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Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Stewardship

There is the need to appreciate the urgency for international co-operation in policies and contribute in actions that protect our common heritage, the Environment.

A  ‘Statement on the Environment’ by the Canadian Bishops Council in April this year (2013) buttresses the fact that the ‘Environment’ continues to be a subject-matter of international discussions for over forty years now. The new day-by-day consciousness about the issue is quite symbolic of the magnitude of the problem.

According to the news report, the Prelates urged the faithful not only to develop an awareness of Environmental problems, but to appreciate the urgent need for international co-operation in policies and contribute in actions that protect the common good.

The Environment is the physical milieu in which human existence is possible. It comprises the elements of landmass, soil, water bodies as well as the sub-soil and ocean deeps. The envelope or canopy of air and various gases that constitute the Atmosphere are also very important factors of the Environment.

Concern over the state of the Environment continues to be heightened since the 1972 UN Conference on the Environment held in Stockholm (Sweden). Several other events have taken place elsewhere to deliberate on ‘Climate Change’ and related phenomena. During the sessions of the International Conferences on the Environment – namely the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), the 1997 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Kyoto (Japan) etc., – a number of relevant Agreements were made. To-date, more of such documents still emerge for the management and resolution of Environmental challenges.

In 2009, for instance, a UN Global Climate Debate dilated on the thorny issue of Climate Change, which is contributing to the economic decline, social disruption and displacement of population in some regions of the world.

Extreme weather conditions negatively impact on human health and occupations. Such potentially fatal consequences can be reduced by appropriate legislation or regulations on the use of renewable energy resources, and strategies for improved surveillance. The situation calls for environmental-friendliness of manufacturing processes and products, sustainable protection and exploitation of natural resources, Environmental and Consumer Protection.

Globalization and Regional Economic Integration or Unions have thus enhanced collaboration in the development and implementation of various Technical Regulations, Laws, Legislative Instruments, Policies and Rules as they impact on the Security, Health and Safety of Consumers. Due to an increasing involvement of the different Stakeholders in the formulation of good regulatory practices, Technical Agreements have become extremely important in the promotion of Sustainable Development, in the quest to serve people’s needs.

The two concepts, ENVIRONMENT and STEWARDSHIP, are not just closely related, but inextricably linked to draw our attention to the critical situation in Environmental Protection and Preservation. Environmental degradation is often related to the rising spread of poverty. The subject involves the need to monitor, control compliance to laid-down regulations in order to ensure conformity, public health, safety, and comfort of Consumers or the general public.

The deterioration of the Environment resulting in irreversible Global Warming has become one of the grave concerns affecting the very basis of sustainability of the Earth and Humanity. ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP therefore equally revolves around meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Providing clean and green environment should be one of the top national priorities.

Organizations (both Governmental and Non-Governmental) and nations all over the world continue to address Environmental issues, through solidarity and collaboration in tackling structural forms of poverty. Such initiatives include safeguarding water bodies and sources, protecting flora (plant life) and fauna (wildlife). In Ghana, the concerted efforts of some Ministries and regulatory bodies in the Environmental Sector should be encouraged. These include, inter alia, the Ministries of Food and Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment, Energy, Tourism, Trade and Industry. Other related institutions include the Research-based Institutes, Councils, Authorities and Commissions.

It must be noted that many important things in life are ‘next generation’ matters such that the current generation is expected to leave a heritage for the succeeding one. Compliance to regulations challenges us to further research and adopt such technical principles and innovative processes which will suit local situations now and in the future.

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP also strikes a note of Accountability. In the Creation Story, the First Man was entrusted with the virgin Garden of Eden with all the fullness thereof. The Almighty Creator charged Adam to tend it and take care of it. From this injunction, we are supposed to use very carefully both the material and non-material resources surrounding us.

‘Stewardship’ connotes the magnitude of responsibilities ascribed not only to Governmental Ministries, Departments and Agencies, International Organizations and Non-Governmental bodies, to guarantee the judicious use of both renewable and non-renewable natural resources. The onerous tasks carried out by such bodies should be complemented by personal commitment on the part of every individual, to abide by laid-down regulations.

Looking around, we are engulfed with filth all over the place. The use of plastic, non-combustible materials has added to the problem. Our challenges are compounded by unacceptable habit among some of us to fill drains and litter the beaches with solid waste.

