Africa is not just a continent impoverished with poverty, diseases, conflicts, unstable power supply, polluted water and poor sanitation, it however remains the hotbed of untapped and under exploited opportunities. Africa is the fastest growing continent in the world; has greatest percentage of vibrant, energetic youths and productive young men and women; abundant natural resources such as gold, bauxite, manganese, aluminium, silver, kaolin, limestone, silica sand, oil; leading producer of cocoa, coffee, tea; among many positive others. Ghana, for instance, is one of the leading producers of gold in the world. It is ranked the second producer in the African continent, only after South Africa (being the highest producer in Africa) and seventh in the world. All the ten regions (except Greater Accra and Volta regions) in Ghana are hotbeds of gold deposits, with Ashanti and Western regions producing the greater percentage of gold in the country. In 2007, Ghana discovered oil and commercial production started in 2010. Gold alone constitutes ninety per cent of the mineral resources in Ghana and contributes an equivalent of six per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and about fifty per cent of foreign exchange earnings for the country. Positive stories can equally be seen in especially the Eastern Africa, where countries such as Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Kenya are becoming shining stars. Kenya, for instance, is among the leading producers and exporters of tea in the world. Ethiopia operates one of the most vibrant and successful Airlines on the continent and with investments being pumped into electric railways and others. Rwanda, is one of the countries with the greatest reduction in child mortality achieved by Paul Kagame’s exemplary and enviable leadership. It is among the fastest growing economies in the world and its capital city, Kigali, ranked as the cleanest in Africa! Again, Rwanda operates one of the successful and cheapest airlines on the continent.
What the continent needs is not just hospitals to take care of her sick ones, schools to churn out graduates every year, but a conscious committed highly tenacious effort to engineer new crop of selfless and patriotic leaders and citizens alike, who put the needs of the very poor and vulnerable in our African societies first and topmost priorities! And alas, nation lovers’ citizens with changed attitudes who are ready to serve their communities and societies, to touch many lives of the impoverished and dejected, improve livelihoods of the people, increase their income levels and to ultimately halt poverty from the continent as envisaged by the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030. Real servants’ leaders will be needed going forward! The whole of Ghana, for instance, will need total overhaul and will need to be born again! A total overhaul, a cleansing Ghana very excruciating from the very child and pupil down to the very atop adults, educated folks and leaders in helm of affairs! New crop of educated folks will be needed; new breeds of citizens with paradigm shifts will have to be created; students, children, ladies, gents, parents, men, women, husbands, wives and all of us from the bottom to the apex will have to be reconscientised and born all anew!
Patriotic leaders do not sit aloof and complain with arms folded in between thighs, they join the bandwagons to bring that change they seek. It is in this light that I consciously choose to be part of the many like-minded cohort of better society advocates and champions; patriotic and nation lovers folks; highly committed selfless less greedy highly educated folks; non-spectator citizens, who are guided by conscience, and put love for nation atop priorities and hallmarks; and we will always tenaciously, unbreakingly and profusely choose to serve our respective countries and this continent diligently towards the development of a better Africa, where in the words of Nelson Mandela, there will be salt, water and bread for all. Alas, towards creation of a new Africa, where in the vision of the AU Agenda 2063, will be the one we want!
As an individual who was born, bred and grew up from peri-urban community in the Western Region of Ghana, one of my greatest wishes in this life is to be the richest man ever lived! To be rich not in terms of money, but to be rich in terms of knowledge! Knowledge that will not only be the ones I had just acquired from books and school. But knowledge that will cause me to positively impact the society in great number of ways! Knowledge, that will be useful in imparting on the lives of the very poor in society, the vulnerable in the society, the impoverished and the less privileged. To impart on lives of people and individuals who could not get the opportunities those who had been to school had. It is not so that those who had been to school are better off than those who couldn’t. No! That person who could not make it to that highest level of education is not dumb too! He/she isn’t actually! Probably, that individual could have performed better than me, you or us if he or she had gotten the opportunity we had had. It is because things had not been so fair in this part of our world here and inequalities had deliberately been created and exacerbated, which consequent repercussions had demarcated us into artificial classes and widened the gap between the rich and poor here! In the words of former president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, educating an individual is likened to throwing a pebble into the sea. When a small pebble is thrown into the sea, it ripples waves around it, which in turn create another wave and the rippling effect continues.
