By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
The decision by the Nduom-owned and chaperoned Progressive People’s Party (PPP), a Convention People’s Party (CPP) breakaway group, to seek a Supreme Court interpretation of Article 38, Section 2 of Ghana’s Fourth-Republican Constitution has absolutely no relevance vis-a-vis which Ghanaian leader deserves to be credited with having singularly championed the noble cause of “free, compulsory, and universal basic education” within the present dispensation of our governance system (See “PPP Heads to Supreme Court for Interpretation, Enforcement of Free SHS Policy” MyJoyOnline.com / Ghanaweb.com 3/11/14).
The PPP key operatives claim that since the constitutional mandate of the free pre-university education was meant to be implemented within the first 10 years of the coming into force of our Supreme governance instrument, and the period in question has since long elapsed, the highest court of the land, perforce, would have to re-determine what is to be done about the glaring default of Article 38, Section 2 on the part of previous governments.
And on the latter score, of course, ought to be promptly highlighted the fact that a humongous 8 of those constitutionally stipulated 10 years were under the tenure of the Rawlings-led government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Likewise, it ought to be promptly highlighted that the Kufuor-led government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), which succeeded Mr. Rawlings in 2001, also inherited a practically bankrupt national economy.
To revive the economy and get the country moving again, as it were, President Kufuor had to put the country onto the fiscally disciplinary list of HIPC – or Highly-Indebted Poor Countries – a G-8-sponsored program. It was the latter perspicuous course of action that put Ghana back into economic solvency. I guess what I am clearly trying to imply here is that while the country was practically insolvent, Mr. Kufuor could not implement the constitutionally mandated free-education program. The former president was, however, innovative and progressive enough to have introduced the school-feeding and free-bussing program for our elementary schoolchildren.
The same, clearly, cannot be said for the 19 excruciating years that Mr. Rawlings effectively dominated the Ghanaian political landscape. But what the Nduom-chaperoned Progressive People’s Party seems to be far more worried about, is the poignant declaration by Information Minister Mahama Ayariga, on a radio talking-heads program, that it was, indeed, the 2008 and 2012 presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party who originally and singularly championed the now-controversial policy of free senior high school education for all qualified/eligible Ghanaian youths, irrespective of ethnicity and/or economic status.
The progressive People’s Party operatives claim that it was their party’s sole proprietor and 2012 presidential candidate who vigorously campaigned on the sexy platform of universal, tuition-free basic education from kindergarten to the senior high school level. The glaring irony here, of course, is that if a tuition-free pre-kindergarten through senior high school educational mandate was already enshrined in Ghana’s 1992 Constitution prior to Election 2012 then, clearly, Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom cannot take especial credit for the same. At best what he did during the 2012 presidential campaign was to simply affirm a constitutional mandate that was already codified.
In sum, to get at the heart, and root, of who really deserves to be accorded most of the credit for the preceding educational policy, we need to revisit the Constituent Assembly that drafted the country’s current democratic governance instrument. In other words, what those intensely invested in this debate need to know is the following question: Which member of the Fourth-Republican Constituent Assembly that drafted the 1992 Constitution originally proposed this tuition-free educational policy?
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York