Massive destruction of the vegetation and top-soil is taking place in communities purported to be endowed with gold. Farm lands and even residential structures have been transformed into surface mining (or galamsey) sites with careless abandon, and sometimes under threats at gun-point. Drinking water sources or bodies have been polluted with chemicals used in the illegal mining.

Some fire outbreaks during the dry seasons have been traced to human carelessness such as throwing away cigarette stubs without ensuring that the spark of fire in them had been crushed completely. Bush-burning, as an agricultural practice, can also get out of hands if the intended portions are not properly isolated or protected.

From the fore-going examples, it becomes very evident that we should assess how we are individually and collectively expected to handle the resources at our disposal, to ensure our continued comfort and general well-being. Our attitudes towards handling of both solid and liquid wastes in our homes, communities, workplaces and other institutions, for instance, should portray that we are responsible stewards.

In the same breadth, we should always bear it in mind that the Earth is not only our global home, but that we should consider the heritage we shall leave behind, by way of the status of the Environment and the non-renewable resources.

As we contemplate the grandeur of the Earth, we are overwhelmed by our enormous responsibility to use it cautiously. Trustees and custodians that we are supposed to be, we will be held accountable for every endowment that came our way, whether in our Stakeholder roles as individuals, community members, workers, industrialists, students or people in positions of responsibility for Environmental Management.

Anthony Kweku Annan

 

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AfricaArticlesEducationGhanaInformation and Communication TechnologySocial Issues

Education: Important Factor in Developing African Economies

Education in African Economies

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.

For thousands of years, education has been an integral part of society. Education is of great significance if not the most important factor in the development of any country. Enough proof for the call to prioritize education ahead of everything in Africa, and for that matter, Ghana. We see the evidence clearly how other countries are taking this seriously and its impact. Having a good education is very vital in today’s world and has always been. Education means a form of learning in which knowledge, skills and habits are transferred from one generation to another generation.

Sadly, we are yet to witness quality and revolutionary knowledge transfer across Africa and Ghana to be precise from one generation to another. The kind that improves our state of affairs, competitively and globally. Many years down the line, our leaders have played and toyed with our education system without any regard to the effects. Today, the story remains same with our defunct policies, syllabi and curricula, outdated teaching methods and solutions running our education. Are we then surprised of its outcome and how far we have come with our “priorities” as a country?

The quality of secondary, vocational/technical and higher education is often measured by the performance of workers in the labor market. That is why the African education system must be strengthened to absorb the entry of millions of African young people into the national and global workforce—UNESCO.

The African continent is full of tremendous promise. Emerging out of decades of stagnation, the continent is now getting home to part of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies. The significant strides in Africa’s socio-economic progress have helped to grow a vibrant middle class and propel technological advancements at a rapid pace. However, education needs a critical consideration with right policies and reforms.

Education policy consists of the principles and government policies in the educational sphere as well as the collection of laws and rules that govern the operation of education systems. A complete education system provides large number of qualified people with advanced knowledge and skills in a wide range of subjects and talents cultivation, with requisite educational facilities, materials, teaching and learning methods. Education in itself has tremendous influence on spirit civilization, which accounts for a large part in a country’s development. As a place where knowledge handed down and wisdom passed around, school represent the homeland of scholars like Socrates and Confucius, who had huge impact on the promotion of spirit civilization, and the birthplace of innovative ideas like democracy. This is basic way to improving education and having positive effect on local economy.

The economy, directly influences the national power of a country and the well-being of its citizens.

Some relevant scenarios affecting education in Africa

Lack of proper facilities and educators

A reason for the low education rates in Africa is the lack of proper schooling facilities and unequal opportunity for education across countries. Many schools across Africa find it hard to employ teachers due to the low pay and lack of suitable people. This is particularly true for schools in remote areas. Most people who manage to receive education would prefer to move to big cities or even overseas where more opportunities and higher pay await. Thus, there will be an overly large class sizes and high average number of students per teacher in a school. Moreover, the teachers are usually those unqualified with few teaching aids and poor textbook provision. Due to this, children attending schools in rural areas usually attain poorer results in standardized tests compared to their urban counterparts.

