Wednesday, 15 February 2017

DIFFERENT PATHS!


More often than not we try to compete among ourselves for the scarce resources that nature has endowed us with. Competition is good, but how we compete matters a lot.

In school, we compete for the top position through whichever means. In the place of worship, we compete among ourselves to gain the attention of others through the best hair-do, shoes, dress among others instead of being focused on our Creator.

In the family, we compete among ourselves for the greatest family property, fame/titles, or recognition.
In politics, we compete for the juiciest positions, we fight for titles, fame, wealth and class/status regardless of the means by which such are attained. We deceive the people that we mean well, we get there and show them that we meant wealth for ourselves.

At home and at school, children are taught by their parents and teachers that in order to make it in life, they must fight to beat their colleagues in everything ranging from sports to academics through fair or foul means. They grow up and the circle continues.

In all the above scenarios, we tend to forget that God is not a creator of confusion so regardless of where we find ourselves, our paths are not the same. We tend to forget that we can't all have certain things at the same time but whatever the case may be, God in His own wisdom has created for us different paths (destinies), hence the failure of one man is not the guarantee for another's success and vice versa.

This life can be likened to meeting different people at a transport yard, some will be traveling to the North, others  to the South, East, West and others may not be traveling at all, they just accompanied some of the travelers to the transport yard.

Just as we strive to win almost everything for ourselves, we must learn and also teach our young ones how to lose some battles graciously with integrity, we've got to let them know that, in life you will win some battles and lose some. It is alright to lose sometimes.

You see, the world is becoming too self-centred or driven by selfishness. Life becomes more meaningful when we stay true to ourselves, appreciative of what God has given us, work hard in dignity and stay focused. In that way, we shall all be great if not greater in our chosen fields at His own time because He has created for us, different paths.

Prosper Dzitse
Ghana's Youth Ambassador to the Commonwealth

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

THE DILEMMA OF A SAINT

Ali and Frank have a friendship that has lasted several decades. They have many things in common, a fact which serves to nourish their friendship even more. There are also many things which they don’t necessarily have in common. One is that Ali is Asante whereas Frank is Ewe. Another is that Ali is a Muslim and Frank is a Christian. The first has no consequence because much of it is socially constructed. In other words, all the cultural differences between their ethnic groups are man-made and there can be no consequence thereto. The second one however has a consequence; in Ali’s mind, being a Muslim will produce a positive consequence namely a divine reward in the form of heaven whilst not being a Muslim will have a negative consequence. Same is true for Frank.

So there you have a Christian who has a Muslim friend. They are so good to each other that he will do whatever it takes to protect the friend from harm. The feeling is mutual and his Muslim friend will do just the same. But both of them believe in Hell fire to be the greatest of all harm, yet Frank must believe that Ali will go to Hell because he (Ali) doesn't believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and personal Saviour. In the same vein, Ali must believe that Frank will go to Hell because he (Frank) doesn't believe in Prophet Muhammad as the last and noblest prophet. It is their humanity that makes them believe in a spiritual being (God) yet their spirituality insists a betrayal of their humanity. Such is the great dilemma which is better not thought of, let alone spoken about but holds true nonetheless.
Could the solution lie in Ali changing his faith to become Christian? Perhaps! For certainly, he will not have to believe that Frank will be burnt by the fire. He will now believe that both of them are saved from the punishment of the fire. But that is only in respect of Frank. What about Salim, the other friend who is not as close to Ali as Frank but who grew up together with in the same neighbourhood and who he certainly will not want to be in harm’s way? Salim is a Muslim and by virtue of Ali’s new faith must be believed to be a companion of the ultimate fire. For a person who has several Christian friends and several Muslim friends, it is impossible to escape this dilemma.

Millions of people across the world have this difficulty; and it exists even if they have never thought about it. Through their life and work, they come into contact and form lasting friendships with people of different faiths and if they happen to be religious people, then their dilemma is the same as Ali’s. Sometimes it is so unpleasant that one will rather push it to the side of the brain where he will never remember it. But it remains a fact of his life regardless.
Clearly, it is an unending affliction. For as long as people believe in institutionalized religion, no matter what it is, which makes them believe in God, heaven and hell, their dilemma will forever remain. How to resolve it is the question with which all humanity must grapple.

