Not so long ago, some Ghanaians, including John Mahama’s NDC and some heads of think tanks, were busily urging the president to reverse his decision to reopen schools for final exams and rather send the final year students back home to their parents. Media commentators and the general public, especially parents, became genuinely nervous, and wondered if the decision to send the kids back to school was right as covid-19 infections continued to spread.
To the opposition and some key conversation influencers, including the think tankers, it was as if a Ghanaian President should not think outside of the box. Surely, we must be better than that. Progress is not made by those who sit and wait. Progress is made by those who choose to take calculated new and bold steps for humankind. Societies that do so move up and on and that know that by so doing, they, hopefully, set an example for other leaders and their countries to follow. That is how progress is made. Such leadership is particularly critical now as the world struggles to cope with the understanding and impact of the novel CORONAVIRUS pandemic. Leaders everywhere are looking elsewhere at each other for inspiration and guidance. Let us be in no doubt that Ghana has stepped up to the challenge of offering leadership to the world in this time of global crisis.
But, of course, the NDC leadership had to be heard, too. So they camped, put on their thinking cap, analysed the situation and held a press conference on July 13 to share their reasoned position with us: “As we speak, Nigeria, a major participant in the WASSCE exam has rescinded its decision to reopen schools, while Kenya has also decided to close schools until 2021. We urge President Akufo-Addo to prioritize human lives over electoral fancies,” the NDC announced to the nation and called for all students to be sent back home and schools closed.
To them the reopening was all for the voter registration. But, we should give our president some deserved credit. Ghana was among the first countries to shut down schools. We did so before many countries, including UK, did so. Ghana has been early in taking tough decisions to either restrict movements or to gradually ease restrictions. That is leadership. It is responsible and thoughtful leadership.
Leadership is best tested in times of crisis. Let me repeat, you see what a leader is actually made of when he or she is faced with a crisis.
We saw it when, under John Mahama, the NDC leadership struggled for years without closure to deal with two self-inflicted home-made crisis—economic management crisis and the dumsor crisis. We are seeing it now with how Nana Akufo-Addo and his NPP are managing the covid-19 global pandemic here in Ghana and his management of the economy, first, out of the Mahama crisis the NPP inherited, and currently, against the otherwise devastating impact of the coronavirus on economic activity in general in Ghana.
It is about leadership. It is about strong, decisive, thoughtful and compassionate leadership. It is about a leader who has the pause of his country—by this, the economy and the people, mainly the ordinary people. It is about balancing the need to protect lives on the one hand, with the need to secure livelihoods and our future, on the other hand. It is about a leadership of service. It is about a leader you can trust. A leader you can trust to protect you; to serve you; to help you meet your aspirations. It is about wise leadership, pure and simple.
Today, other African nations are reopening their schools, citing Ghana’s example and lessons from Ghana. It is because they trust the wisdom of the leadership in charge in Ghana.
It has been a dead year for education, but President Akufo-Addo looked at the science, the data and the social science and, armed with the knowledge that we have a new norm and we must learn how to live responsibly with it, he, therefore, took the decision in May to let final year students go back to finish off.
He did so responsibly by embarking upon a most ambitious logistical programme which saw to the successful provision of millions of PPEs, etc for the 1.2m students plus staff. Indeed, the story of the ultra-competent manner that the PPEs were procured and distributed nationwide has not been graphically told. It showed crisis management at its best.
From June, other African governments began to follow Ghana’s example. Senegal, Cameroun, Tanzania and South Africa, for example. Nigeria has now joined. In September, Kenya will start with their phased reopening of schools, beginning with universities and TVETs.
In concluding, let it be clear that those who wanted the schools to be closed were not necessarily wrong to say so. They simply showed a proclivity to opt for the seemingly easier option. Ghana requires a leadership that has the courage to step out of the lanes or ordinariness and onto the uncharted paths of possibilities.
Ghana deserves the leadership it has: wise, decisive and caring, with a strong eye always on the future of our children. In Akufo-Addo we have a wise leader we can trust to serve and deliver.