The rate of physical and economic development of Ghana in recent times compared with the 1970s, when I became very conscious of my environment, has been good. Compared with even the 80s and 90s, the rate of development has been relatively good. The percentage of Ghanaians living below the poverty line has declined, even though the level is still unacceptable. The road network improved with more tarred/asphalt roads. The difficulty of even getting vehicles going one’s destination has improved significantly.
Many of the tiny mud structures that accommodated schools have given way to 6 classroom concrete structures. Enrolment rates and the gender parity index have been improving, even though the rates as one goes higher up, through Junior High School to Senior High school, tell us that many children are still out of school. The number of doctors and nurses and other health professionals, including specialist doctors, has improved. There was a time when there was only one neurologist in the country. Getting a passport is still difficult but it is not as near impossible as was the case in the past.
So we have made significant improvement in some areas. Then why would someone whine? Because there is a lot going on that should make any person genuinely concerned about the current and future of the country worried.
The rate at which the environment is being destroyed is alarming. We have lost and continue to lose our forests in alarming rates. Many years ago the Forestry Commission tasked timber companies to plant a number of trees for each tree felled.
The timber companies, whose future depended on a thriving forest, ignored it. Then the Commission decided to charge a fee to nurse and plant the trees itself. It has not worked. We should all be able to see a not distant future in which Ghana, with abundant lands for forests, would have to import wood.
We are destroying our fish stock again at an alarming rate. The main perpetrators are, again the principal beneficiaries of the fishing industry, fishermen. We have disobeyed the closing of the fishing season in island waters when fish are spawning and have harvested pregnant fish and fingerlings.
We continue to use nets that have been banned because they harvest very young fish. We have continued to use dynamites destroying the stock. We have defied the ban on the use of light. All these have resulted in dwindling stock and the very perpetrators have been most trident in complaining about the low catch and the impact on their income.
Another area of environmental destruction is sand winning. We have maintained a steady but seemingly losing battle against the indiscriminate winning of sand. Communities have fought against the loss of land for farming and other purposes as contractors have aggressively ignored any ban on sand winning in any area. They have defied community rights and district and national laws with impunity. The result is degraded environments in communities unfortunate enough to be endowed with sand.
From Nangode and Tongo in the Upper East to the forests of Brong Ahafo and Ashanti to Eastern and Western and Central Regions, people in the galamsey business have left their footprints in desolate environments. Community and even whole district water sources have been polluted such as to make treating water very difficult.
The Barekese treatment station in Ashanti is under threat because of the activities of galamsey.
In communities in the forest regions, communities cannot use local water sources because of extreme pollution. I know of communities in the Eastern Region where the people buy their water and food. Farm lands have been taken over and destroyed and cocoa farms are under threat.
Growing indiscipline and lawlessness
Another area of worry to anybody concerned about Ghana’s future is the growing indiscipline and lawlessness. Tamale motorists and even drivers of vehicles drive with no regard to common-sense rules on road usage. Motorists refuse to use helmets and insult the police for questioning them.
In the big cities unnecessary jams are caused in intersections and sometimes even on straight stretches of roads because of careless driving. It is no more fun to be a teacher because pupils show little regard to their teachers, a continuum of the growing disrespect for elders.
Corruption in the Education sector
We complain that our practice of politics can be termed moneyocracy. But we forget that we have developed a mania, sheer adoration for money, irrespective of how it is got. On the roads, some police officers have stopped even asking for vehicle papers but just ask you for money.
The breadth and depth of our brazen and open corruption are painted vividly in the reports of the Auditor-General, year after year. The cancellation of whole papers across the country during both BECE and WASSSCE and the cancellation of the results of some schools, every single year, tells us how deep corruption is in our education system. Those who engage in it include parents themselves, school authorities, the students who prefer IT games to studies but want excellent grades.
In the past couple of years both parents and school authorities have complained about practices in the computer placement centre. Headmasters of some schools refuse to declare the actual vacancies in their schools because they claim some staff of the centre take money and place undeserving students in their schools. Some parents complain about their wards being refused admission to schools of their choice when students with worse aggregates are placed in those schools. Have we ever thought of investigating the allegations?
Headmasters are accused of charging unauthorised fees. The scale of this practice is higher in health facilities where staff charges additional fees for services such as operations among others.
Many doctors in government health facilities are said to bring their private patients to the government facilities and use government equipment and, sometimes even beds for operations whose fees do not go the facility. Many have their own private clinics and give more time to those than the government facilities they work for. Nurses take jobs in private health facilities and do not pay attention to their work in the government facilities.
Growing lack of Concern for Others and Country
In how many hearts does Ghana really have a place? We have put our individual interests so far above national interest that we openly engage in acts that are detrimental to the country. Concern for others? It seems dead. On a journey from Kumasi to Sekondi somewhere in the mid-70s, we came across an accident involving a truck carrying KBL products. The villagers and passengers from other vehicles that stopped, looked on, expressed sympathy and waited for another KBL truck to come to the rescue.
Today, the beer would have been looted by villagers and passengers. At scenes of accidents, instead of helping, many passengers are normally busy trying to capture the event on their phones. We take delight in sharing gory sights. While wounded passengers would be moaning for help, villagers and passengers alike would be searching them for valuable phones and money.
Considering the trend in the development of these situations over the past fifteen years or so, a look at the future pricks my heart sore. And it cannot help but bleed.
By: Chals Wontewe