Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah once said “United we stand, divided we fall”. And I’ll add that we can only thrive under one Ghana. There is no nation called Northern Ghana neither is there a nation called Southern Ghana. There is only one Ghana. However, Justice Sarpong’s article on Ghana web with the title “Northerners Should Pay To Feed Their Children In SHS” speaks to the contrary of one Ghana.
In spite of the outright bigotry Mr. Sarpong has shown towards Northerners, I will like to respond to him in the kindest and simplest tone possible. Because despite the hatred and the insults on Northerners, his arguments may seem appealing to some Ghanaians.
Disclaimer: I’m a Northerner who benefited from the subsidized school feeding.
I will like knock down the erroneous contention that, so many reasonable Ghanaians believe in, that is, subsidizing the school fees of Northerners is discriminatory. No is not. Ghana is a big family. Like every big family, the head of the family wants everybody in the family to succeed, hence, provide its scarce resources according to needs. Simply put, say you have twins, Ama and Umar. Ama has a job and Umar doesn’t. Will it be fair to give each of them equal daily allowance? Of course not. However, does it mean you are discriminating against Ama by giving her less money? Of course not. Just like the parents, in the case of a nation, we all contribute by paying taxes unequally. And the resources are shared based on needs unequally. On a first thought, it may seem unfair. But, on a second thought, it does not only seem fair but it is a very fair practice. Think about it. A discovery of natural resource in any part of Ghana doesn’t only belong to the owner of the land in which the resource is found but the entire nation. So, if we accept the glory of every city as the glory of Ghana, we must also accept the agony of every city as the agony of Ghana. And we always to do that, for instance, fire out breaks in Accra. The people in the North didn’t sit unconcern; they agonize with the people of Accra, because we are the same people from the same nation.
Furthermore, the idea of government subsidizing less develop cities is not new. It dates back to antiquity, from Mesopotamia to date. Wait a minute, before you dismissed this as an American idea. The practice cut across cultures, tribes, nations and religions. Take the reunification of Germany as a case to be examined. The Germany government has spent billions of Euros to modernize East Germany to be like the west. These are not the equivalence of subsidize school fees. These are just direct investment from direct taxes. Moreover, I can easily state the amount of money the UK government spends every year to subsidize some cities but I don’t want it to be like a promotion of the west. So I’ll leave it at that.
Even more important reason to keep subsidizing the feeding of SHS in the North is the gap difference for natural reasons. The educational gap between the north and the south is about 50 years. Moreover, the South gets its first secondary school 75 years before Tamasco came along. Make no mistake, this was not entirely the fault of the Northerners but it was a natural cause; i.e. The South had gold which the white man needed so he decided to settle in the south, and partly because the Northerners started with Mankaranta –due to trade with the Hausa people—which delayed their acceptance to secular education. So until we are equal, Ghana has a moral duty and obligation to subsidize education the same way, almost, every nation does throughout human history.
Back to Mr. Sarpong’s argument, he argued Ghana is suffering from infrastructural deficit therefore; we must stop subsidizing the education of those who can’t afford to pay to fix our infrastructural. Which weird for two reasons: one, Ghana will always face infrastructural problems even if we dedicate all our resources to building infrastructure because of scarce resources and depreciation. Second, he supports building schools and encourages constructing of roads as supposed to helping children attend those schools. It’s like advocating buying phones for your children but rejecting ever having to buy units on the phone.
To Mr. Sarpong credit, he suggested a solution, which is; making all Northern SHS Day Schools. To which I say the cure is worse than the disease. Day School doesn’t solve the problem it just creates a much difficult ones. First, it will make it harder for students from far distances to attend certain SHS. Example, it will be difficult for children from Bolga to attend Nobisco or Tamasco. Moreover, how many families will be willing to let their 14 years old girls and boys travelled to Tamale to live on their own for SHS ? Not many. Even under school authorities’ supervision, we have heard of students involved in prostitution, how much more, zero supervision? Also, making every school a day school comes with a cost, i.e. the cost of building more schools in each community. Which I suggest will necessarily surpass providing subsidies to SHS.
All of these problems will be created without solving the main problem at hand: the wealth gap. As someone born and raised in the North, I know too well what families go through. Some families are in abject poverty such that even under this subsidize school fees; they cannot still afford to pay. They are hundreds of families if not thousands children whose parents have to take out loans from neighbors or source support from generous neighbors to pay their children school fees, not when they are in school( because they couldn’t afford to pay) but after graduation to collect their WASSCE Results Papers. As someone who attended secondary school in the North, I have heard very horrible stories of people suffering to pay school fees from friends, and family members. And the idea that, every Northerner has animals to sell pay for his or her children school fees is simply false and wishful thinking. It is like saying every American has a private jet.
That is why I think our political leaders deserve great commendation for keeping this subsidized feeding program in place, from the NDC to the NPP. As someone who had to stay home for weeks during the Kuffour administration due to lack of funds, and a stern critique of the Mahama administration, I will like to personally thank the president for not repeating past mistakes, of over delaying school feeding funds, by disbursing the funds quick this time round.
To the president, I say thank you. To Mr. Sarpong, despite the insults and the hatred, I say Northerners love you.
You welcome. Can we all get back to work? We have very important things to do.
The ideas expressed here are that of Umar Najeeb Mohammed, a Ghanaian student in the US. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.