Education is never useful until the individual uses his or her knowledge acquired to transform and better the society which he/she forms part of. That is actually the very essence of education. To impact positively, not negatively on the very lives of the poor, vulnerable and less privileged in the society. To carry their burden and loads for them. We go to school to learn “careers” so we become “carriers” of burdens of the poor in the society. To improve upon their lives and to share their burdens. That’s the very essence why we go to school. We do not use knowledge we acquire to rape and cripple the poor in society; to steal resources that should belong to the masses; and to subject many trapped and wrapped in abject poverty, widen inequalities and poverty gaps, and see many become poorer and poorer in the society. There is indeed no joy in seeing many dejected, masses suffering, children begging for food on the streets, pregnant women dying at labour, children dying from mosquito bites and malaria, women serving as head porters (‘kayeyies’) on our streets, school children learning under trees, flood killing us, many and scores dying through accidents, because resources that are supposed to be shared and distributed fairly among the people are stolen by the very few crooks at the top and helm who are using the power of the pen to subject many to miseries and abject poverty! Education and power of knowledge should rather be used to transform the lives of the impoverished, the less privileged, the deprived and the many trapped in the vicious cycle and see them come up and afford basic necessities in life as well. We do not carry pens and books in offices, at institutions, at meetings and at our highest positions just to sign contracts and policies to get the opportunity to steal the poor the more all in the name of knowledge. We all were created in the image of God, and we need to soldier each other on to climb the ladder to higher heights! The very essence of education is beaten and fails to exist the very moment we fail to use it as a tool to exterminate and eradicate poverty!
As government appointees, MP and Municipal and District Assembly Executive, we got to use our positions to see to it that the communities get safe drinking water, that every child created by God goes to school, and get educated, improve upon agricultural production and lives of farmers in the area and the communities. And we need to do this selflessly without stealing resources meant for projects; eschewing greediness; avoiding cutting corners in our dealings; and curtailing and controlling our insatiable appetites to steal what should belong the masses! As a teacher, you got to teach the child and the student with all your might and imbibe in him or her discipline as well. At Holy Child School, Cape Coast, Ghana, I once sacked a student from my class at a point for misbehaving when I was teaching. I told her, “My dear, I do not hate you. But I am here to teach you as a teacher and same time imbibe in you discipline! The essence of education seizes when it becomes an arena where students and people just come to learn for exams, pass and go away!”. Education should transform the individual holistically (mind, soul, body and heart) and refine him or her to be capable of creating a better society.
As an Agricultural Extension Officer, we got to teach the farmers new scientific methods of farming with all our might to see to it that the farmer’s life and that of the family is improved. A boss put in charge of monitoring and supervising the cocoa sector, for instance, cannot earn huge and scaring salaries when the cocoa farmers themselves are wallowing in miseries and abject poverty! When their cocoa farms are being bedeviled with pests and diseases! When fertilizers meant for distribution to the cocoa farmers are smuggled, stolen and not supplied to the farmers in question. When scholarships that are supposed to be given to the poor and needy are rather snubbed them and given to the already rich. As a civil servant you got to give it all your all even when your salaries delay. As a student you need to learn, swot and study so hard that you become so useful to the family and the society that brought you up as well. Do it, do it and do it even when it is so challenging. In fact, let the challenges challenge you more to give it all your might till we succeed and achieve! Again, one does not need throw rubbish and litter around indiscriminately. We should be judged by our conscience that throwing that litter around will at least block the water ways; and the consequent repercussion will be flooding, which eventually will lead to destruction and loss of your own properties, loss of son or daughter or someone’s or that of neighbor’s! Nature will always pay us back consequently for our own deeds!
Education in its totality is supposed to imbibe in people discipline and sense! Education should make one capable of thinking right! Education should make citizens become responsible followers of political parties! Education should make you capable of choosing conscience, discerning between rights and wrongs; condemning where condemnation needs be given and commending where commendation needs be given regardless of which political party or government is in power! Alas, and most importantly, education should make us eschew and stand against anything in the form of corruption! Corruption is evil, for it breaks down societies, increases inequality gap and breeds abject poverty across space and time! It is one of the greatest evil and highly unfair activity and tool that many powerful and educated in societies use to plunge many countries into sorry states, economic quagmire and anthropogenic abject poverty! Corruption again wards off investors from taking up investment decisions in a resource rich country; breeds diseases; creates bad societies; brings chaos and conflicts associated with the use of resources; and ultimately leads to avoidable and indiscriminate death of nations’ healthy, great and valuable human resource!
We are all involved in building that better society; one devoid of poverty; and one that is fair and just for the greater good of our people here! That better society we seek begins with me, it begins with us all together!
Albert Kobina Mensah
CEO/Founding President, Centre for Better Society Advocacy and Research Africa (CEBSAR-AFRICA)