How Hard It Has Become to Get Chalk in a Priority-Misplaced Country

By | July 20, 2015

Feature Article of Monday, 20 July 2015

Columnist: Fynn, Patrick


By Patrick Fynn
POLITICS – the beast that is responsible for our daily rise in blood pressure. It won’t leave us alone; keeps frustrating us, after series of frustrations. But we will keep fighting back, till the people driving this force quit taking us for granted.
…till they give us chalk to teach the future leaders.
In recent development, wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Matilda Amissah-Arthur, has called on school children in the country to take their lessons seriously because education is critical and key in nation building. Good move!
Mrs. Amissah-Arthur has donated five sets of computers and an undisclosed number of books to support teaching and learning in the area. Good move!
The Second Lady advised parents to pay attention to the children of their education, adding that the only way to secure a better future for their children is through education. Another good move!
Then in a vote of thanks, headmistress of the benefitting school further placed a request that the government should among other things, provide her school with chalks. And Aunty Matilda goes erratic! Bad move.
“I will not give you chalk today, neither will I give it to you tomorrow. You have teachers; you have the PTA, go and buy chalk for the school… How much is a box of chalk”
This flare-up is not far from slighting the dignity of Ghanaian parents who your government alluded with the promise of free books, oversized uniforms, sandals and sanitary pads. Providing them these materials is not a privilege, Madam. It is what we call, ‘living up to expectation’. In that light, it’s sheer obliviousness to say that parents are shirking their responsibilities, when the tables should rather be turned towards our leaders, including you.
Teachers have not been paid for several months. Those in tertiary institutions have not yet received their book and research allowances. Interest rates of huge loans contracted are becoming increasingly difficult to pay. Contractors on GETFund projects have not been paid for several months. Capitation grant is in arrears and the School Feeding Programme is in danger, threatening to collapse under the weight of huge debts.
But with all these in mind, the Second Lady insists that the government is rather pampering the masses.mLet’s kill this matter with just one shot: whose responsibility is it to provide chalk and other teaching materials?

The Government of Ghana introduced a concept of free and compulsory basic education for every school-age child to be realized through the introduction of a Free Compulsory Basic Education programme (FCUBE), which was launched in 1996. The main policy goal of the FCUBE programme is to provide opportunity for every child in Ghana to receive quality basic education. This technically means it’s the responsibility of the state to make the necessary requisites available for the realisation of this policy. If the current government still operates it, the Second Lady knows this.
Article 38(1) of the 1992 Constitution states that “The State shall provide educational facilities at all levels and in all Regions of Ghana, and shall, to the greatest extent feasible, make those facilities available to all citizens. And the Second Lady knows this.
She also knows that doctors do not buy their own CT scan machines. They do not use their locum salaries to buy needles, drugs and bandages for their patents. She also knows very well that soldiers and policemen do not hit the markets bargaining for the price of ammunitions. The Second Lady knows this.
But what she doesn’t know is that schools have bought their own chalks since time immemorial. She should do the checks. In several schools, students are made to contribute monies (from their parents) to purchase these basic things including cumulative record books.
What Aunty Matilda doesn’t know also is that the PTA cannot buy chalk because it is as inefficient as a public official who carries five sets of computers all the way from Accra without finding out what their basic needs are. And some of our PTA leaders do not do need assessment, so like some statesmen, they can even buy computers for schools that have no electricity.
What Aunty Matilda doesn’t know is that the government hasn’t really ‘spoilt’ the people by giving them free school uniforms, as against her who is unelected, but driven in an air-conditioned vehicle with 24-hour police security and allowances for upkeep.

Madam, you are one of those people who gagged at King Solomon when he asked for wisdom instead of wealth. You were quick to scold the headmistress who asked for the least, incognisant facilities, but for the one who would have asked for the type of four-wheel drive you pulled back to Accra.
Maybe the headmistress and the school children would have been more grateful if they got chalk instead of the one, two, three, four, five computers. You know why? The pupils need to see C-O-M-P-U-T-E-R spelt on the board before they can operate them.
But in your judgement, because a box is chalk is far beyond the stretch of the central government, it will rather focus on yet-to-see projects, policies and manifestoes for the next elections. We are indeed having a feel of priority – distributing sanitary pads and uniforms, and asking parents to do the rest.
This is not only a case of cluelessness, but a classical sign of insensitivity.
Now that we understand it’s silly to go to the government to ask for teaching and learning materials, we will turn to the NGOs and the various foreign organisations, because they have chalks. The Government doesn’t, because she never does that. You made that clear.
The impassioned outburst further communicates what the government implies – DO IT YOURSELF! We have gotten to the point where teachers use their meagre earnings to buy chalks. We have reach an era where the men-in-suits offload their pressure onto the already-frustrated parents.
So if teachers are not as ready as the government is, to provide chalk, we might as well stay home and have fun.
Author: Patrick Fynn
Follow the writer on twitter: @PatrickFynn