Wednesday, 22 June 2016

2016 B.E.C.E

The 2016 Basic Education Certificate Examination started on a good note and ended successfully. The examination attracted the attention of the entire nation. Parents, Guardians and other Stakeholders in education were on tenterhook during the period of the examination. They continued to pray against any leakage of examination questions which has been a source of worry and embarrassment to the whole nation. Those fears, worries and anxieties now belong to history. The West African Examinations Council took the bull by the horn. Its resilience and capacity to rise to the occasion is no longer in question. Doubting Thomases have been proved wrong. Security measures put in place by WAEC in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service to forestall leakage of examination questions paid off. The examinations passed off unscathed and it is appropriate to congratulate WAEC. Other stakeholders in education like parents and guardians must also be commended for their cooperation and patience displayed throughout the period of the examination. Heads of schools, supervisors and invigilators should also receive a pat at the back. State intelligence agencies like the Bureau of National Investigations working behind the scenes should also share in the honours for such a success story.

Nonetheless, some incidents occurred during the examinations which cannot be swept under the carpet. At some examination centres, question papers arrived late and this affected the time the examination was scheduled to start. There was a mix-up of some candidates' index numbers at some examination centres. Psychologically, such candidates may have been affected. However, it was good that alternate arrangements were made on the spot to make sure that such affected candidates did not suffer unnecessarily. At Yendi in the Northern Region, it was reported that twelve candidates were prevented from writing the BECE on grounds of truancy. They had allegedly reported for school for only ten days throughout the whole term. Invigilators at some centres were not too willing to invigilate the examination because GES had failed to pay them their invigilation allowance. In Bongo in the Upper East Region for example, there was a delay in the start of the BECE for almost one hour because the invigilators were demanding last years' invigilation allowance which was still outstanding. That was regrettable.

Going forward, the GES must take steps to resolve this problem which appears to be nationwide. Despite these isolated incidents, the conduct of the 2016 BECE on the whole has been a roaring success. The question is, after this success, what next? WAEC'S performance must not be a nine day wonder. A repeat of such a dose would go a long way to restore confidence in the Council. Perhaps one issue worth considering is the usual visit to examination centres by high profile government officials. Some are of the view that the presence of such personalities goes a long way to boost the morale of the candidates, who get the rare opportunity of interacting with them for the first time. Others however contend that, their presence seems to intimidate the candidates, gets them distracted and even disorganize their thought processes. As to how best this can be resolved is another issue. From now till the time results are released, is a long and critical waiting period for the candidates. Parents and Guardians must do well to occupy their wards, for as the saying goes, the devil finds work for the idle hand. The nation would like to see her children move from one ladder of education to another in a smooth manner for continuity in nation building. Once again congratulations to WAEC and candidates of the 2016 BECE for a good job done.


World Refugee Day

In a world where violence forces hundreds of families to flee their homes each day, it is about time the global community showed concern about the plight of refugees. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, as at the end of last year, there were about 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. This is an increase of 5.8 percent compared to the year before. About two-thirds of this number was categorized as internally displaced people, that is those who left their homes but stayed within their own country, while almost a third or 21.3 million were classified as refugees. The remaining 3.2 million people were waiting for their asylum applications to be processed, mostly in Western countries. The striking fact about these figures is that more than half of the world’s refugees are children. The figures may mean nothing to some, but considering that, the size of the world refugee population is almost the same as the population of the United Kingdom, or the fact that if it were a country, the global refugee population would make the nation, the 21st most populous country in the world, should give a cause to worry. Is it surprising therefore that this year’s Olympics in Rio will see the participation from the refugee contingent for the first time? The situation of refugees is a grave one and must be treated as such. In fact, no one wants to see people and particularly children forced to make extremely hazardous and dangerous journeys to escape conflict, chaos and climate related conditions. The point must be made that no one wishes to and it is not pleasant living in a foreign land as a refugee. It is demeaning and dehumanising.

