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FEATURE ARTICLE: S*** IN THE STREETS

By Nii Tei Laryea

The crisis at Achimota has all the elements of the worst of our beloved country: the lack of maintenance of our public structures, the perennial lack of public funds (particularly when it comes to most things public), issues of land encroachment, neglect of the rule of law, a poor educational environment for our future leaders, problems of sanitation, public health endangerment, environmental degradation. "Our behinds are showing" - in more ways than one. And as we often do, after a couple of faint outcries, on we go, somehow incorporating this sad situation into our everyday "normal" existence . The sewerage will seep into the ground, those we claim to treasure as our future will go home prematurely or continue to eat and live in open waste, those who will get sick will get sick or worse, the pipes (at most) will be patched in the worst places, and on we go.... leaving the stench of excreta in the air, fittingly aggravated by the nauseating smell of some deodorized spray or the other applied to resolve the situation.

We have been here many times before. The only real question is whether when all is said and done we shall say the same about our response.

Some have said the problem ought to be solved by alumni and well-wishers of the school. The school lands belong to the government. The buildings, infrastructure and assets of the school are government property. The school is governed by a Board including government appointees (and AMA representatives, it might be added). Fees are set by the government. The curriculum is determined by the government.

Some have asked why Achimota and not Okwawu-Nkwatia’s St. Peter’s...It is a public institution in an emergency situation, with an acute and immediate need.

Teachers are hired and paid by the government. And yet a public infrastructure breakdown of this magnitude is to be solved by private individuals. In addition to the actual provision of funds, a full resolution of the issue at stake will have to bring this contradiction to the fore. Or else, it will only be a matter of time until the next crisis involving infrastructure which has not fundamentally changed or necessarily been maintained since 1927. Or else, we might just be spraying perfume over putrefaction. Any who have benefited from Achimota, or who simply wish the school and its students well, are without a doubt obligated to contribute in all ways and indeed have done so, continue to do so and will do so. But, please, let owners be in the forefront and show leadership, accountability and commitment to the responsibility of ownership.

Some have asked why Achimota and not Okwawu-Nkwatia’s St. Peter’s. Let us for a minute forget about Achimota's gloried past and storied history. Let us forget about its promise of a future to 4,500 students, and to those (hopefully) to come. Let us forget about its heritage, and by extension, ours. Let us forget that it is veritably a national treasure, the bastion of education for most of the past and present leaders of our beloved country and for some of our beloved Africa's liberators. Let us forget all this, but only for a moment. It is a public institution in an emergency situation, with an acute and immediate need. A few months ago, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs burnt down to the ground, ostensibly due at least in part to old, exposed unchecked electrical wiring and other infrastructural problems. No big deal though. After all, some months prior to that, parts of the Ministry of Information were also ravaged by fire. The Ministry of Education (or is it Sports) currently ominously has wires hanging all over the place, I am certain the Ministry of Health could use some infrastructural upkeep, and Job 600 fell into disrepair a long time ago. No big deal.

Public institutions. Public health, public roads, public education, public security, public water, public electricity... Let our public officials lead and commit to the responsibilities of the mandate entrusted to them even with the meagre and admittedly insufficient funds available, and we the public will certainly follow and contribute our mite and might and minds, whether it be in taxes, tolls, volunteerism and public service, and yes, contributions from the alumni and well-wishers of public secondary schools. "He who is faithful with little..." (Luke 16:10)

Slowly, slowly, with the requisite setbacks, sidetracks and standstills, we hope to be moving forward to what we know our country can be - the beacon of Africa where the rule of law, democracy (a government by the people, of the people and for the people) and the communal responsibilities of officials and citizenry are sacrosanct. The beacon of Africa where, like a new generation of Black Stars, we rise to the occasion. Another crisis has presented itself.

We have been here before.

Nii-Tei Laryea lives in New Jersey, USA