Chairman of the Akuapem Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana (Rev. Dr. S. Ayetey-Nyampong);
Special Guest of Honour (Rev. Dr. J.O.Y. Mante);
Chairman and Board Members of the Presbyterian Senior High Technical School (PSHTS), Larteh;
Distinguished Invited Guests;
Old Boys and Girls
Members of the Press;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great joy to be part of today’s great event. I am very grateful for the invitation. As a pioneer of private tertiary education in this great nation of ours and a strong advocate of quality basic and secondary education for all our children, I do not take this invitation for granted.
Mr Chairman, I believe most of us are here today precisely because we believe education can make our lives better, and that through quality education, we can empower our people, and transform our nation and our communities. It is for this reason that we must insist on the provision of quality education at all levels in this nation.
I am a strong believer in the enormous possibilities inherent in the human potential and the critical role education plays in developing it. I believe all men were created equal, and that all men have virtually the same potential. No one was born a loser. The primary difference between the one considered to be a genius and the so-called “loser” is basically what they do with their potential, the support they receive in developing this potential, and the environment within which this potential is developed. It is precisely because of this that all of us must work together as a collective force, to eliminate the massive waste of human potential, as a result of shortfalls and inequalities that exist in our educational system in Ghana today.
The educational system in Ghana, like in most parts of Africa, has suffered from lack of effective long-term planning. Over the years, access to basic and secondary education has moved along two, never-ending, parallel lines: the one for the poor and the one for the rich. The one for the poor belongs primarily, to the rural folk and the inhabitants of smaller towns and communities like ours here at Larteh. Almost all the primary schools, Junior and Senior High Schools in these predominantly deprived areas, are poorly-equipped. They suffer from poor and inadequate infrastructure, non-existent library and laboratory facilities, ill-trained and poorly-motivated teachers, among other things. Children in these deprived areas do not have access to the same amount of information their counterparts in the well-endowed, mainly urban schools have, before they write the national examinations. Some of the children in these deprived areas suffer from poor nutrition. This group of disadvantaged majority, are left below the social ladder to languish in obscurity not because of any genetic or cultural deficit; they are left behind precisely because they are unable to fully develop their potential because they don’t have access to quality education.
Though, over the years, there have been certain interventions by the central government, these interventions have been woefully inadequate. Because of this, the bulk of the less endowed schools continue to operate under very difficult conditions, and the gap between the well-endowed schools and the poorly-endowed schools, continue to widen.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen:
As we go through the emotions of today’s event, we should not forget the fact that this School finds itself among the poorly equipped schools in this country. So our celebrations today should be tempered with sober reflection. Ours have been a long and arduous walk. We began as a Presbyterian Middle Boarding School, popularly known as Salem. We have continued our walk through the era of the Experimental Junior Secondary School days and we eventually arrived at Larteh Day Secondary School. We moved on again, and we have finally settled as Presbyterian Senior High Technical School, Larteh, our present day habitation. We have seen both night and day; and it appears, the night has been longer than the day, as we see ourselves engulfed by myriad of challenges as if we don’t have a mother or a father. Our lot has been, poor infrastructure, inadequate hostel facilities, and no working library. In a very strange fashion, the room that housed the makeshift computer laboratory that once existed here was recently converted into a hostel for the newly admitted students, something that should not be said or done in an era that is now controlled and directed by information and communication technology. Again, our lot has been lack of accommodation for teachers, as some, we are told, commute from Nsawam to Larteh on a daily basis. What is more, we don’t have a standby generator that will atone for the power outages that constantly afflict this town. In a context like this, to make reference to non-availability of internet connectivity in a school that has inadequate hostel facilities and other serious challenges, may sound flippant to many. We should however, not forget to remind ourselves that today’s world is driven by information and communication technology and our children should not be seen to be lagging behind if they are to be able to compete with the rest of the world.
