Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Upsurge In Non Accredited Institutions Awarding Degrees

It is critical, that people be taught the culture of not just acquiring knowledge, but also adding to it. The system must teach people the rigours of academic work and intellectual creativity. One of the best systems for instilling this value in people, is education. It is the fundamental launch pad for the next generation of deep thinkers and creators. That is why it is upsetting that in-depth validation of knowledge and intellectual accomplishment is being cheapened these days, with a sudden influx of non-existent institutions one can simply buy certificates from. In a recent paper titled, ‘the Accreditation Challenges in Transnational Education Ecology, the Ghanaian Experience,’ the researchers from the Valdosta State University in the US identified a number of Ghanaians who have received fake degrees from unaccredited institutions. In the USA, they are popularly known as “Diploma Mills,” which is quite an appropriate name, as they just churn degrees on a virtual assembly line. With law enforcement having done quite extensive work to immobilise such institutions, attention has been switched to developing markets with weak law enforcement and naivety, mixed with a dose of titular obsession. Their target victims are mainly people with public access, fame and/or accomplished in a particular field: Politicians, Journalists, Pastors, Ministers, Entrepreneurs and Business People among others.

In fact, this whole “industry” began years before this time, with the pastors. They were the first group of people to clamour after theological qualifications that required minimal or no course work and research to graduate. This happened mainly through correspondence studies. These scam artists understand the lure of the Ghanaian mentality. The obsession with titles. They also know that even after a Ghanaian has made a fortune of hundreds of millions of Cedis and employed hundreds of people, he cannot self-actualize until he finds and displays “doctor” before his name. They know his accomplishments do not bring him the self-perceived recognition he thinks he deserves, so they will make him pay for one. This is a multi-billion dollar industry selling fake degrees to naive persons all over the world. A number of such institutions are operating in Ghana, with fake faculty whose only qualifications are the ones from the same “university”. There are also the ones from random individuals operating from their bedrooms in a corner of the world. Those ones do not care about trying to look legit by renting the British Council Hall in Accra for an honorary doctoral awarding ceremony. They will only communicate via snail mail.

Victims of these systems can be seen around all the time. They feature prominently in the news on TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. Ironically, they use these fake degrees to create further public deceit. They are mostly the loudest people. One might think that coming to the knowledge that they carry a fake degree title will “humble” them. Enquiries revealed that with 499 dollars, one could have a fake honorary doctoral degree within a fortnight. How anyone will take this serious, is baffling. Here are a few tips to spot these fake institutions from afar. The standard line reads “We are accredited by institution A, B and C, or we have almost completed accreditation process with our national accreditation authorities.” Beware of universities that offer you a degree based on your work experience only. Some will simply ask you to add a recommendation letter from your colleague as evidence of your “good works.” They will throw in a bit of religious feel-good words for effect. Beware of institutions that offer to fly down to your country to confer certificates and titles on you, at a private ceremony. They will usually rent a hotel conference room or a seemingly respectable venue like the British Council Hall, College of Physicians and Surgeons or a venue on a real university campus.

In order to create familiarity without attracting a lawsuit, fake institutions or diploma mills tend to create names similar to real universities. In view of the growing concerns, the authorities, especially the National Accreditation Board, with the support of the law enforcement agencies must clamp down on such institutions to save the nation.



This year’s West African Senior Secondary Examination results as released by the West African Examinations Council have shown that more than half of the candidates may have to wait for another year or more to see their dream of entering into a tertiary institution come true. This is because more than 66 percent woefully failed to secure pass marks in all four core subjects, English Language, Mathematics, Social Studies and Integrated Science – a key requirement for gaining admission into any of the accredited public and private tertiary institutions in Ghana. A critical analysis of the provisional results released by the West African Examinations Council indicates a mass failure on the part of most of the candidates. A total of 274,262 candidates participated in the examinations.

According to WAEC, a total of 125,065 students obtained A1 to C6 in English Language, which is 53.19 percent while 46,595 representing 19.82 percent had F9. For Mathematics only 77,108, representing 32.83 percent obtained A1-C6, while 89,477 which represents 38.10 percent had F9. The story is not different when it comes to the other two core subjects, Social Studies and Integrated Science. To gain admission into any public or private university in the country, the National Accreditation Board requires that the candidate must score a minimum of C6 in six subjects including at least three of the core subjects. This is indeed the headache of both candidates and their parents as far as this year’s results are concerned. About 598 candidates also had their entire results cancelled, while about 2,184 candidates had issues with their results and 2,293 candidates who were identified to have cheated in English Language, Mathematics and Integrated Science had their relevant subject results cancelled. Yet still, 13 others who had their results cancelled had been barred from taking any of the council’s examinations for two years. According to WAEC, despite all the claims, the 2016 performance is a significant improvement over that of last year.