There are those who do not believe in institutionalized religion; they may believe in God but they don’t believe in any religious creed. These people are somewhat free from such an affliction because for them, God does not reward based on belief in Jesus or Muhammad or any intermediaries for that matter. There are yet those who do not even believe that there is God.  For them, everything religion is socially constructed and is of no more consequence than ethnicity. They too have no dilemma. But it is inevitable that their Christian or Muslim friends and family – if they have any – will think of them in the same light that Ali and Frank of each other regarding the hereafter. Indeed in most cases, the Christians and Muslims categorise themselves into “Believers” in opposition to the “Disbelievers” and when this happens, there is the conception among the “Believers” of a higher grade punishment reserved for the “Disbelievers”. The believers are seen as the saints while the disbelievers are seen as the devil. In other words, a believer friend of a disbeliever will certainly believe that the latter will go to hell even if the disbeliever does not think same of him.

In all this, the common humanity between humans is often relegated to the background because it is supposed to be of this world and in the hierarchy of things that follow man to the other world, it is not very high up. For if not so, then why must Christians believe that someone who has done so much good to fellow human beings is headed for hell fire simply because he is not a born again Christian? And why must Muslims believe that regardless of what good you do on this earth, you cannot be rewarded Heaven if you don’t believe in Prophet Muhammad? And why would God create humans but yet make humanity count so less?


Perhaps there is the need for a rethink of what humanity really means and what place spirituality should have in humanity or what place humanity should have in spirituality; for the dilemma of the saint seems perpetual.

Hardi Yakubu

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

AFTER 53 YEARS OF THE AU, WHAT HAS BEEN THE RESULT?



The African Union, formerly known as the Organization of African Unity is 53 years. Since its formation by 32 member countries in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the union has gone through a number of changes, ranging from change of name to increase in membership.

The AU's objectives as set out in its Charter, are to  among other things promote unity and solidarity of African states; coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa.

The vision of the AU is: “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”

The question one may ask is, has the Continental organization been able to achieve its aims and objectives taking into consideration its charters, protocols, agreements, treaties and regulations? The answer is an obvious no.

For instance, one of the major challenges that is currently facing the AU is how to fight the insurgence of militants who have risen against its member countries. Despite the numerous security meetings by its leaders, the AU has still not been able to draw any concrete plan of action towards fighting the menace. It is baffling why the AU has not put in place a standby force up to date. It is not strange to wake up everyday to hear of the activities of these unscrupulous organizations which go a long way to affect lives and property on the continent thereby lowering productivity.

One other challenge facing it is youth unemployment. Youth unemployment on the continent as compared to others, is of great worry to many and this if not properly taken care of could become a major security threat.

 When it comes political decision making, one will describe the approach of the AU as reactive rather than proactive. It was disturbing that the AU appeared indecisive on the post election violence in Cote d'Ivoire and the overthrow of  Col. Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. The AU is noted to always wait for countries outside Africa to take action on matters affecting its member states before it comes on board or even sit aloof  whiles things fall apart.

The operations and activities of the AU are hardly made known to its citizens. As of June 2014, the AU has 50 treaties, conventions, protocols and charters. These are  meant to affect the lives of its people, but almost all of these documents remain on paper.

It is estimated that by 2030, there will be roughly 24.6 million people entering the job market in sub- Saharan Africa annually. This growth represents two- thirds of the world's entire workforce. Out of this, more than 63% are expected to be people below 35 years.

In 2006, the AU Heads of States and Governments endorsed an African Youth Charter, in Banjul, the Gambia. This document came into force in 2009 and is to span to 2018. This document is meant to address among other problems, youth marginalization, unemployment, illiteracy and crime, but as of today,  it remains on paper with no visible outcome.

How can citizens build a prosperous Africa when major decisions that are made are not properly communicated to them or when their involvement in making and implementing such decisions is negligible?

An AU that is 53 years should be the one that educates its members on what is expected of them through proper communication.

For an effective AU, its leaders must walk the talk, they must get busy getting results rather than putting together just documents, they must be bold to call their members to order when the need be. They must be proactive towards finding solutions to the political, socio-economic, environmental, and the security challenges that confront members countries.

Prosper Dzitse
Ghana's Youth Ambassador to the Commonwealth

Thursday, 5 May 2016

MAKING EDUCATION WORK (2):

Why is Schooling Like Playing a Football Game?

