The public reaction to the GETFund scholarship as awarded to some Members of Parliament cannot be brushed off. They have to be scrupulously scrutinized and considered. Laws are made to serve the best interests of the people and when laws are found not to be doing exactly so, then such laws need looking at for possible amendments to be made.
In my honest observation and submission, the named Members of Parliament in the recent Auditor’s audit report to have availed themselves of the fund have not breached the law. They acted within the constraints of the law so also were those awarding the scholarship to them.
I have always believed in the strictest application of the law to being no respecter of persons. Should the law be applied as such, most of the corrupt practices, committal of crimes and abuses of power by our elected and appointed politicians, public office holders, traditional overlords, etc., will be curtailed, if not completely eliminated.
Would we not be happier to see the illegalities, criminal activities by our very elected officials, go down for the country to prosper to the benefit of all were the laws applied to the spirit and the letter as framed by its framers rather than the law always bent to suit some but not others? When the law is bent in favour of some but not all, corruption, injustices, and chaos leading to making life miserable for the majority of the citizens will become the order of the day as it is always the case in Ghana.
However, going by an Akan dictum, “Nea okye ade nikan ntu bi”, a rational and just solution could be found. This proverb which is seen to be enforced when sharing something in our daily Akan homes is all about equity and fairness. The proverb is translated into English as, “He who divides anything to be shared among a group of people should not be the first to take his/her share”
To ensure fairness, the person dividing anything to be shared, by a group of people or friends or family, e.g. slaughtered goat, wild game e. g. antelope, or a basket of tomatoes, should be the last person, but not the first, to take his or her share. This will compel the sharer to share the meat or the item to be shared very equally. If he were to be the first to take his share after dividing it, there may be the temptation to make one portion bigger for him to take. But as it is, he being the last to take his share, he stands to ensure that the item or meat is divided equally among those allowed to have a share or else, he risks taking the smallest portion.
Going back to the law governing the GETFund, it appears the framers of the law, thus the parliamentarians, with their friends and families are enjoying it more and much better than the rest of the public. They seem to have easier approval access to the fund than the needy but brilliant students in the country. This is what may be angering the public hence calling for the innocent Members of Parliament revealed to have availed themselves of the fund to be punished with its subsequent politicization of the issue.
The perception of the public, whether correct or erroneous, cannot be consigned to the skip but addressed. Therefore, as a law is amended when found to have become obsolete, lost its effectiveness and not serving properly the aim and objective for which it was made, so shall I call for the GETFund awarding laws to be amended, all things being equal and reasonable.
This will clear the minds of people of the wrongful assumptions that some political parties are facilitating the easy access to the fund by their members and relatives. This will also avoid the situation of some already well-to-do persons becoming too greedy to continue to avail themselves of the fund at the expense of the poor and the needy in the society.
Let me better explain myself here using the once Government and Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB) scholarships. These scholarships were designed to go to brilliant students and the wards of cocoa farmers who were mostly poor and needy. Nonetheless, these scholarships were often given to students from extremely rich family backgrounds whose parents could bribe or persuade those in charge of awarding the scholarships to grant them to their children. The children of those working at the headquarters and regional offices of the Scholarship Secretariat were awarding them to their children, friends and relatives at the expense of the needy but brilliant children of the cocoa farmers.
While at Secondary school in the early 1970s, some of my classmates who were not as brilliant enough by the probable stipulations governing the awards, did have the CMB scholarships. Such students were of rich family backgrounds but were not academically brilliant as those from the poor family backgrounds who were denied, or could not access, the scholarships. What could explain this disparity and misapplication of the scholarships if it is not the usual abuse of power and corruption by the Ghanaians in positions of trust?
If the laws governing the awards of the CMB scholarships were honestly applied in accordance with its object, many cocoa farmers’ children could have gone to Secondary schools and the tertiary institutions. My own late senior half-sibling, Kwaku Osei alias King Alan Stein, rom Kumawu Ananangya, could have gone to Secondary school and then pursue a higher education to become a great person. He was extremely brilliant.
Having said all these, there is the obligation to amend the law to ensure fairness is guaranteed in the awards of scholarships. It should not favour certain already rich or privileged persons to the detriment of the poor and needy whose parents are although generating the funds, their children are artificially barred from enjoying the funds. This is wrong!
The now Education Minister, Matthew Opoku Prempeh (Hon) alias Napo, is said to have a private security company in Ghana. He requested, and was granted, the GETFund scholarship to attend a three week course on security at Harvard University. He qualified for the fund much as any needy but brilliant students.
Was the course he attended in the best collective interests of Ghanaians or for his personal interest? Has his company created jobs for Ghanaians with his workers being paid and treated properly? Is his company rendering services to meet the security and safety needs of the country to some extent? Is he paying his rightful amount of tax to the nation? If all the answers to the questions posed are yes, then he has met the criteria and objectives of awarding him the scholarship.
However, the laws must be amended to give priority and easy accessibility to the fund by the needy but brilliant students who are patriotic and ready to serve Ghana after acquiring their higher knowledge thanks to the fund.
The fund should not be there only to facilitate the chances of the already rich persons to continually attain the higher and the best of everything to lord themselves over the majority of the citizenry that happen to be poor and deprived of the opportunities to ever make it in life.
I have heard of some people, either rich or needy who after benefiting from the said scholarships do proceed abroad to never return to Ghana to render any service in kind or in payment to the nation. A needy but brilliant student who gets the fund, goes to study abroad but never returns to Ghana, and the rich person who takes the scholarship but goes back home to work to benefit the nation, which one of them does the nation prefer?
The law is law. Let us respect the law. However, the law must be amended when seen not to be working in the best interests of the people and the country.
How do we inculcate the sense of belonging, patriotism and nationalism into the Ghanaian scholar most of whom end up becoming selfish, pompous and greedy pen robbers?
I am currently in a dilemma, wedged between the rock and a hard surface, when it comes to rendering judgment on the application of the laws of the GETFund as they stand now and the public condemnatory perception about the alleged greedy Members of Parliament. Nevertheless, I will sway on the side of the law taking its full just course, the only way Ghana can prosper.
Please wait for me, I am coming back!