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Feature Article of Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Columnist: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku

This is Very Unfair, Mr. President!

One of the effective means of avoiding conflict in any human society is the provision of social justice for the people. Social justice is concerned with equal justice, not just in the courts, but in all aspects of society. It is a concept that demands that people have equal rights, opportunities, and fairness; everyone from the poorest person on the margins of society to the wealthiest deserves an even playing field. Indeed, most philosophers would argue that no one has created a completely just society, yet every country strives to achieve that goal.

Fellow citizens, kindly permit me to react to some of the few negative comments I received from my recent published article entitled; "What is good for Northerners is equally good for Southerners". Though the said article sought to bring to the fore the need for extension of the free Education policy in the North to all parts of the country, my detractors readily portrayed me as a tribalist or enemy to the progress of the North. I take this opportunity to assure them that their perception is far from the truth because most of my close friends are from the North. However, as a patriotic Ghanaian, I'll always remain resolute in demanding fair play for all Ghanaians, irrespective of one's geographical, religious, political, or tribal affiliation. It is not a secret that too much inequality exist in the current system, especially with regard to political appointments and distribution of the nation's wealth.

Let's analyse this factual evidence before we begin to cast aspersions on innocent Ghanaians. My father grows cocoa and the cocoa beans are bought and exported by the Ghana government. Though the price given to my father for his produce is far below the World market price. Yet, the proceeds are used to give free education to John Mahama and his 18 siblings.

Even though John Mahama's father had the means to pay all his school fees because he was a Minister of State, teacher, chief etc. John Mahama's father had many wives who gave him 19 children with John Mahama as the 7th child. John Mahama completes tertiary education and becomes an MP, deputy minister and minister of state respectively. He is appointed a Vice President and eventually, "God in His own wisdom 'kills' old man Atta Mills in order for a youthful John Mahama to become president". John Mahama becomes rich overnight because of his involvement in many corrupt dealings. He uses GHC 7.6m to renovate a government bungalow for his wife, Lordina, when he knows that Lordina does not head any government ministry. He accepts bribes in the UK to renew cocoa licence for Armajaro; he deposits millions of dollars in Swiss bank; he hijacks STX Korea deal; he benefits from plane purchases from Brazil, among others.

Surprisingly, this John Mahama intends to equal his late father's record, if not break it by fathering about 15 kids with different women - Chad, Makawi, Zimbabwe, but thankfully his wife is at peace with him. He builds his houses in Accra and bemoans lack of meaningful development in the North. He blames colonial government for the development gap between the north and the south even though the free education was meant to address that.

As a Caretaker president, he stands in front of his northern brothers and tells them to vote for him because it is the turn of northerners to rule Ghana. He has even forgotten that Dr. Hilla Limann, the president of the 3rd Republic, was from the North. Again, John Mahama has forgotten that the Founder of his own party, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings was the man who overthrew the Limann-led PNP government on 31st December, 1981. He calls people "baloney" and buys bulldozers to kill flies. He establishes SADA in the North, benefits from Cuban scholarships, but reneges his promise on 10% of oil revenue to the oil-producing region in Ghana. But, do we have to blame him? Absolutely no, because there is an adage that says; "astena pa ma awer3fie" to wit; good living erases all past negative memories.

Meanwhile, my father whose cocoa proceeds catered for John Mahama could not buy a tin of Milo for consumption. He died a painful death because of poverty. I had to struggle before I could be what I am today. I was caned at school, especially at the Secondary level for non-payment of fees. Some of my colleagues could not go beyond the JHS level due to poverty and not because of lack of educational facilities and school uniforms.

As I speak today, most of my classmates in the primary school are drunkards, unemployed, with others as peasant farmers. Some have committed suicides; others are engaged in armed robbery and prostitution. Some are still on the streets shinning shoes, selling toffees, and dog chains. They see me as a very successful man and count themselves as being unlucky in life.