I don't watch football and I can hardly claim to know the best football teams in the world. Actually, I doubt if there is a decidedly best team as that usually depends on who is doing the evaluation, what their basis is and which teams they support. So Hearts of Oak supporters will never agree that Kotoko is the best team in Ghana's Premier League and the other way around is also true. Same way Man U supporters will disagree if you tout Chelsea as the best; neither will Real Madrid supporters ever take it that Barcelona plays better than their team.

But even with my layman football lenses, I can tell which team plays good soccer when I watch a football game. The passes, ball possession, crosses etc define the quality of the game. However is the quality of football a team displays on the field the yardstick for making them win or lose the match? Absolutely not. It is the team that scores the most goals which wins the match.

This is exactly how our educational system is run in Ghana. Indeed, it appears to be the case in many places across the world. There tends to be too much emphasis on examinations. This is to the extent that nobody counts unless they are able to pass exams. I had a friend in primary school who was very good with drawing. We used to pay him with food, biscuits and other provisions to draw pieces of art for us and he could draw practically anything, his imaginations were wild and intriguing and his drawings were brilliant. But he was not so good in class and eventually fell in the cracks and could not continue. Why? Exams.

There are several of such stories that I can recount from various levels of schooling and that is just me. Thousands, even millions of such memories are there with people everywhere. Our educational system is structured in such a way that people's talents are hardly recognized let alone harnessed; students are only as good as the grades they make in exams.

The point has always been made that examination especially as it exists in our schools does not test the holistic abilities of students. Most often, students are tested on their ability to memorise and reproduce to obtain marks. That is why students mainly concentrate on passing their exams in school and not necessarily on acquiring knowledge and this in turn explains why most will complete school without knowing exactly what they learnt. They didn't learn to know or to apply but to pass exams.

In order for our educational system to work, there is the need for us to de-emphasize exams and focus more on skill building. The current orientation plays a huge role in the non-performance of the educational system. In other words, even if the curricula at the various levels are changed, there will be little improvement if emphasis is still on the "Chew-Poor-Pass-and-Forget" mode of assessment of students.

There have been oft-repeated calls - in the context of the discussion on graduate unemployment - for entrepreneurship to be added to the school curriculum. I usually find such calls ridiculous because anything added to the curriculum will only add to the pressure on students. So long as the emphasis is on exams, students will make grade A's in entrepreneurship and still end up joining the Unemployed Graduates Association of Ghana. Wonder why I think so?

Take a look at your primary school curriculum and you will find Environmental Studies; you probably scored 100% in that subject every term but you still drop plastic material indiscriminately without knowing what damage that does to the environment. You might have learnt (no, chewed and poured) several definitions of corruption in a lot of social studies textbooks in JHS and in SHS but you still give bribes and at the least opportunity, you plunder other people's resources to your own advantage.

The point is that as long as exams remain the top priority, students hardly learn. Content is not imbibed. Most of the time, it is only memorised and reproduced because that is what is rewarded. Skills are neither rewarded nor potentials developed.

In much the same way that a football team is only as good as the goals it scores in a game, students are  only as good as the grades they make. If a team does not score enough goals in a season, it drops out of the league. Likewise, if a student does not pass as many exams as are required, they drop out of school.

School cannot work if it is run like a football game.

Hardi Yakubu

Also check out the following

MAKING EDUCATION WORK (1): Merge Technical Training with Mainstream Education

WINNING THE FIGHT FOR QUALITY EDUCATION: LOCALIZING THE GLOBAL VISION

Thursday, 7 April 2016

THE TOXIC TRIANGLE: HOW RELIGIOUS FANATICISM, PARTISAN POLITICS AND DISHONESTY ARE DESTROYING GHANA (Part 1)

My late grandfather was a staunch catholic. His love for catholic doctrines was commendable. As a curious young boy, I probed the rationality of many of the doctrines but I was rebuked for “questioning” the authority of God. I grew up in a family where we could not challenge or question the things of God as commanded; “Touch Not my anointed, and do my prophets no harm – 1 Chronicles 16:22, Psalm 105:15”.  This scripture was boldly carved on a wooden plaque in our bedroom.