Ever since the results were released, there have been a lot of comments. According to some school of thought, the performance is as a result of the reduction in the duration of schooling from four years to three years. Perhaps, it is on that basis that a chief in the Western Region is advocating a return to the four year SHS system. But the fact remains that, no matter how long students stay in school, there may not be any change in their performance if there is no change in what goes into the teaching. In 2013, the three year students completed concurrently with the first batch of the four year SHS students, the results showed that the overall best students in the whole of West Africa was a Ghanaian, and most importantly a three year student. This simply implies that, whether three or four years, there is no much difference.

Emphasis should rather be on quality and perhaps a change in the mode of teaching. There is the need for a sustained improvement in the performance of the students in subsequent examinations. As for malpractices, stakeholders will continue to play their roles in ensuring that they are eliminated or minimized to the barest level. Those who will not attach seriousness to their studies while preparing for these examinations, but think cheating will be the shortcut to success should think twice and be ready for any punishment.

This year's Basic Education Certificate Examinations went on well without any incident of leakages. That should be the yardstick for subsequent WAEC organised examinations. Students must understand that hard work is the key to success. A word to the wise is enough.


Activities Of Political Vigilante Groups

Their historical antecedence can be traced to the pre and post-independence era but activities of vigilante groups attracted the headlines during the 2012 election petition hearing in 2013 when a group of young men with T-shirts bearing the inscription ‘Invincible Forces’ linked to the NPP appeared in town. Despite the heavy presence of state security, some members of the group made it into the Supreme Court premises through the vehicles of some of the principal actors in the case. Two weeks after the Invincible Forces registered their presence in the Court premises, another group, linked to the NDC appeared with T-shirts bearing the inscription ‘Untouchable Forces’. In fact, they had a tough time with the police who used pepper spray to disperse them.

Unfortunately, the two major parties did not condemn their actions. Thankfully, their boisterous posture vanished when the Contempt Mood was activated by the nine- member bench which saw some otherwise influential people, at least on the airwaves, sent to jail. One was wrong in thinking that the groups died off after the petition. The Invincible Forces surfaced at the National Headquarters of the NPP wielding offensive weapons during a news conference which had to do with appointment of some executives. Not long after that emerged a counter group, the ‘Bolga bull dogs’, which gave a twenty four hour ultimatum to the Invincible Forces to vacate the party premises or faced its wrath. Thanks to Nana Addo’s call for calm. Who knows what would have happened.

Thomas Hobbes said centuries ago that in the absence of law and order life will be brutish, nasty and short. Per Hobbes assertion, it is important for the law enforcement agencies to step up efforts and deal ruthlessly with these illegal security groups which can best be described as ‘minor insurgence or internal rebels’. There is no doubt tension will rise in this election year. The security agencies must allay the fears of the public by giving out information about how cases of people arrested in the past for politically linked violence regardless of the magnitude and the political party involved ended. Let us not risk national security on the altar of party security or political expediency. History should always serve as a guide for us. Architects of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda did not appear to be a threat to anyone until the bloodbath, which has left a serious scar on the conscience of Africans. The power of the state must be seen demonstrably stronger than any other. The IGP John Kudalor should be encouraged not to give in to any pressure to go soft on any vigilante groups, whether for the ruling party or the opposition. All other security agencies should join forces with the police to tackle these illegal groups with immediate effect as the clock ticks towards the December 7 election.

It is known fact globally that no insurgence, militia, rebels or vigilante group can survive without a sustainable source of funding. Finances of any vigilante group must be told in plain language that, Ghana's Peace is priceless. As a people, let’s guard it and work with the police and other security agencies to conduct their activities without fear or favour. The police have spoken, the political parties have endorsed it and the atmosphere looks calm but the stark reality is that no one can tell the real meaning behind the silence of vigilante groups. It will be in the national interest if the police and national security could get leaders or spokespersons of the known vigilante groups to publicly declare all their groups disbanded. Political parties must also show commitment by denouncing vigilante groups at the least opportunity.

Competitive elections ignite tensions and that is normal and must be seen as such, but that should not contain the element of physical violence. Let us together help to make our nation enviable as we vote in December, after all only God ordains leaders. Long live Ghana.


Monday, 29 August 2016

Security In Ghana

It is beyond controversy that the greatest need of any human being and for that matter every nation is safety and security. It is not surprising therefore that governments invest heavily in their security agencies. Ghana is no exception. Successive governments have done their bit in terms of equipping the security services, especially the police. Despite all these efforts, many citizens believe that there are still a lot of loopholes in the system which is exploited by miscreants. It came as a relief when the former Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Alhassan introduced the visibility programme. By that, police officers are deployed to vantage locations throughout the country. No one needs scientific proof to conclude that the visibility programme has boosted security in the cities and towns as well as along the highways. It is common knowledge that armed robbery and other crimes have been major issues of concern to many Ghanaians for many years. However the sight of the police and their open display of weapons and vehicles have done a lot to keep criminals at bay.