Records show that Syria is the single largest source for new refugees, although older conflicts, like those in Afghanistan and Somalia, continue to be big contributors as well. There is the urgent need to do much more to help refugees, especially children, by courageously addressing the underlying causes that lead to mass movements of people. We should proactively find political solutions to prevent and end conflict, which drives 80 percent of humanitarian needs globally. Regrettably, pressure on very vulnerable people to migrate from extreme hardship and conflict is worsening by the day. That is why the announcement by the Kenyan government that it intends to close the world's oldest and largest refugee camp is worrying, no matter the underlying reasons. The Dadaab Camp in Nairobi is 24 years old. Tens of thousands of refugees were born there, they cannot leave without special permission nor secure work permits, and have little or nothing to go back to in Somalia, which is insecure and has been affected by El Nino. This will force 327,000 Somalis; 192,000 of them children into an uncertain future.

Back home, the Ghana Refugee Board said the country is currently hosting more than 20,000 refugees, mainly from the sub region. It is not exactly clear the number of Ghanaian refugees in other countries. It is clear that due to chieftaincy and land disputes in certain parts of the country, residents in those areas have been forced to move to other places both within and outside the country. The least said about the impact on their lives the better. That is why it is important that as Ghana goes to the polls, everybody plays and abides by the rules to ensure that the country remains intact before, during and after the election. No single citizen of this country must be displaced as a result of this election. We must eschew politics of division and refrain from abusive language, violence and extremist ideas.

As the world mark Refugee Day, it is important that governments and humanitarian players rapidly implement recent commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit. These include ensuring that no child misses out on education by guaranteeing schooling for all - and funding it, permitting refugees to work within host communities and providing business support so they can look after themselves and their families and also support countries prone to conflict, chaos and crises with long-term development programming and financing that bring lasting change at the local level.


Controversy Over President Mahama's Gift Car

President Mahama has come under severe criticisms from a section of the public for accepting a gift of car from a Burkinabe contractor. Listening to the arguments so far, it is clear that, this is a frantic effort to accuse the President of corruption. It is therefore not surprising that the minority and some so called anti-corruption crusaders have jumped into the fray, calling the President all sorts of names. But there is the need for a proper evaluation of all the facts. It is stated that the said contractor, Djibril Kanazoe, undertook the $650,000 Ghana Embassy Wall in Ouagadougou as well as the 64.4 kilometre Dodo Pepesu -Nkwanta section of the Eastern Corridor road. The argument is that, the President by accepting this gift from the contractor has put himself in conflict of interest. Really? It is baffling how a conflict of interest arises in this situation.

First of all, the point must be made that the President has no role to play in the award of any contracts in the country, let alone the two contracts in question. Again, the award of the contracts was initiated at the time John Mahama was not the President of Ghana. It is insightful to note that, in the case of the Embassy wall, out of the three contractors, Mr Kanozoe presented the cheapest and most cost effective bid. The road project was also funded by the European Union. It is notorious facts that EU funded projects go through international competitive bidding. From the foregoing, it is abundantly clear that the man was not awarded the contract on silver platter. This makes nonsense of talks of a breach of the Public Officers Code of Conduct passed in 2013. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 21 (b) of the Code states that "a public officer many not accept a gift, favour or an advantage that has the potential to influence the proper discharge of his or her functions or judgment, from a person with whom the public officer comes into contact in relation to the public officer’s functions.” Some Minority Members in Parliament have argued that the gift was a bribe to influence the President to give out juicy deals to the said contractor. They go further to state that the President also breached Article 284 of the Constitution, which provides that a public officer, including the President shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts or is likely to conflict with the performance of the functions of his office.” What is more ridiculous is that they are threatening to initiate impeachment proceedings against the President if he does not resign. Are we joking in Ghana? Since when has the acceptance of gifts become a crime and for that matter grounds for removal of a President from office? Under this fourth republican dispensation, which President has not received a gift? Former Presidents Jerry Rawlings, John Kufour, John Mills were all given different kinds of gifts, which they gladly accepted.

This is not the first time a President of Ghana has accepted a car from a foreign national. Former President Kufuor received a Mercedes-Benz from former Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Indeed, many analysts held the opinion, that if it were not that car that President Kufour was using at the time he had an accident at the Opeibia crossing in Accra, probably a different story would have been told. What is remarkable about President Mahama's gifted car is that, unlike former President Kufuor, President Mahama has never used this car. Available information indicates that, as soon as the car got to the President's attention, he directed that it be added to the pool of vehicles at the Presidency for the use by the state. In other words, though it was supposed to be a gift to the President, he did not accept it for his personal use.

