold War undesirables’ like George Padmore, and as far as Britain was concerned, a deadly enemy. The British in fact imprisoned him as the leader of a ”terrorist” organisation!
Indeed, a British Governor of Kenya, Sir Patrick Renison, put the British policy into emotive words when he described Kenyatta as “a leader unto darkness and death!”
Yet it was this very Kenyatta who, released from prison by the British, succeeded in uniting Kenya’s ethnic groups into a coalition government and founded the peaceful nation whose existence gave your father the opportunity to go to the United States to pursue further studies, and to meet and marry your mother, and – father you!
Kenyatta co-operated with the British so well that some Kenyans even  began to suspect that he had become a British stooge, especially when he allowed British farmers to keep some of their land holdings in the so-called “White Highlands”.
You should possess a unique insight into history, through an examination of your own personal history. Yet you ignore it and employ drones, flown thousands of miles from their targets, to kill “enemies” classified as such by your intelligence agencies.
Don’t these agencies ever make mistakes in their perceptions of foreign politicians? Aren’t some of these “enemies” — even if they are murderers — killed by drones at spots where innocent men, women and children, who are not political themselves but only happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, are also slaughtered?
Mr President, this policy of assassination-by-drones is dangerous. You are said to agonise over target lists before you authorise drone strikes.
But just imagine what, say, a less scrupulous and more rough-and-ready “President Barry Goldwater” (who, it was reported, favoured a ”first strike” with nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union) of the future, could do with drones! The whole political system of the world would become hostage to the United States, wouldn’t it?
But wouldn’t he say, if he was attacked by the liberal media in the US: “Why attack me, when I’m only following in the footsteps of your darling Barack Obama?”
That, surely, should be a nightmare scenario for the author of The Audacity of Hope?

Jul
22

THERE IS “CHALK” IN THE EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, IS THERE?

“THERE IS ENOUGH CHALK IN THE SYSTEM”, IS THERE?
By CAMERON DUODU

I was not going to comment on the issue of “school chalk” (as in: the
Vice-President’s wife said the headmistress of a school at Kukurantumi was wrong
to ask her to tell the Government to provide her school with chalk.)

But even though the Vice-President’s wife has done the right thing and apologised for making
the remark, the Ghana Educational Service (after silently watching the poor lady roasted by the
media without lifting a finger to defend her) has now found its voice, and just as the controversy was dying down, reignited it by publishing provocative facts and figures to demonstrate that the
headmistress should have had chalk in her school!

Ah?

Yes!

According to the Ghana Educational Service, there is enough chalk in the system to be supplied to schools across the country. “Thousands of boxes have been made available to all educational directorates as far back as March [2915] to be supplied to all schools this year,” says the GES. “This includes the Eastern Region, which was allocated 82,391 boxes of chalk.
The [GES] response, according to one report, “comes after the huge uproar by a section of the public against the second lady Matilda Amissah Arthur’s reaction to the request of Head teacher of Kukurantumi Presbyterian Primary School in the Eastern Region, for chalk.

“Acting Public Relations officer of the GES, Rev. Jonathan Bettey, told Joy News schools that have run out of supplies must make the request to the appropriate authorities. He said it was the duty of the Kukurantumi headmistress to request for chalk and the other materials the school had run out of.

”It is the duty of the head teacher of that school to go to the District Education Office or the Director of Education, requesting for the chalk and the materials there. The District Director will ensure that more of these things are added. ‘If we refuse to ask and we say that we don’t
have some, [then it’s a problem]’”, he added. (The Minister of Education herself has reiterated this position, so the Rev Bettey was really giving us the official line.)

The GES statement is a perfect example of how the public service can construct a bubble around itself and reside in it, unaware of what goes on in the real world outside. First of all, has the GES taken the trouble to ascertain from its own officials, as a fact, that the headmistress had not requested a supply of chalk from the appropriate authorities but had not received it? To say that ”A” happened, and therefore, necessarily, “B” could – or should — not have happened, is fallacious thinking of the first order. It is theorising, at the very least.
For (it should be asked) does the GES provide transportation t to head-teachers to be travelling about to all manner of offices to requisition supplies for their schools? When last did the GES request anything from another branch of the Government and have its demand met on time?

Does the GES routinely check to see that all requisitions arrive safely at their intended destinations – if dispatched at all?

Is the GEC aware that if a head-teacher goes over the head of the district education officer to the Director of Education (as suggested in its statement) to request for such mundane items as blackboard chalk, the head-teacher might be marked down in the mysterious “blue book” as ”an insubordinate trouble-maker” and that he or she could be subjected to “punitive transfers”?

Does the GES still use Education Officers (formerly School Inspectors) to go round schools to obtain first-hand information about what actually happens on the ground – as against what is theoretically supposed to go on?
Does the GES realise that if all was going on well at Kukurantumi, the headmistress would not have had any reason to make a passionate request for chalk to the Vice-President’s wife?