Though the situation is a lot better now, it gives no cause for complacency. The police must improve on their operations to provide maximum security to the citizens. It is however worrying that some criminals have found their way into the police service and are bringing the name of the service into disrepute. It is sad that the police who are trained to protect the public will now turn to be terrorising them.

The incident at Afram Plains in the Eastern Region where two armed police officers attacked a GCB bullion van in an attempt to rob it is most disturbing. This brings to question the process which is adopted to recruit people into the service. One is also tempted to ask what background checks are done before people are enlisted. Now, it is uncomfortable seeing police officers carry gun as one cannot be too sure what they are likely to use the gun for. It is usual to see police officers wield sophisticated weapons like AK47 as they walk along the streets and on motor bikes as well as on board commercial vehicles. It is justified that people will express genuine fear upon seeing police and other security officers with weapons.

The Inspector General of Police and his administration must put in place immediate measures to restore public confidence in the service. The police can be commended for being able to re-arrest the two police officers who escaped. Their escape gave the wrong impression that they were deliberately let loose. Now that they have been re-captured, they must be made to face the full rigours of the law. Despite the conduct of these two police officers and a few others, the overwhelming majority of the men and women of the service are above reproach. Let them not be demoralised by the conduct of the few miscreants who are bent on dragging the image of the service in the mud. Let them continue in their efforts to provide security to the nation.

This is very critical as the elections approach.


Intemperate Language In Ghana's Body Politic

It came as a joyous daybreak to end a long night of captivity when the world witnessed a new flag replacing the Union Jack. Those who thought it was impossible had a rude awakening when the Red, Gold, Green and the Black star was hoisted in the place of the British Flag. It was a dawn when the forebears of Ghana's independence promised in their speeches that democracy would be practised in its truest meaning. About eight centuries ago, before the Magna Carta, it was impossible to challenge those in authority either in words or in action. The future looked promising as citizens had hoped that their freedom was guaranteed. In that light, the founding fathers of this country laid down their lives and fought for its independence so democracy would be practised. After more than half a century on, the question on the lips of many is, is Ghana really practicing democracy?

Ideally, democracy is to tolerate dissenting views. It is meant to collate different ideas for a common purpose. And more often the majority carries the day in decision making. Unlike before when only monarchs and their courts made laws and decreed on their subjects, democracy seeks to give power to the subjects, and as well subject those in authority to the power of the law. Now, the king, the president, the judge, the legislator and the clergy can be questioned when they go against the laws. Democracy comes with respect for individual freedoms and rights. It is however unfortunate that some people are indulging in certain unacceptable conducts in the name of democracy.

As a result, the beauty of democracy is being destroyed. The most worrying trend is the use of abusive and intemperate language in Ghana's body politic. The jaw-jaw idea of democracy is giving way to war-war and the brain power giving way to blow power. Now, freedom of speech is expressed through insults, character assassination, mudslinging, and vitriolic rhetorics. Since the repeal of the criminal libel law, circumspection and decorum have been thrown to the dogs. The repeal of the criminal libel law has become more or less a blank cheque for reckless and unguarded comments. It is disgusting that people resort to bad mouthing those in authority and those who hold different views to theirs. Must this continue? Insults of adults and others under whatever circumstance is unGhanaian. Ghana is the centre of the world, it is the gateway to Africa. The world looks up to this country. Let us not be polarised by self-centred individuals for their parochial interest. We are the gold, when we lose our lustre through slaying one another, strangers will inherit our land. Let us interrogate, decipher and pore on conflicting views to ours. We do not come from the same home, or school and therefore our views would not be the same.

By all means, let us agree to disagree. But as a progressive society, let us see farther from what we deem as sacrosanct in our views and consider that of others. In so doing, Ghana will be great again.


Remission of Montie Three Sentence

Without mincing words and without a shadow of doubt, President John Dramani Mahama got it right. The question that needs to be answered is what did the President do? The facts are bare. In the first place, the President accepted the conviction of the Montie three. He also accepted that the court was right in slapping both fine and custodial sentence on the contemnors. The President however disagreed with the severity of the sentence and therefore reduced it. He did that by exercising the powers conferred on him by Article 72 clause [1D] of the constitution. Not under Article 72 clause [1A], [1B] or [1C]. What the President did is a remission, not a pardon, not a respite and not a substitution. In essence, the President disagreed with the call on him by the petitioners to pardon the Montie three.