So far, no evidence has been led to establish any wrongdoing in the award of the contract to Mr Kanazoe, there is no evidence that the contracts were inflated or more competent contractors were turned down in his favour. There is also no evidence that President Mahama played any role in the award of the contracts. It is therefore difficult to decipher where all these arguments are leading to. If this is a mischievous, malicious, and wicked exercise to drag the President's name in the mud and punch holes in his assertion that he has never received a bribe, then it is all much ado about nothing. Truth will always triumph over evil.


Practicalizing Political Party Manifestos In Ghana

It is disappointing that political parties have over the years used their manifestoes as a decoy to win political power. After the election, the winning party most often fails to fulfil the greater part of its manifesto. The current state of not placing any obligation on the political party which eventually wins power to implement the manifesto it promised has reduced election manifestos to a mere rhetoric to hoodwink unsuspecting electorate. There is the need to make it mandatory for political parties to demonstrate how they intend to implement plans of the National Development Planning Commission and Chapter six of the 1992 Constitution, so that this becomes constitutionally and legally binding on the political party which shall emerge victorious after the election. For the avoidance of doubt, Chapter Six of the Constitution operationalizes Articles 34 to 41 by pigeonholing state policy in terms of Economic, Social, Educational and Cultural Objectives. Article 34 says “the directive principles of State Policy shall guide all citizens, Parliament, President, Judiciary, Council of State, Cabinet, Political Parties and other bodies in making policy decision for the establishment of a just and free society.” This will also ensure that new governments do not truncate projects initiated by their predecessors as provided in the constitution which states inter-alia, as far as practicable, a government shall continue and execute projects and programmes commenced by the previous Governments. It is true that some parties have managed to implement at least a fraction of the plans they promised in their election manifestos.

However, observers are apprehensive that the zeal with which manifestoes are propagated prior to elections is entirely different when it comes to implementation. It is interesting to note that in the 2008 manifesto of the NDC, the party promised inter alia to separate the Attorney General’s Department from the Ministry of Justice, establish a pre-school training college in each of the ten regions, provide every Ghanaian with a job from which they can earn their livelihoods and, not to introduce any new taxes. Similarly, in the 2000 Manifesto of the NPP, they promised to replace slums with high-rise buildings, cut rice importation by 30%, make Ghana a leading agro-based industrial country in Africa by growing what we eat, eating what we can and can what we cannot, introduce a Farmers' and Fisherfolks Security Trust to cater for them in their times of need and in their old age. Can anyone say that the NDC and NPP were able to fulfil these promises? Certainly not! And here again, how can we take such highly alluring promises like “Dumsor shall be a thing of the past,” “We shall transform lives,” “We shall reduce fuel drastically,” “We shall eradicate unemployment,” and “We shall root out corruption,” while in fact and indeed, they are growing, or more precisely, have reached alarming proportions? It is very obvious that many party manifestoes are filled with lies, mediocrity and populist appeal. The ostensibly divine principle that if the party in power fails to implement its manifesto, it is up to the electorate to vote it out of office in the next election may not help our development, because we live in a country where a vast majority of voters allow themselves to be carried away by the passing and material temptations thrown at them due to economic insecurity, ignorance and illiteracy. Sadly, majority of voters remain the same old folks, who easily become victims to the worldly freebies like bags of rice, saucepans, IPADs, cars, roofing sheets, mobile phones, flat screen TVs, fertilizers and cash from political parties. It is quite possible, of course, that some voters generally lack the discerning faculties to assess the relative merits and demerits hidden in political party manifestos.

Such voters are likely to succumb to fiscal allurements; and this sort of intellectual deprivation is likely to land the entire country in troubled waters. This growing menace of presenting a “rosy picture” in a manifesto and tempting the electorate with a “cozy life” must be checked to ensure that there is some semblance of respect, honesty, probity and accountability in public life.