Interestingly, John Mahama is demanding GHC12,000 to be paid to him every month for whatever reason, nobody knows. For the past 6 months, he cannot pinpoint any major achievement by him as a president. But this GHC12,000 monthly salary is not going to be used to cater for the needs of other children who cannot access secondary education, but to help him live like an Arabian King. There is a Presidential Palace for John Mahama to live; he has access to Presidential Jet; access to all kinds of women; he does not pay any tax; he receives several allowances in addition to ex-gratia when he leaves office. Even on an occasion like Christmas when he is supposed to spend time with Ghanaians as a Christian, he chooses to go to South Africa on a private visit. Private visit in the face of the current political tension? And who pays for this trip? You and I as usual. His younger brother, who also enjoyed free education is on record as the only Ghanaian to own a private jet.

John Mahama stands on a political platform in the southern part of this country and says free education is not Ghana's priority. Then people who pay the taxes, grow our exports, work day and night, yet find it difficult to pay their wards' school fees support John Mahama. They support John Mahama because most of them have been influenced with money. They buy the childish idea that basic education needs to be strengthened first as if that was the case when he was enjoying free education 50 years ago. When will that quality be achieved? The P/NDC has been in power for 23 years so what prevented them from improving the so-called quality? How many children are sent home by head teachers on the grounds of no classroom, science resource, or library facility? But 99% out of the time, students are sent home because they haven't paid their school fees. Sometimes, they are severely caned unjustifiably even though they are not the ones that make those payments.

Fellow Ghanaians, how much do you spend on your health every year? Do you pay any fees at the secondary level and if so, is it easy? Do you have access to good drinking water? What about sustainable energy for your petty businesses? Are you able to feed your children well? Are you employed, and can your salary take you home? Compare your living standards with that of John Mahama, Benjamin Kumbuor, Rashid Pelpuo, Alban Bagbin, John Tia, Hassan Ayariga, Mahama Ayariga etc, and ask yourself whether free education is an HIV virus, tuberculosis, or asset? Why should the children of the above-named eminent Ghanaians still enjoy free education when other children are terminating their education at the basic level due to poverty? What kind of unfair society are we building?

Any parent or guardian who pays school fees at the secondary level would agree with me that feeding fee is the most expensive item on the bill. As of September 2012, it was GHC168 per term and this amounts to GHC504 per year and that translates to GHC1,512 for the entire 3 years. Remember, the feeding fee is not fixed because currently the heads of educational institutions are demanding GHC2.25 per day from parents. So the questions are: if feeding is free for Northerners, why can't it be free for Southerners? Again, if education infrastructure needs to be improved at all levels before the government thinks about free SHS, why don't we all call for the abolition of the so-called Northern Scholarship, after over 50 years of its existence? And if people think that currently Northerners are not enjoying free education, why can't they join me on my campaign for free SHS for all Ghanaian children? What is good for the goose, they say, is equally good for the gander. I'm the least bothered about the insults and the name calling. Yes, some of you might be offended by the truth, but we all need to bear in mind that truth has no substitute. When you speak the truth, you speak it once but when you tell a lie, you will be called upon 1000 times to come and defend it.

With all courtesies and party affiliations aside, Ghanaians need to think and think well because the resources are there. For instance, proceeds from cocoa hovers around $2bn per year. Ghana's oil gives us $100m every month, meaning $300m every 3months. Half of this money can take care of the free SHS. It all boils down to effective planning and commitment. For instance, if the government develops a way of checking excesses of fees at the SHS level, the cost of education could seriously be brought down because some of the items have no academic bearings. Also, if the existing infrastructure at the secondary schools are expanded as happened under the NPP's Model Schools concept, whilst some of the seized vehicles from Carl Wilson are distributed to the 511 public SHSs, the exorbitant PTA fees could be of no use. Furthermore, serious attention could be given to the agriculture sector by way of assisting farmers with affordable loans. In this way, the farm produce could be bought by the government and supplied to the schools. This could also go a long way in reducing the feeding cost. In addition, the government could set its priorities right, check corruption and the payment of fraudulent judgement debts, and I can assure you that free SHS will be the simplest educational policy that could be implemented by any government. Ghanaian children deserve it; Ghana needs it!

God bless Ghana! God bless Kufuor!!

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Enfield, London. (Free SHS Ambassador) 07577626433 Official blog (www.katakyie.com) katakyienpp@yahoo.com

A native of Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri

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