The President however rightly accepted a reduction of the sentence. It is important to note that the citizens of this country have chosen the path of multiparty constitutional democracy in which they clearly committed themselves to the legal supremacy of the constitution. It is the people of Ghana who are sovereign and supreme. One deliberately used the term legal supremacy because we do not govern only by law. But we also resort to morality and good conscience in governing a nation. In a multi-party constitutional democracy, none of the three arms of government is supreme. None has final authority on all the powers of government and none is superior over the others. Only the constitution is supreme in all matters of law. There is however enshrined in the Constitution the doctrine of checks and balances. Surely because the nation is governed by fallible mortals and not angels.

In that respect, any of the arms of government can err. Check on one arm of government by another cannot by any stretch of imagination or argument be said to be an interference with the function of the arm. The Judiciary can and has on a number of occasions declared the acts or conduct of the Executive unconstitutional, or ultra vires and therefore void and of no effect or voidable. The Judiciary has struck down such acts or conduct on many occasions. Could that be said to be interference in the function of the Executive? The Judiciary has dealt similarly with the Legislature. An example is a section of the Chieftaincy Act recently passed by Parliament. It is noteworthy that in exercising the powers conferred on him by Article 72 (1), the President is not called upon to resort to the provisions of the Prison Service Act. It is only under Article 72 (2) that the President is called upon to, apart from the advice of the Council of State, be informed by the other matters stated in Article 72 clause (2). The President swore an oath to at all times preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the Republic of Ghana. The President swore to dedicate himself to the service and well-being of the people of the Republic of Ghana and to do right to all manner of persons. The President has just abided by this oath. Congratulations Mr President. Having said that, it is also instructional to comment on the strange animal call contempt.

The current state of the law in Ghana supports the exercise of the power of the Judiciary to punish for contempt in facie curia (in the face of the court) and ex facie curia (out of the face of the court). Except that in the case of ex facie curia there is doubt as to whether the court could act as the complainant, the prosecutor and the judge at the same time in its own cause. One is of the view that in the case of contempt ex facie curia the court ought not be clothed with such powers.
This view is supported by some judges as shown in a number of decided cases including the one on Liberty press. In such cases, the Attorney General has a role to play since cases of contempt are quasi criminal in nature. Applying civil procedure rules and process to try such quasi criminal matters run contrary to all known principles of a fair criminal trial. In such cases the court is not clothed with the evidence. This has to be adduced before the court. The evidence has to go through the acid test of examination by both the prosecution and the defence and even the court. In contempt trials the critical examination of the Prosecution and defence is regrettably absent. It is therefore worth counseling that the exercise of the power to convict and punish for contempt be exercised with utmost restraint by both the Judiciary and Parliament.


Consequences Of Bishop Obinim Flogging Saga

Actions it is said call for reactions. However, it is not all reactions that are legal or appropriate. The flogging of a girl and her boyfriend by Bishop Daniel Obinim in his church has attracted mixed reactions from a section of the public. While some see his action as a deterrent measure others find it to be absurd, inappropriate or even illegal. Bishop Obinim had no moral right to flog the teenagers, when he has not instilled in them attitudes and values and yet expects the two minors to exhibit good behaviour. He has openly, admitted to his weakness of not being able to exercise his parental supervision as a substitute father. It is important to point out that the psychological trauma experienced by the victims could make them withdraw from societal interaction if they are not given effective counseling. All parents and guardians must understand that parenting or child-upbringing is a full time job which is expensive and time consuming. We should not expect children to be angels when we have directed much of our resources and time to other ventures at their expense. A renowned American pastor Osteen says “the reason children get in trouble can often be traced to the fact that they do not have positive role models in their lives."

One issue that surprised many Ghanaians is the seeming endorsement of Bishop Obinim’s action by his congregation. This has led to more questions than answers. Was the silence of the congregation over Bishop Obinim’s action out of faith? Or over subscription to the biblical quotation or is it that Obinim is always right? Any positive response to these principles is suicidal which can be likened to the proverbial donkey Boxer who suffered his pitiful death as a result of his naive trust in his master, Napoleon. What is refreshing however is that government agencies in charge of child protection and human rights lawyers have challenged Bishop Obinim’s action as a clear violation of the fundamental human rights and dignity guaranteed under the 1992 Constitutions of Ghana, the Domestic Violence and the Children’s Acts.

It is high time to apply the rule of law so that the so- called men of God who violate the law under the pretext of their religious beliefs and more often with the support naive congregants can be dealt with. The state must evoke its powers to ensure that religion serves the right purpose and not to be used as a tool to oppress innocent Ghanaians. One takes consolation in the fact that institutions mandated by the state to ensure compliance and administration of justice have filed complaints against Bishop Obinim for investigation and prosecution. It is the hope of Ghanaians that appropriate sanctions will be applied to deter others if found culpable.

By Lawrence Bodong Tophelilew, Graduate of UDS- Wa campus (BA Social & Development Administration) (0246241944/0206505741)