The Bitter Truth About Ghana’s Education System

    /    Mar 19, 2016   /     Feature, NewsBreak  /    Comments are closed  /    1105 Views
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Is it not ironical, in fact, ridiculous that a society which prides itself with its communal spirit, communal ethics, communal living, and communal everything, should run a system of education that is directly contrary to its core values?

This question has subjected me to a form of cognitive agony comparable to the Gethsemane crucible (experience). Related to this is the question: has it not dawned on Africa and Africans (especially those directly in charge of our education system) that the current system of education, its structure and content, contradict who we are as a people? If this has come to our attention, why are we not doing anything about it? Maybe it is just far too insignificant to be paid attention to.

One incontestable defining characteristic of the African society is its communality as opposed to the individualism of the West and elsewhere. It is so much a part of the unspoken African philosophy of life that without the community spirit, we would not have a strong quality of life. This collective ethic is so important and beneficial to the person who serves as it is to the recipient. In fact, it is the way in which we live and grow and develop.

This is the African’s philosophy that defines his world view about life: I am because you are, and you because of me – this is ubuntu; this is ujaama. This is the worldview of the African essentially defined by compassion, humane humanity, co-operation and self-help.
It is not as if the African is not competitive; his competitive urge is defined and driven by this very perspective on life.

The best education system is one in which every effort is carefully calculated to help students, parents, teachers and all significant role players in education to cherish and preserve the ethic and culture that nourishes and strengthens them as a people.
If this is by any means right, the valid logical extension is that the better alternative system of education for Africa would be one which foundation, scope and focus reflects, recaptures and fosters the communal spirit that is distinguishably characteristic of the African society.

By recapturing and reviving this communal spirit, this system will rectify the misconception with which we have come to look upon education as a tool for development, be it individually, communally or nationally. It will restore the original meaning of education as a foundation for the future; an empowerment to make prudent choices; a deliberate, conscious effort that emboldens the youth (bearers of the baton of our generation) to re-live their culture and ethic with renewed and enlightened spirit.


Take a look at the structure, content and modus operandi of the current education system founded on the Western Template. Selfishness, self-centeredness, individualism, unnecessary competition – these are its defining characteristics.
Right from the crèche, kids who are adjudged best and on that basis rewarded are those who do well on their own. Right there, we plant the seed of individualism in our kids. It becomes ingrained in their thinking and upbringing that when they try hard to outwit others (irrespective of whether the group they belong to fail or not) you will be rewarded and honoured. Each individual’s success or failure is his or hers. “Your failure is not mine, so is your success. My failure is not yours, so is my success.” This is when the ungodly, un-African “each one for himself, God for us all” instinct is let loose.

To worsen this, there are very little or no effective mechanisms to reward and honour team or collective excellence. When did we ever give certificates, marks, and other forms of honour to kids who showed excellent team spirit by either helping the weaker ones to step up or doing something (no matter how small) successfully as teams? Anytime we hold high the hands of those kids excelled individually, and use them as mentors for other kids to emulate, we send strong but dangerous message into their critical spirits; message that unfortunately nourishes the selfish urge over the selfless one. In this way, it becomes unprofitable to think, behave and act in ways that promote group interests.

Once we keep heaping our time, money, rewards, honour and all on individual self-centered excellence, we don’t only corrupt their thinking at that level, we corrupt their morals too. Don’t forget, “as a man thinketh, so is he.” The thinking and moral foundation once destroyed, what can the child do?

Even in activities and endeavors in which these kids do team or collaborative work (e.g. sports) we find a way to single out individuals and hype them, sometimes, as if the others did nothing.
Worst of all, the child sees this unfortunate selective hyping of the individual in all aspects of social life; in religion, politics, work etc. This sadly runs through our education from the primary to the tertiary levels.

Our method of examination reveals this same pathetic phenomenon. We don’t discuss questions; we don’t help others to remember what they have forgotten or don’t know; we cover or are asked to cover our work. At that decisive moment of the child’s educational life, there is nothing like team, group or community; he is left on his own, and when he fails, we reprimand him. Why won’t he use every available means to excel? Here too, another dangerous demon is born; “the end justifies the means” gene is activated.

During normal class lessons, the child is not supposed to ask his colleagues for answers to questions they either do not understand or have forgotten. Neither can they do it in exams. Sooner than later, the child gets drowned in the pool of “me, myself and I” syndrome.

Unfortunately, parents have gradually imbibed this into our homes. Their kids who excel are seen to bring them honour; those who fail by this standard are seen to bring them shame. Without reflectively considering the consequences, they begin to relate with these kids selectively; favouring the “smart” ones and insulting the “dull” ones.
Education and family are the two most important institutions which consciously raise citizens.

My question then is; what the hell are we doing to these kids? What kind of citizens are we forming with this kind of system?

You know my answer? We are raising dangerously subjective, acutely selfish, egoistically self-centered and unnecessarily individualistic bunch of citizens with unhealthy competitive spirits. Why would we not have a morally degenerate society polarized along selfish lines and full of people with deep seated self-seeking tendencies?

Now, these are men and women who become kings, chiefs, politicians, civil servants, academic professors, religious leaders and all. Garbage in garbage out.

This is indeed the real state of affairs of our education system and what citizens it has produced so far. This is why moral goodness, professionalism, competence and above all, sensitivity to the plight of others, have or are becoming the exceptions and not the norm.
Faced with the gravity, intensity and magnitude of this situation, the Afro-pessimist throws up his hands in despair. But the Afro-optimist refuses to have his faith and hope be crushed by the seriousness of this bleak and brutally wounded situation.


Well, only the will to do it will not be enough. It needs to be backed by a certain stubbornly radical resolve to act decisively now to redeem the situation.
It is as if the words of Cesar Chavez were directed at us. He said: “we cannot (as Africans) seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community…our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and our own.” How true!

We have to make a radical ‘u-turn’, a return to the core values that define who we are as Africans, and to redefine and institute a new education system that does not only incorporate these values, but consciously cherishes and preserves them. I am talking of an education system that is African in structure and content; that respects, teaches and promotes the communal spirit of Africa.
In any case, competition, as Jarod Kintz would say “is healthy especially when all your competitors are unhealthy and hopefully sick and absent during the competition.”


How can we expect citizens we raised and armed with unnecessarily competitive and selfish spirit to be good team players? Why have individuals who fared well in their private business perform abysmally in political and public offices? Why do we find heads rolling and crushing whenever we are put together to pursue public interest? Why are there too many inflated egos in Ghana?

Anytime Israel went, dared to go against the core values that defined them as “people of God” they were referred to in prophetic parlance as harlots. In this sense, Africa is a century harlot; she has divorced her defining values for far too long and it has come back haunting her.

In any case, what is the essence of education; to understand what is taught, incorporate it and live a socially responsible life or to become first in your class and get favoured over others?

I refuse to believe we cannot do it. It starts with all of us. Right from home, through the school to public service, when the communal spirit, sensitivity to the other, cooperative self-help and compassion become the values that shape and drive our lives, we will grow up to be citizens whose real fulfillment is in how much positive impact and social service we have rendered than in how many times we came tops in class, or in the office.

Since the current education system has proven incapable of producing this kind of citizens, why keep it? Let us advocate for a new and better education that will be defined by real African values. It is time to return to our roots. This is the time to be truly African.
Rise one, rise all. After all, whom are we competing? Why are we competing? How are we competing?

Source: Kombian Somtuaka |

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