The Faces Behind the Sleeping Giant (Ghana)

On Friday, March 6, 2015, Ghana celebrated 58-years of independence. This marker was quite the celebration not only for Ghanaians across the world, but for all Africans who share that pan-African post-colonial spirit. It is a day worthy to be mentioned since in 1957, through the leadership of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana became the first country on the African continent to gain its independence and led other countries living under colonial leadership to follow it’s example. In recognition of Ghana’s 58th birthday, we share some thoughts from one of our contributors.  (Editor)

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The Faces Behind the Sleeping Giant

We often hear from the media about Africa’s demises. If it is not corruption, then it is poverty. If it is not poverty then it is war, and so forth. The images we have in our minds of a down trodden Africa seem fair in light of the number of conflicts taking place currently. However, the vast majority of global citizens forget about the other side of the sleeping giant: the side that smiles in the morning, studies at night, plays soccer with its friends, and genuinely cares about the welfare of its community. The world forgets the students of Africa.

The problem with Ghana’s education system lies in the system itself. The willingness to learn is there, but the desperate need to make a living is hindering students’ ability to learn. While Ghana’s education enrollment rates are climbing quickly, the effective learning environment is still not present. According to GhanaWeb, in 2013, around forty percent of parents had to pay bribes in order to obtain an education for their children. Unfortunately that number is widespread across the continent. Furthermore, the Global Corruption Report revealed that Ghana’s education sector scored a four out of five, five being most corrupt. The sitting Deputy of Minister of Education vehemently disagreed with the score, and refused to acknowledge it as legitimate. (Graphic Online) The problem will denying this clear endemic is that denial cannot hide facts. According to Nation Master, while the majority of Ghanaian children enroll in first grade, many do not make it to the end of primary school. (Nation Master) Looking specifically at secondary school enrollment, one can see that more than half of the students from primary school are not enrolled at the next level. (UNICEF) While Ghana is among the top twenty countries to spend most of its GDP on education, the truth of the matter is the capital does not improve the system. (NationMaster)

Ghana needs more than just a few dollars to revamp its education sector. What can Ghana do then to change the atmosphere of its schools, colleges/universities, and technical institutions? Ghana can invest in innovation rather than memorization. Ashesi University, founded in 2002, is among the best universities in Africa, ranking number eight in the continent. (Africa) Patrick Awuah explains in his Ted Talk that the key to his students’ success is a liberal arts education. In other words, an education that provides a well-rounded outlook on global, national, and local problems. If schools focused more on creating leaders, students, after college, would not seek to work for the government. Rather, students would be more inclined to start their own businesses or improve upon others. The beauty behind most of Africa, but especially Ghana, is the opportunity to innovate. With a generation that is interested in understanding the deep-rooted problems that hinder progress, nothing is impossible.

Another issue to tackle is promoting careers that deal with fundamental problems in the country, or in other words, STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In order for many institutions to move forward, transportation, infrastructure, sanitation, electricity, and medical technology need to be improved. If ambulances cannot drive on good roads to drop off a patient in a well-lit room with tools to treat the illness, people will continue to be sick. Promoting these careers through scholarships or other monetary incentives can trample corrupt bribes and bring change to each sector of Ghana. Lastly, allowing emigrants to provide training sessions and career focused talks at secondary schools and colleges will prove to be helpful in the long run. By exposing students to another professional in their field of interest, their individual networks grow wider and more interconnected. If the goal of education is to reap leaders and professionals, the work must begin when the students’ interests are at their peak. These suggestions, when implemented, can go a long way, not just for Ghana, but also for the entire continent. In 2050, the Harvard Business Journal states that Africa will be home to the largest workforce in the world. It is imperative that we begin working on Africa today, so the world can see a better Africa tomorrow.

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