Looking at the situation in this school today, after 25 or so years of existence as a high school, and that our own Benkum Secondary School, with a population of around 2000 students, has only five computers in its computer laboratory, and that almost all the Junior High Schools in this town, recorded only an average performance, at the BECE examinations, it will not be out of place for some of us here to identify with the Weeping Prophet, Prophet Jeremiah, when he lamented that:
“The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved; Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? Oh that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people” (Jer. 8:20-9:1, NIV).
But like Nehemiah of biblical times, we don’t have to weep forever, for change is possible. In spite of what appears to be a gloomy picture we see today, we can thank the good Lord that we have life. If we have life and that God is on our side, then there is hope.
When God blessed Adam and Eve, our progenitors, and said to them, according to Genesis 1:28, to “Be fruitful! Reproduce! Fill the earth! Take charge,” he meant just that. This is a command to every member of the human race since all of us came from Adam and Eve, according to Acts 17:26.
Each and everyone here has in-built, God-given capacity to turn things around for good. I believe with all my heart that, God being on our side, if all of us resolve to work together, we can change within the next twelve months most of the challenges this school faces today. Yes, Change will surely come, if all of us will rise up to the challenge, and contribute our quota.
Things begin to happen when, under dynamic leadership, people decide to take their destiny into their own hands to work towards a good cause. Time will not allow me to elaborate, but let me briefly refer you to Nehemiah of the Bible, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, and a recent development here in this town, Larteh.
Nehemiah was among the Jews who were taken to the Babylonian captivity. He rose to prominence while in captivity, and became a cupbearer (trusted ally) of King Artaxerxes I, thePersian King. While serving in this capacity, he heard that “those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and the gates have been burned with fire” Nehemiah 1:3). When he heard of the condition of Jerusalem, he obtained the necessary permission to return to Judah to correct the disgrace. He got to Judah in 444 BC and served as a Governor of Judah. He demonstrated, during his tenure as Governor, extraordinary skills in leadership and organisation, exhibiting patriotism, integrity, selflessness, energy, piety and humility. Because of this, and God’s favour, he was able to lead in the reconstruction of the wall in 52 days (Neh. 6:15), a task that had been abandoned for more than nine decades, since the return of the first returnees under Zerubbabel in 538 BC. The full account of this extraordinary feat is recorded in the book of Nehemiah.
Lee Kuan Yew (The Singaporean Miracle)
Singapore, is a city-state island in Southeast Asia. It was a former British colonial trading post. The land mainly consisted of swamps. It had its fair share of the legacy of divisive colonialism, and racially and ideologically divided population. It suffered from the devastations of the Second World War, and there was general poverty and disorder following the withdrawal of the foreign troops.
Lee Kuan Yew became this country’s first premier when he won its first general elections in 1959 at the age of 35. Singapore was granted independence in 1965, and Lee Kuan Yew began the arduous task of nation building. A strict disciplinarian par excellence, he managed to stamp out corruption, the last vestiges of the colonial era. He succeeded in providing mass public housing. It was often said that nothing in Singapore escaped his watchful eye. Now Singapore can boast of the world’s best airport and the world’s busiest port of trade. It has the world’s fourth-highest per capita real income. The country is now hailed as the city of the future. As one would expect, with his disciplinarian posture insisting on nothing but the best for his country, Lee Kuan Yew has been highly praised globally by his admirers and also vilified in equal measure by his detractors and those with entrenched positions. The story of the transformation of Singapore is recorded in the book, From Third World to First World. The Story of Singapore:1965-2000.
The Work at Methodist JHS, Larteh
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I would not have mentioned this here, but to galvanise all of us into action so that we can develop this town, and the educational institutions here, let me mention something that has just happened in this town.
About six weeks ago, just before this year’s Odwira festivities in this town, we conducted some inquiry, to identify the state of affairs with the schools and the Clinic in this town. During our inquiry, we got to know that about two years ago, the Methodist JHS received a donation of 10 computers from a benefactor but the computers had still not been put to use because of furniture requirement. In my speech at the Odwira Durbar, I could not hide my feelings as to why the School had not been able to arrange furniture for the computers.