Fast forward into my university life, I realized I was slowly but surely drifting away from church because of my abhorrence for ambiguous yet unquestionable doctrines in the church. I became a consistent critic of religious dogmatism. In first year, I shared room with four Christian fanatics. They could skip lectures the whole semester with the alibi of attending to ‘spiritual responsibilities’. Though a Christian, I was considered “unreligious’ because I refused to get as deeply involved as they were.

It is very common to see many Ghanaians use religion to escape their responsibilities. Many people complain of hardship but abandon their jobs for long hours of prayer meetings. Many students spend every evening at prayer meetings to the detriment of their books. Pastors are cashing in on many gullible church members. In a synopsis, prayer and church meetings have become full time jobs for many people. The most successful fraudsters use religion as a bait to get to their victims. In my 4 years in Legon, I can recall at least 50 fraud cases involving some “pastors” who duped their victims (mostly females) using false prophecies.

Drive through town and see posters of “Mallams” and fetish priests advertising their illegal activities in the name of religion. Quite surprisingly, the nauseating sight of these posters is yet to provoke an appropriate response from law enforcement agencies. How can we allow people go away with an advert for rituals? 

Is it not ironic, that there is a proliferation of many churches, yet corruption has become pervasive? Can we justify the moral decadence? Despite our Holier than though attitude, we continue to borrow from the same countries that we have condemned as satanic. The USA has endorsed gay rights and Germany has legalized adultery but they continue to flourish whilst we flounder. What is the role of religion in our quest to develop?

Many of us spend the most productive hours of the day on religious activities. The craze for religion without principles is becoming too much. Take a tour to the Achimota forest, Sarbah field, Aburi Mountains and some of the known prayer camps during working hours and you will be amazed at the number of people praying for prosperity but working for nothing. There are disturbing videos of pastors physically abusing the vulnerable but the Christian Council has been loudly silent.

It is dangerous, very poisonous for our generation to place faith in religion when even the Holy Scriptures support hard work and innovation. I dare say, we have become an extremely lazy generation that expects to reap where we have not sown. The subject of religious dogmatism must be given meticulous attention.

Self-styled prophet Obinim has been trending, this supposed man of God has verbally abused people in the past, captured on tape physically abusing a pregnant woman and engaged many unethical things in the name of religion. Sadly, he is just one of the many “pastors” who are carrying out indecent activities in the name of religion.

Quite disappointingly, the Christian council is only able to condemn politicians for indecent acts when they have a bug in their own home. How long can we accept such height of irresponsibility because we are afraid to offend the so called religious people?


Religious fanatism is destroying the moral fibre of our society.

Eric Edem Agbana
Founder of United volunteers Network and former SRC President, University of Ghana 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

WINNING THE FIGHT FOR QUALITY EDUCATION: LOCALIZING THE GLOBAL VISION


As the world prepares to rally around a new set of goals to improve lives and protect the planet, we must be ready to own the Seventeen goals and localize them to fit our situation so as not to wander in the wilderness of global efforts to ensure fair distribution of development. All Seventeen of the Sustainable Development Goals which have been adopted by the World leaders are relevant but I believe at the core of all these is the non-negotiable need for our leaders to make quality education accessible to all children.

Prior to the 2012 general elections in Ghana, Education was at the heart of the campaign promises, a development I consider as positive and an improvement in the trend of our political campaigns. Education is undoubtedly the key to the development of Ghana and indeed any other country.
Education is the most powerful catalyst for development in the years ahead, serving as a bridge from Poverty to Prosperity, from deprivation to abundance, from diseases to good health. Education provides the surest guarantee to achieving all the other priorities of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ghana’s educational sector continues to receive attention from successive governments but as to the question of sufficiency, the quality of our education sector gives a mirror reflection of that. Free and compulsory education, though essential, may not be enough to ensure that all children of school going age are actually in the classroom. We still see thousands of children on the streets when they should be in school, thousands of children are in the farms helping their peasant parents and guardians. Educational initiatives must leave no one behind – not the poor or disadvantaged, and not the rural child.

While applauding government for introducing 200 Community Day Senior High Schools to address the issue of access in some remote areas, it is important to lay bare the facts that children in most rural communities are still struggling to even receive standard education at the Primary and junior High school level. Beyond getting children into school, efforts must be made to ensure the quality of the education they receive. Setting targets based on quality rather than quantity will be difficult but not impossible. WE CAN DO IT.