GBC Policy On Coverage Of Political Parties

The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation has taken the lead to launch a policy guideline to regulate its coverage of this year's general election. GBC, being the first and by far the only public or state broadcaster is obliged to give coverage to all registered political parties. Indeed, article 163 of the 1992 constitution states that all state owned media shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions. In the famous Supreme Court case, NPP vrs GBC and Attorney General, the court made it abundantly clear that fair in this context means equal. In other words, GBC cannot be selective about which political parties or candidates it offers the opportunity to present their views on critical national issues. In the same vein, the Corporation is equally under constitutional injunction to cover rallies and other political activities of every party or candidate. Having said that, emphasis must be placed on giving the parties and candidates equal opportunity. Either in power or in opposition, they must all be treated equally, giving the same duration and privileges. As at the last count, there are 24 registered political parties in Ghana and all of them must be covered adequately. One is not in doubt that GBC is capable of fulfilling this mandate. In the last election, the corporation really delivered to the extent that, unlike previous occasions, no candidate or party could accuse it of bias. One recollects with regret, instances in the past where leading Presidential Candidates were denied air time on the corporation's channels even when they were prepared to pay for it under the guise of political off season. It is refreshing to know that GBC is now offering free air time and space to political parties and candidates to sell their message to the voting public. Just June 13, the corporation, covered live, the National Delegates' Congress of the newly formed All People's Congress, APC, led by Hassan Ayariga.

It is gratifying that, even as IEA and NCCE haggle over who is best suited to organise this year's Presidential debate, GBC has arranged a programme to line up all the candidates to outline their programmes and policies and respond to critical questions from the public. In this electioneering and in any other one, the role of GBC in promoting clean and issues driven campaign cannot be over emphasised. Despite the proliferation of private and social media, the nation badly needs GBC. The kind of things which go on in the private and social media can upset one's stomach and bring chaos to the nation. That is why GBC is needed to sanitise the airwaves. In spite of accusations of being late in reporting on issues, one thing that cannot be taken away from the public broadcaster is professionalism and accuracy. Much has been said about offering all candidates opportunity, but it does not mean, it should or it shall accept anything on its airwaves. In fact, this position is backed by article 164 of the constitution, which states inter alia that, whatever the state owned media does is subject to laws that are reasonably required in the interest of national security, public order, public morality and for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons. This is to ensure that GBC's platform does not become the theatre of fabrication, insults, mudslinging and stoking of violence, division and extremism.

One is convinced that, GBC has what it takes, because it has demonstrated that over the years that it is capable of ensuring decent and decorous language on its airwaves. On the issue of fair and equal opportunities, the corporation must go a step further by reaching out to all the candidates wherever they may be found. Instead of waiting for the parties and the candidates to come and take advantage of the opportunities available, there is no harm if the corporation on its own goes out there and encourages the parties and the candidates to make their views and policies known to the public. It is great to hear that the corporation intends to assign reporters to each of the Presidential Candidates to report on their daily activities as it did during the last election. There is no doubt that with the launch of this policy guideline, the situation can only get better.

GBC, the authentic and trustworthy voice of Ghana.


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Ensuring smooth 2016 BECE

The annual Basic Education Certificate Examination is here with us again. From June 13 to the 17th of this month, the nation's attention will focus on this all important and crucial examination which will select qualified candidates with aggregates between 6 and 30 to enter Senior High as well as Technical and Vocational Institutions in the country. In all 461,013 pupils will sit for this year's examination at 1,598 centres. As usual, pupils will be examined in the following subjects: English Language, Mathematics, Integrated Science, Social Studies, Religious and Moral Education, Basic Design and Technology, Information and Communication Technology, Ghanaian Language and French which is optional. The need for a smooth conduct of this year's BECE cannot be over emphasized. It is a national exercise which must be devoid of leakage of examination questions, unnecessary suspicions, rumours, and rancour which may put the whole exercise into limbo and dent the high reputation of Ghana's education system. The just ended WASSCE and its attendant hiccups are still fresh in the minds of Ghanaians and for that matter stakeholders in Education will like to open a new page and put behind them, the unfortunate leakage of examination questions which occurred in this year's WASSCE as well as last year's BECE which culminated in the cancellation of five papers.