Just after the Durbar on the 15th of October, the headmistress of the school was accompanied by our staff who conducted the research to explain that she had been working hard to raise a certain amount of money needed to complete the payment for the furniture. We promised to personally assist her. Two days after the Odwira grand durbar, we went to the school to present a donation to cover the additional amount required to pay for the cost of the furniture. Osabarima Enyine Asiedu Okoo Ababio III and his Secretary, Mr Asiedu Larbi, were gracious to accompany us to the School for this purpose.
When we got there we realised the problem was more complex. We realised that the problem on the ground goes far beyond the mere acquisition of furniture. We discovered that the room which was to serve as a library, a computer laboratory, and also as a classroom, needed partitioning, with a provision for additional windows and a door. We also discovered that the entire block had not been wired and that there was no power supply in the block. It was at this point that I fully discovered the enormity of the problem at stake. I was however, determined to make a difference in the School. Today, to the glory of God, we are happy to announce that, as I speak now, the partitioning work has been done; the electrical wiring for the entire block has been done; ceiling fans have been fixed, and power has been connected to the block. All the electrical sockets and other electrical works required for the computers to be put to use have all been fixed. Our IT Department is also ready to provide all the necessary assistance that the school will require. I expect the required painting work to be finished today. Things don’t just happen; we have to make things happen!!!
We expect the leadership of the school to soon arrange and transport the necessary furniture from Koforidua to the school. Thankfully, we have also placed a truck at the school’s disposal for the transportation of the furniture as and when they are ready. It is hoped that the office for the headmistress and her assistance will be appropriately furnished in due course. The same could, hopefully, be extended to the Teachers common room in the process of time. Some one has also promised to donate one desktop computer and a printer for the headmistress’ office. We hope to take delivery of these two items today. Here, we see a collective effort as we tackle a particular problem in an institution in this town. Let us do the same here.
There are other inspirational examples which time will not allow us to enumerate. But since we read about two weeks ago that most of the schools in the Eastern Region got a zero percent grading in the recent BECE examinations, allow me to mention that through our intervention in a Junior High School at Kyenku Larbi, a suburb of Adimadim, near Suhum, in the Ayensuano constituency in the Eastern Region, got 71% pass. This has never happened in that school before. This success story has become possible because of certain interventions by us. Our institution since the past two years, has been sponsoring two highly qualified teachers to teach in the school. We are providing decent housing for our teachers and two other government teachers, where they have access to a fridge, microwave oven, and a TV set. The teachers have committed themselves to running evening classes for the students. The village has not been connected to the national grid, so we have provided a small generator which is now the only source of power supply for to the house where the teachers stay. This same house also serves as the venue where the evening classes are organised. Unfortunately, this JHS is currently facing a challenge that should not be allowed to exist at all by the educational authorities under the Ministry of Education. The school presently does not have a teacher for the Pre-Technical Drawings course. There was one there before, but he was transferred sometime ago without bringing a replacement. According to the headmaster of the school, there have been promises for a replacement but, unfortunately, this is yet to happen. At our own level, we are arranging for a full-time person who could teach that course but we have not found one yet, so we have just arranged for someone to teach the subject on Friday evenings and Saturdays. The irony is that, I am told this is a compulsory subject which the students have to sit for at the BECE, which is just some few months away. This perhaps, could give us an idea of why some of the schools don’t do well in the national examinations.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, as I have said before, things don’t just happen, we have to make things happen! With visionary leadership at all levels, collective effort, hard work, dedication and sacrifice, we can transform the Presbyterian Secondary and Technical High School in this town, and other institutions around our country. Indeed, we can also in the same vein, indeed transform our various communities, and our country within a short period.
