Do Ghanaians learn from the past?

Do human beings learn from the past? Not much may be the answer.

We shall be celebrating Christmas with glee tomorrow. But those who understand the meaning of Christmas and follow the acts of states which profess Christianity will shake their heads at the prevalence of unchristian acts and the repetition of the follies of the past.

Human beings may not learn from the past and our disregard for the past in Ghana is pathetic. We do not appear to learn even from what happened yesterday. Our refusal to learn caused many of our Moslem brothers and sisters considerable anguish and pain at a time they should be anticipating a joyous festive season with their Christian kith and kin.

Only last year, there was a problem with the Hajj pilgrimage. Many Moslems were stranded at the Kotoka International Airport for days. They had to endure intolerable living conditions. Many went pack home with the promise that they would go to Mecca this year, the year 2007.

Come the year 2007 and the same misery was again inflicted on them. Comments have been many and varied. But I have not been much enlightened. Perhaps I have become slow in understanding. But the simple question which any person not versed in unraveling the complications inflicted on issues by the experts will ask “why can’t the pilgrims go to an agent of their choices to arrange the travel?”
I believe the government and a Moslem committee got involved at a time when foreign money was difficult to get. Now, of course, anybody can go to a forex bureau and obtain dollars or other currencies for travel. But I am told that is not all.

Only designated agents can organise pilgrimage flights to Saudi Arabia. A country has to designate an agent to be responsible for Hajj flights. I believe in some countries like Britain there is more than one designated agent.”

So it appears that all we have to do is to select one, or more agents to handle the Mecca flights. If we want a committee, so let it. But it should be a competent committee not only with rights to organise the flight or flights, but also with specified responsibilities. If they fail, the law should be invoked.

As often happens in Ghana, it appears that the main interest of most connected with the flight is to make money. The interest of the pilgrims is secondary. If not, why not give the right and responsibility to a travelling agent or company? Better still, why not give the responsibility to an airline. And there is a private airline company headed by a Moslem. To the best of my knowledge it is still in operation. Perhaps, the Alhaji in charge does not belong to the right circles or is not free with bribes.

Let us give gifts of love at Christmas and not bribes. This is the time to look at the past and resolve to do better. But we should avoid putting all the blame on others especially those in authority.

We can today express our views fairly freely. Let us take the advantage of this and resolve to say our mind next year. But before we talk, we should ascertain the facts and reflect. In this regard, information by government and others in authority is crucial. We should demand the right to undoctored information.

Information flow is defective in Ghana. The press helps but not as much as they should. Some of the media try to pursue their own agenda by ignoring the facts. And we the people who can influence decisions are reluctant to speak or write because of fear of losing our positions. I know governments in Ghana can be vindictive but those in a position to do so should do their duty by society.

The problems we face in the New Year can only be adequately addressed if we interrogate the past and act upon the facts. If knowledge or information is not clear, we should endeavour to uncover the facts.

We should not act out of frustration. An example of such acts which do not advance the cause of progress was the recent report that PTAs have been requested to surrender their school funds to the schools to handle. PTAs (Parent-Teachers Associations) have been helping schools a great deal. Often the government or GES subventions are not enough. Often the inadequate funds arrive late. PTA funds often go to the rescue.

Why put PTA funds into the same mess as school funds? PTAs should resist the directive. The funds are theirs and they should control them. They should, if authority insists, channel their contributions into bank accounts to be opened by them. Of what problem is the directive designed to resolve?

If there is a problem, the best course of action is to study or investigate before we take action. The University of Ghana has shown the way by establishing a Visitation Panel to study and advise on the steady degradation faced over the years by the institution.

The panel consists of 16 knowledgeable people from eight countries and four continents. It has issued a report after the remarkably short space of one year. The report is incisive and bold. Some of us may not agree. Some may be upset. “But we have to face the facts in life. The report states that, “The enrolment explosion is the cause of many of the university’s problem”. The panel recommends that a way forward is to reduce the intake of students and promote distance education learning to absorb continuing demand. It also recommends expanding the Accra City Campus.

We should face the problems of 2008 with confidence if we act in the way shown by our premier university. We should assemble the facts, reflect on our purposes and vision, learn from the past and the experience of other countries and then take the appropriate decisions and measures.

Source: K. B. Asante/Daily Graphic