The Ghanaian public this time expect a clean bill of health in the conduct of the BECE. The success of this examination will not only be a feather in the cap of WAEC, but will once again restore public confidence which appears to be on the wane. It would further save WAEC and the taxpayer from incurring extra cost in the rerun of such leaked question papers. For example in the 2002 BECE, the rerun of some leaked question papers cost WAEC a colossal sum of GH¢ 330,000. Again a successful conduct of the 2016 BECE would ensure that the right calibers of candidates are selected to pursue different courses at the second cycle institutions. It is however an undeniable fact that ensuring a successful conduct of the BECE does not lie with WAEC alone. All stakeholders in Education have a role to play. According to available information WAEC has put in place certain security measures. Pupils are not to bring into the examination hall any foreign materials such as notes, textbooks, prepared materials or any printed materials. Pupils are forbidden to bring into the examination hall without prior authorization, a blank piece of paper, the manual of a calculator or any other material which is intended to give them undue advantage. Additionally, pupils are not allowed to bring into the examination hall a programmable calculator, mobile phones or any other electronic communication device. Personnel from WAEC can make unannounced visits to any examination centre to ensure that the conduct of the examination there is in compliance with the rules and regulations of WAEC.

These security measures alone cannot be the panacea to ensuring a smooth conduct of the examination. Parents and guardians also have a role to play to ensure a smooth conduct of examination. They should advise and encourage their wards to exercise self-discipline, study hard and pass well without cheating. Heads of public and private schools should avoid unhealthy competition to outdo one another in examinations. They should rather compare notes among themselves for the advancement of their various schools and the betterment of the nation. Good wishes to all candidates.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Death of Former World Boxing Champion Mohammed Ali

Death has once again robbed the world of a worthy citizen, Mohammed Ali, aged 74. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr, Ali, took the world by storm when at age 22, he defeated the then reigning champion, Sony Liston in 1964 in what appeared to be a David and Goliath fight. Among athletes particularly boxers, he was certainly ranked among the elite, having won the heavyweight title three times in his 21-year career. Nicknamed "The Greatest", he was involved in several historic boxing matches. Notable among these were the first Liston fight, three bouts with rival Joe Frazier, and "The Rumble in the Jungle" with George Foreman, in which he regained titles he had been stripped off seven years earlier. Ali was of another age, and yet he was ageless. The battles he fought in and out of the ring probably seem like ancient history to some who only know him through archival images and film. But for those who were lucky enough to have witnessed him in his prime, his presence was unmistakable. But it was his life outside the ring that inspired the strongest adjectives. He described himself variously as the greatest, the prettiest, the brashest, the baddest and the fastest.

Shortly after winning the Liston fight, Clay converted to Islam, changed his so called slave name to Ali, and gave a message of racial pride for African Americans and resistance to white domination. He loved and defended what he believed in with all his strength. Once a journalist asked him "what do you feel to be of the religion of Osama Bin Laden?" and he answered: "what do you feel to be of the religion of Hitler? When he had to serve in the US army during the Vietnam War, he refused the draft. As a consequence, on August 28, 1967, he was stripped of his boxing license and World Champion title. And this was his position. “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over" Ali's actions as a conscientious objector to the war made him an icon for the larger counter-culture generation.

Judging from his civil rights activism, it was not surprising that he chose to visit Ghana in 1964. Because of its pioneering role in the Pan African movement and the independence struggle, Ghana was particularly attracted to independence fighters, empowerment champions, anti-colonial activists and revolutionaries. Adam Clayton Powell, George Padmore, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Richard Wright, and C.L.R James all came to Ghana.

As Ghanaians join the world to mourn this great man, there is the need to recognize that Ali became great not only because he could box, but he also stood his grounds against the unjust system in the United States that looked down on the black race. He did not hide behind closed doors and lamented the unjust system which wanted him and other blacks to feel inferior, unworthy, and unloved. He spoke out for the voiceless, walked his talk and paid the price for it. It will be ironic to praise Ali for his bravery and behave timidly. His death should be a wake up call for all to speak up against the ills in our society. Let us speak up against corruption, tribalism, intolerance and violence irrespective of whose ass is gourd. In an age of growing intolerance it is important to remember that there was a time when the great Ali was also shunned on account of his activism, race and religion. Perhaps his ultimate acceptance and the message of unbending fairness that he embodied in life may be the final lesson he can bestow on us in death. To quote President Obama in his tribute to Ali “His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today. Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it.” Perhaps the best way we can remember Ali is to go back to his quote, “When I’m gone, they’ll just have to look at the records and look at my actions. Then it is up to the people to rank me where they want ... And after they review all the facts, they’ll have no choice but to conclude that I am the Greatest Of All Time!” unquote. Yes indeed, he was the greatest. May his soul rest in peace.