More often than not, we don’t get things done in our various communities, institutions, and indeed our country because of some of the following reasons: lack of leadership at various levels; failure to take charge or assume responsibility of situations; sometimes we don’t just do the right things or use the right methods. Sometimes we get our priorities wrong. At times we allow what is needful and pleasing to us, to override what is urgent, critical, and essential. Sometimes we simply fail to act; we just decide to do nothing! Sometimes our own personal needs and comfort dominate our thinking. Sometimes things don’t just happen because we are just not prepared to sacrifice or share what we have with others. This latter perspective is sometimes borne out of sheer greed and selfishness.
As a people, with a common humanity, we have the collective responsibility in addressing the ills, inequalities, and inequities in our nation and in our world. When we are able to assist individuals and communities to overcome the ravages of poverty, through the provision of quality education at all levels, and also provide other interventions, we can bring transformation to families, communities, and indeed our nation and our world.
I am fully convinced that with the use of the right methods, some sacrifice and sharing of what we have, coupled with visionary leadership at all levels, most of the challenges confronting this institution today can all be solved within the next few months. For example, the library, the computer laboratory, the immediate hostel and staff accommodation needs, internet connectivity needs of the school, the need for a standby generator can all be solved within a short period of time.
For this to happen, we need to display visionary leadership at various levels; leaders, who like Nehemiah of biblical times will summon all and sundry with the battle cry, “ Come and let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Nehemiah 1: 17). Equally, like Nehemiah’s days, it will also require the collective response of everyone here, and all those who are associated with this institution and this town, to respond “Let us start rebuilding” (1: 18b). Indeed we must go beyond the affirmative response, to immediately begin this good work here. And Larteh Presbyterian Senior High Technical School, can become a beautiful, well-endowed school, which this town, and indeed this nation, can be proud of.
Mr Chairman, before I bring my speech to a close, allow me to share some thoughts on the development of the deprived areas in this country, and also some thoughts concerning certain issues affecting the educational sector.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is agreed that the poverty level in the three Northern Regions in this country is very high and infrastructure is under developed in most places in these three northern regions. Any effort which will bring that part of the country in line with the rest of Ghana is a good step. We should however, not forget the fact that there are communities in the Eastern Region of Ghana, and indeed other parts of our country, whose condition is as bad as those living in the three northern regions. It will therefore be a travesty of justice if this fact is ignored as we distribute the nation’s wealth which belongs to all of us.
On the educational sector, I wish to indicate that as we consider the current debate regarding the duration of our Senior High School system, we should not fail to deal with the issues that matter most. Our concentration should be finding a system which will adequately prepare our children to compete in the global arena. We should work for a system that will adequately prepare our children to enable them to undertake university education anywhere in the world, not only in Ghana. We should be concerned about why WASCE English is not acceptable for a university entry in countries like Britain, whereas as students with similar qualifications from other countries and elsewhere are accepted. We should also be concerned about why applicants with very good passes in the West Africa School Certificate Examinations cannot gain direct admission into a British University, without going through a one-year international foundation programme. I think, it is imperative that we don’t forget these and other related critical matters as we continue the discussions on this very important subject.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, our world is becoming increasingly automated and Ghana should not allow itself to be left behind in any way. In most countries today, the educational sector has been highly computerised, and this has improved efficiency and reduced cost. It is from this perspective that we should handle the current debate regarding the current computerisation of the school selection system. Instead of abandoning the whole project, we should work towards the removal of inherent weaknesses, loopholes, and inefficiencies associated with the current system. Since the checking of BECE results, and the selection of schools have all been automated, the central government must accelerate efforts in getting computers to all the schools in the rural areas and also accelerate computer literacy these areas. The current computer literacy gap between the urban dwellers and the rural dwellers undermines the current automation system which we are trying to adopt as a nation.
Mr Chairman, Nananom, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you all; I wish the Presbyterian Senior High and Technical School, a happy anniversary and prosperous years ahead.