As we embrace the Sustainable Development Goals, we must double our efforts in the area of education.  Experts estimate that providing for a proper education system requires at least 5% of a country’s GDP and usually about 20% of public spending. I sincerely doubt if Ghana has the capacity to sustainably undertake such expenditure without completely neglecting other critical sectors. For the time being, relying on development partners remains an option and we must make frantic efforts to get more investors and philanthropists into the sector.

District assemblies must also localize the vision of attaining quality education. The central government alone cannot facilitate the attainment of the vision. Civil Society Organizations and all other partners must augment government’s efforts. For many of my friends and me, our lives testify how access to education can transform lives hence our resolve to Advocate and Volunteer towards improving education. There is a transformative power in Education. ACCESSIBLE QUALITY EDUCATION is the PILL to cure POVERTY, DISEASE and INEQUALITY.

 ERIC EDEM AGBANA, founder of the United Volunteers Network and a former SRC president at the University of Ghana.






Monday, 4 April 2016

THE VISA MIRACLES AND THE DESPERATE JOURNEYS TO THE WEST


I chanced upon one of the nation’s prominent men of God on his usual television program. I watched with great admiration as he performs several miracles: the blind could see, the lame started walking and the diseased were healed. There were several others who gave testimonies about the Goodness of our Lord and other miracles that they experienced in their lives; Indeed God is able to exceed our expectations in all the things we desire of him. However, a particular testimony which was received with great applause from the congregation troubled me; it was the testimony of a woman in her thirties (I guess) who narrated how she has been given an American Visa after several rejections at the Embassy. According to her, the visa came only after she visited the church for prayers. Praise the Lord!!!

Unlike the cheering congregation, my soul was troubled because I could not fathom why a congregation will rejoice over a Visa to travel outside one’s mother nation. The mood of the congregation means that given the opportunity, most or even all the members of the congregation would travel abroad, a disturbing trend.

Unfortunately, this particular incident is only one in a million. Travelling outside Ghana has become trendy especially for the youth of Ghana. Most young people believe they can only become successful by seeking greener pastures outside the boundaries of our country.

A tour to the American Embassy and some other embassies and high commissions within the capital reveals how desperate Ghanaians are towards leaving Ghana. As early as 3 a.m., one could spot a long queue in front of these embassies in a desperate attempt to acquire a travelling visa. It is therefore not surprising how the officials of these embassies treat Ghanaians disdainfully. Those who are unable to go through this hassle resort to using unapproved routes to fulfill their travelling ambitions. 

The dangers of using these unapproved routes do not even scare them. Several lives have been lost in the process. Many migrants from Ghana make the dangerous journey through the Brazilian Amazon through Colombia, Panama and Mexico. Many of them lose their lives but it is not deterring enough for many desperate youth.

Currently, there is a huge deficit in the nurse to patient ratio not because the country does not produce enough nurses but because most of them leave the shores of Ghana just after receiving their training. The same can be said of doctors and some other professionals. Interestingly, most of them use these enviable professional qualifications to do menial jobs that they will never accept here in Ghana.
Undoubtedly, the economic conditions of Ghana are not as rewarding as those of these developed countries but it is time we recognize the fact that Ghana is our home country and no one can build Ghana for us except ourselves.

We need to reorient ourselves, we need to brace ourselves up to the task of building our country. Americans built America to be what it is today, it took leadership to make China and Singapore what they are today. We have the capacity to do same and make Ghana a home for Ghanaians.  I wish above all things that we all embrace the challenge of building a Ghana that we can be proud of. The youth must use their ingenuity to water the grasses here so that our own pastures will be greener. I look forward to a day when acquiring a visa won’t be a miracle.

Successive governments have demonstrated commitment towards investing in improving infrastructure and other social amenities. There have been several youth development policies such as Youth Enterprise Support Fund, Youth Employment Agency and many more. Certainly, we should be able to take advantage of the opportunities that abound in the country and we will surely be heading towards prosperity. Young people must be encouraged to stay here and contribute to the development of our homeland.

I believe in Ghana, I believe in the ability of the Ghanaian youth.

Eric Edem Agbana,
Founder of the United Volunteers Network and a former SRC president at the University of Ghana