Not once, in all my lifetime, has it happened that in Ghana, children have had to carry their own sugar and bread to dining hall; when schools are on the verge of shutting down for lack of food, and Muslims cannot afford meat, not even a fowl, for ‘salla’.
That is why I am a personal appeal to the conscience of our striking teachers, and other members of Organised Labour contemplating a similar action. They deserve what they are demanding, but this period in our economy is not the time to insist on “pound of flesh”. The fact is that as John Dramani Mahama admitted in his time as President, there is no flesh anymore: it’s down to the bone.
We’ll return to this anon.
The question for now is, na who cause am?
Does it make economic wisdom to pay allowances to teacher and nursing trainees when, unlike the 1950s through early 2000s, there is today an over-production of nurses and teachers, when SHS graduates are paying bribes to enter nursing and teacher training institutions; an era where nurses and teachers are still unemployed two years after training?
Free SHS is great, but must government, with the type of economy we have, be sewing uniforms for students and feeding them, in addition?
Why should we think of making a GHc50,000.00 funeral donation from state coffers to a rich socialite (they are called “celebrities”!) who, I am told, can afford a crate of champagne every day and cruise on the Rhine on her birthday?
Why should the President have been able to afford to fly in a luxury jet so he could “freshen up” before landing – when the Presidential jet is flying other Presidents!!!
Suddenly PTAs have become demons. Suddenly no-one dares offer to contribute to school development. Why? Meanwhile, the fact which government (I suspect) wants to hide from voters is now out in the streets, namely that the Free SHS is in trouble and is bleeding the country white.
The 1992 Constitution has been an unmitigated curse on the poor. It is impoverishing Ghana, worsening the poverty of the poor. The Constitution is over-compensating a class of people who happen to find themselves in the ruling class – and like almost all over-compensated people everywhere, we are witnessing diminishing productivity and reduced commitment among Article 71 beneficiaries.
Taking home in excess of ¢360,000 after four years on a monthly salary of ¢20,000 is unconscionable. The cut is too deep.
Back to the strike. Akufo Addo is still not communicating. To stop workers’ strikes, be it impending or ongoing, the best communication is the Kwame Nkrumah strategy, namely, call leaders and chief opinion leaders and make a direct personal appeal to them.
At least, once, when players of the senior national soccer team, the Black Stars, were threatening not to honour a certain crucial engagement, he called them to the Flagstaff House. I am told that after a general address to all, he went round, one-on-one, looking them in the eyes and making a personal appeal to each of them. At one meeting, he placed C.K Gyamfi on his lap!
Softening the heart of an “enemy” is best handled by a President. Ministers are later called in to deal with technical details. A president doesn’t “add my voice” to the appeal of a Minister; it’s the other way round. A president is not too busy to afford to sit with leaders of striking workers to talk, break bread together, enjoy a drink or two (non-alcoholic) while throwing in a few harmless jokes. It is called diplomacy.
Worse: when leaders of the striking workers respond to an invitation, the Minister says because they are on industrial action, he will not talk to them. Yet the invitation was (reportedly) to “Organised labour”! That’s something you do to a sworn foe: it’s adversarial. As if someone will take government to court for mollifying labour!
Having said all that, I wish to appeal to Labour: you have a case. Life is hard, as hard, indeed, as stone, but on behalf of the thousands of our children who will soon be writing their final examination, I make this appeal: take up your tools again.
My other reason is economic. Ghana finds itself where at the slightest touch – not even a push – the economy could be worse than Sri Lanka.
To afford the COLA will be an irrecoverable death blow to the state (a coup), and s history has taught us, the soldiers, with time, (except Sankara of Burkina Faso) later turn out to be as greedy and as clueless as the government they overthrew.
Please, don’t sneer at me. I believe that Ghana, in ten years, will be well on its way to becoming Africa’s next miracle.
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