Sundays are always glorious opportunities to reflect on the graciousness of our Maker and on developments in our dear country.
The just-ended month of November witnessed an outpouring of affection and overwhelming generous birthday wishes to my two beloved bosses. My immediate boss - former Minister for Education, Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang and former President of our Republic John Dramani Mahama. Their birthdays are celebrated on the 22nd and 29th of November respectively.
However, as the Lord works, despite the good wishes from many far and near, I believe their best birthday present came from the Parliament of Ghana on November 30, 2017.
Many will recall how the two were demonized and ridiculed in July 2014 by the then NPP Minority in Parliament for what they christened a "Sanitary Pad loan". Artistic designs were later to emerge of so-called ‘Mahama Pads’ all over social media in an unsavoury campaign which portrayed the insensitivity of the NPP to the special hygiene needs of females.
At the time, no amount of explanation will satisfy our friends on the other side. To them, the Mahama/Opoku-Agyemang education intervention under the Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP) was nothing but bankrupt governance spearheaded by incompetent leaders.
Those interested in further research on this matter and how much scorn was heaped on President Mahama and Prof. Opoku-Agyemang may refer to the Official Report of Parliamentary Debates on July 2, 2014. In column 952, the then Minority Leader Hon. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu demanded a headcount which the Speaker obliged. At the end of voting as revealed in column 960, all NPP MPs in the house numbering 83 voted against the SEIP facility. Fortunately, NDC MPs in the house numbering 105 voted Yes to keep the SEIP initiative alive.
Some three years down the line, the SEIP has been hailed by the World Bank as one of the most successful projects it has helped fund in Africa for which same has been replicated in other countries. For this reason, the World Bank has decided to reward the current NPP Government with an additional funding of US$40 million.
It should be noted that though the original SEIP facility of US$156 million was to be implemented over a 5 year period, the success rate was so high that according to the World Bank and the NPP chaired Finance Committee of Parliament report (see page 5, paragraph 5.3) - 80% overall success has been achieved by the third year of implementation.
The saying that wonders will never end must be true! I honestly couldn't believe what I was hearing from NPP members last Thursday the 30th of November, 2017 before Parliament unanimously voted to approve the new and additional World Bank facility of US$40 million. In an unhinged and unashamed u-turn, NPP MPs described the SEIP as one of the best things to happen to the education sector.
They highlighted the 10,400 Full Scholarships in which 60% of beneficiaries were females, the construction of 23 Community Senior High Schools, Facilities Improvement and Quality Upgrade in 125 SHSs, Math, Science and ICT training for over 6,000 teachers, i-box initiative and others as all-time great interventions.
Interestingly, just as was negotiated under the NDC Government, this additional US$40 million apart from supporting 107 SHSs to raise standards, will be used to cover full scholarships for another 10,000 SHS students which will also take care of their transportation expenses for day students, clothing, footwear and other living expenses which as the Minister of Education told Parliament are not covered under the current Free SHS programme (See page 8 of Finance Committee Report).
Instructively, just as was contained in the original July 2014 facility which was bastardised as a Sanitary Pad loan, this additional funding also makes provision for the hygiene needs of female SHS students benefiting under the Full Scholarship arrangement.
Ironically but not surprising, this time the NPP saw nothing wrong. There's no mayhem! There’s no vicious Akufo-Addo Pad campaign! And there are no shouts from rooftops of an incompetent leadership!
The other irony is that, "the most useless, disgraceful and incompetent" Minister of Education in Ghana's history, according to our ‘Black Rubber Bag’, connoisseur is so ‘useless’ that she was able to remarkably implement the SEIP initiative to the admiration of the World Bank for which Ghana has earned $40 million. Perhaps Ghana needs more incompetent leaders of her kind.
This also reveals that the "incompetent" Professor apart from leaving debts behind as she's accused of also left behind several millions of dollars and we haven't even begun taking account of others such as the Kuwait Funds, the TVET Donor Assisted Funds, the T-TEL Funds, the G-RAP Funds, the CBE Funds, the Girls Pass Funds, all in excess of some US$300 million.
The Bible can never be wrong indeed. Paul admonished the Thessalonians that "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I can only be thankful to God, that we are alive to see these happenings under the NPP in 2017.
Most definitely a November to remember. Greetings to the November born President Mahama and Prof. Opoku-Agyemang. Please enjoy your wonderful birthday present from Parliament.
Hopefully, and as I said during the debate last Thursday, my prayer is that by your next birthdays, we shall begin to witness principled politics in the national interest.
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
MP, North Tongu
Former Deputy Minister of Education.