Shouldn’t the GES in fact commend the headmistress for drawing the attention of the public – including the GES – to the supply problems in the GES system? Is the GES not aware that one of the most cherished qualities in a teacher is to be candid at all times, so that the children under his or her charge will emulate his or her good example and turn out to be honest citizens?

Conversely, is the GES not aware that if a headmistress is slapped down by her own bosses for speaking the truth, the attitude would be reinforced that ”in Ghana, they don’t like those who speak the truth. So if you see something going wrong, hold your peace. If you speak out about it, you will be punished for nothing!?” Is that education in apathy what the GES really wants to impart to the children of Ghana?

At the practical level, hasn’t the Kukurantumi headmistress afforded the GES an opportunity to impress upon the Central Government, the importance of being responsive to the requirements of the GES at all times, as Governmental neglect of the GIS can lead to unexpected consequences — such as occurred in a spectacular manner during the visit of the wife of the Vice-President to Kukurantumi?

Shouldn’t the GES welcome the attention it is getting, instead of rather being defensive about it? How often have the media not highlighted, say, the lack of toilets in some of our schools? Has the Government solved that problem? Does every school have running water? What are the hygienic effects of the lack of running water in schools?

Have the media also not written articles about the need to provide sanitary pads for adolescent school-girls?

Hasn’t the phenomenon of “schools under trees” been highlighted often enough? Has it gone away?

Indeed, shouldn’t the GES seize upon the publicity provided by the furore over the remarks of the Headmistress to the Vice-President’s wife to carry out a thorough review of the educational system and how it is perceived by the consumers it is supposed to serve? So far, most of the changes the GES has introduced appear to have been imposed. Do the results on the ground justify the apparent complacency on the part of the GES, regarding its “reforms”?

There is an urgent need to improve our educational system, for we shall be going nowhere fast in the direction towards achieving our developmental goals, if we fail to educate our children properly.

Some of us remember that we were never taught by untrained teachers, but by teachers who inspired us to aspire to be like them. Today, many teachers struggle to achieve even the ordinary standards expected of them. But not too long ago, teachers used to harbour lofty ambition for higher education, over and above their given circumstances. They often succeeded in transferring their thirst for knowledge to their young wards. Teachers who had a Certificate “A” qualification were not satisfied with it and often studied privately so that they could gain a higher qualification and become ”post-secondary” teachers.

And many post-secondary teachers took overseas correspondence courses in order to obtain the GCE “Advanced Level” certificate, which enabled them to qualify to go to university. Have today’s generation heard of ”Wolsey Hall” or the “Rapid Results College” – two institutions that helped to send many teachers to university, who would, otherwise, have fallen by the wayside?

Without ambition, there can be no progress, but ambition can be stifled through neglect or indifference. How can you convince a young mind that he or she should try to excel at studies, when the computers supplied to them cannot be used because their school is not supplied with electricity, or if it has electricity, it is sporadic in nature, because of a nation-wide curse known as dumsor?

There is, one must reiterate, a bubble that separates the policy-makers (in their 4 by 4s; their generator-served homes and air-conditioned offices that renders dumsor irrelevant to them) from the society that is at the receiving end of their policies. That bubble must be pricked. And the Kukurantumi headmistress did just that.
Good on her!

 
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Talking of education, I am pleased to learn that the Rotary Club of Accra Spintex – in a joint project with Rotary Accra South branch — has adopted the old Lashibi TMA School and is seeking funds to replace the School’s dilapidated Kindergarten Classroom with a modern Classroom Block..

This was announced on 12 July 2015, when the Club inaugurated the indomitable Publisher, Mr Fred Labi of Digibooks, P.O. Box T1, Tema, as its president for 2015-16. Fred Labi, a Publisher who has brought out several autobiographies of prominent Ghanaian men and women, is determined to move heaven and earth to complete the project during his presidency.
I know this because I have personal experience of his drive and determination, which he deployed to get the Club to help an orphanage at Abensu, near Pokuase, whose distress was brought to their attention by yours truly in September 2013.
At the inauguration, the immediate past president of Rotary Club Spintex Accra, Mr. Gordon Van Tay, recalled that since the Club obtained its Charter 3 years ago, it has, among other things, donated medicines and other items to Lekma Hospital to help manage a Cholera Epidemic; actively participate in the National Polio immunization week; and, as I disclosed earlier, donated various items to the Abensu Orphange. It has also given Library books, mattresses and various items, to The Accra Borstal Correction Centre.

My congratulations to all of them. God willing, I shall report to my readers that two Rotary Club branches in Accra have handed over a spanking new Kindergarten Classroom Block to the Lashibi TMA School, in the not too distant future! I know they can – and WILL — do it!

 

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