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Democratisation of knowledge – The way forward for 21st century education in Ghana

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Democratisation of knowledge – The way forward for 21st century education in Ghana

A SPEECH DELIVERED BY STAN DUGAH AT JOEL DEGUE’S BOOK LAUNCH ON SUNDAY, THE 31ST OF JANUARY, 2021 AT THE PREMISES OF THE BISHOP JONES A.M.E. ZION CHURCH, VUI-KETA

The Areopagus is a rock outcropping that can be found in the Acropolis in Athens. For much of her history Athens was the commercial and cultural capital of Ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy, a hub for the arts, education and philosophy and it was within her boundaries that Plato and Aristotle established their schools. In Athens is the Acropolis and within it you can find the Areopagus, which is reputed as the cradle of democracy. It was in Athens that Ancient Greeks met to deliberate matters of state and to sketch the way forward. It was in Areopagus that criminals were tried and intellectual debates held by men numbering 50 to 500.

It was at the Areopagus that a young lady named Phyrene the Prostitute who is now recognized as having being more beautiful than Helen of Troy was tried and during her trial, she let down her cloak and revealed her nakedness to the judges who all were so enticed and enthralled by her comeliness that they unanimously proclaimed her not guilty of the crime of impiety that was brought against her at the Areopagus.

This same Areopagus was the place where the Apostle Paul saw the inscription ‘to the Unknown god” and proceeded to deliver his most effective sermon that sought to show who this unknown god was to the Greeks.

22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
Amen.

Today, the Areopagus is no longer the meeting place of Greek Politicians and Philosophers, but all over the world, there are places and premises where the spirit of Athena lives. One of such places is the highly reputed Havard University which for some number of years now has been voted as either the best University in the world or among the top five.

A typical lecture hall at Havard Business School doesn’t look like lecture halls as we have it in Ghana. There’s a pit in which the Professor or lecturer stands and then the students surround him in a seating area shaped as a semi-circle. Thus, the Professor becomes the centre of attention but most importantly the facilitator of an interaction that seeks to pose questions and find answers to them.

That’s the raison d’etre; the why and what of education.
Do we have something similar in Ghana? Where is the Ghanaian Areopagus or Athens? Where is that place that we can gather and discuss and find solutions to the problems bothering education in Ghana? Do we leave it to the politicians and their overt political appointees in NaCCA and the GES to debate and find half-baked solutions to?

A few hundred years ago, Aristotle said and I quote: “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human.

Society is something that precedes the individual.” He must satisfy certain natural basic needs in order to survive.”
Because man is a social animal, our students tend to enjoy on campus full time education rather than distance education or online learning. And that’s a challenge worth taking up. How can we make online learning more social, more attractive? How can we make distance education and all other forms of education that seek to disburden our educational facilities attractive?

The Western world has long ago embraced distance and online education and it was what made them prepared for a Covid-19 pandemic.

But alas, it is not so with us. As soon as Covid hit, our educational system came to a standstill and as I speak, there is a gap in the knowledge our children have and what they are learning now.
But there is a solution. The solution is online learning. Instead of every student having to go to campus, let them learn online. Invest in telecommunication, invest in data infrastructure, ensure super fast wireless internet and make data charges very, very affordable. Online learning is the way forward, and the on-campus-social-gathering-styled-living-together of students can be replicated online and in our homes. Technology makes that possible.

The future is online learning, and we are committing seppuku if we refuse to research and rethink education in Ghana.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the problem of huge numbers in education in Ghana can be easily solved.

There is a university in the US that operates solely online. It’s called the University of the People and it was founded by a social and educational entrepreneur named Shai Reshef in 2009.

They don’t have a physical campus but they are accredited, educating students, training people and awarding undergraduate and post graduate degrees every year. Why can’t we do likewise?

Ladies and Gentlemen, the main problem with education in Ghana is lack of reading. Our students don’t read. Our students read only text books. Oh, what a tragedy! For while the textbook can help you pass your exam and have a successful schooling, it is the reading of non-textbooks that will make you educated and super successful.

Ladies and Gentlemen, schooling is not synonymous with education. They are two different things. One you acquire in the classroom; the other you acquire everywhere. One you acquire through the reading of textbooks, the other you acquire through the reading of non-textbooks.

One earns you a living; the other earns you profits. As Jim Rohn once noted, profits are better than wages, and you are better off having both schooling and education. You need both to be great and very profitable in life.

Bill Gate dropped out of school, but today he is the richest man in the world. That’s because he knew that education was more important than schooling.

Mark Zuckerberg did not finish his undergraduate degree at Havard, but today he has so much money that he can feed every single soul in Ghana for some years. That’s because he knew the importance of education not schooling.
Schooling is important and necessary and you should go to school and get a degree but don’t forget to get educated.

Education is self-directed, schooling is not. Are you getting both? Do.
Man is a social animal as Aristotle observed, and because he is a social animal, he is also in love with stories. Show me the man or woman who doesn’t like hearing stories and I’ll show you someone who isn’t human. For humans as we are, we live storied lives, Every single action and inaction, words or the lack of it is a brush on the canvass of our lives, a sentence or a paragraph in the book of life we are living, and because stories are central to our being, people find it easier to remember things when they learn them through stories. Can we incorporate story telling into our classroom lessons?

We should. It would make students understand concepts and complex courses better.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a dream. In my dream I see a building that rises as high as the tower of Pisa and towers over all other universities in Africa.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I speak of the Anlo State University.

It is possible for us to have an Anlo State University established before year 2021 runs out. It is possible for us to have a university that does not have physical structures but is fully operational and fully accredited. If nobody would do it, I would. This is my biggest goal for the year 2021 because I don’t want my yet unborn children to go to Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast, Winneba, Wa or Nyankpala to access tertiary education. I want them to attend the Anlo State University and it will not forever be an online university. It would be a hybrid university that can accommodate any number of students from Ghana and from across the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we can in time build the biggest and the best school Africa and make it the best research University and the greatest producer of researchers, tinkerers, innovators, social and educational entrepreneurs and change this country and continent within 20 years.

Get on board. Join hands with me. It is not impossible. It is possible.

Thank you.

Originally posted on WhatsApp by Stan Dugah. Cited on 09 February 2021

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