With teachers being less qualified than others in urban areas, the teaching to learning environment takes an effect amongst the students. Those that do not receive the same education to those in the bigger cities have trouble even after graduation with reading, writing, reasoning, and mathematics. Students who do not attain the same equal education to those in urban environments do not achieve the same outcome in establishing success with a career.

With education being a major concern towards achieving a career and establishing a future, Africa needs to be aware that equal education needs to be established within all schools throughout the countries.

Corruption in education

Studies report that lack of parent involvement, especially as an overseer of government activities also leads to enormous corruption. This is so because parents and communities feel as though they lack any kind of power in regard to their child’s education. In Uganda only 50% of parents believe that they have the power to influence decisions regarding the education of their child. In Morocco, just 20% of parents believed they held any sort of power.

The unavailability and incompleteness of records in schools and districts prevents the documentation and prevention of corrupt practices. The African Education Watch conducted surveys all over the continent and identified the three most common practices of corruption:

  • Illegal collection of fees:One part of their research focused on so-called registration fees. Parents from every country surveyed reported paying even though, by law, primary schooling is free. The report found that the number of parents forced to pay these illegal accounting fees ranged from 9% in Ghana, to 90% in Morocco.
  • Embezzlement of school funds:In the study, Transparency International found that 64% of the schools surveyed on the continent published no financial information at all.
  • Power abuse:Another major problem is incompetent management. The report found that in many schools the little resources they did have were being wasted or lost. Overall, 85% of schools across all countries had either deficient accounting systems or none at all. Very few head teachers received training in financial management, despite being responsible for budgets. Sexual abuse in schools from teachers remains a problem too. As well as teacher absenteeism and alcoholism.

Can NGOs help?

To be effective in education in Africa NGOs must effect policy and create policy changes that support their projects, and must create and foster relationships with many different stakeholders. The most important stakeholders are usually donors and government officials. But the biggest challenge for NGOs has been linking these networks together. NGO interventions must create a successful way to change the policy process while making sure that the public understands and is a part of the education policy. In the best cases, NGOs and government officials must find each other’s mutual strengths in education policy and find ways to practically collaborate and reach both of their objectives.

Africa as the world’s most youthful continent, requires investment in education and training–essential in building an educated and skilled workforce and to encourage innovation. Finding productive jobs for young people is critical to the continent’s future. An educated and skilled population is attractive to many employers and investors. Many employers across Africa have been critical of the lack of basic, technical and transferable skills of graduates. We must continue to have a solution-driven conversation with policy-makers, educators, administrators, philanthropists and those interested in capacity-building about the challenges and opportunities in education on the African continent. This, IMANI Ghana amongst other relevant organizations have championed over the years.

The Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana, have also taken up the challenge in this direction to call for capacity building, focusing on ICT, to elevate and mainstream the conversation on education as a key component of the economic development narrative of Africa. Such actions will uniquely improve the educational landscape in Africa.

Moving Forward

The quality of education offered within a country is a strong predictor of economic growth rates, according to the World Bank. African nations stand to benefit from a better-educated labor market where workers possess the skills and knowledge to compete in a knowledge-based global economy. While universal access to schooling yields some economic benefits, significant improvements in the quality of learning will achieve a greater impact for advancing development progress and economic growth in countries.

Public investment in education is vital in building a highly skilled and educated workforce and in sustaining Africa’s prosperity and progress. Recognizing the strong correlation between education and socio-economic development, countries in sub-Saharan Africa have gradually increased public spending on education by more than 6 percent each year.

Private schools should be encouraged and monitored seamlessly by authorities, governed by relevant policies and frameworks. It is a viable alternative to a failing public education system. More so, strengthening public-private partnerships will assist in complementing public sector funds to finance the public education system in Africa. Strong education systems are key drivers of economic growth, thus, public-private partnerships will bolster public education budgets to garner improvements in the overall education system.

The rapidly growing working age population is a wake-up call for African governments, universities, and employers to collectively take action to boost job creation and innovation in the formal and informal sectors. Young people must be prepared for jobs in today’s globalized economy to ensure a smooth transition of graduates into the labor market. Therefore, the African education system needs real improvement. Governments must focus on the quality of education by investing in trained teachers, instructional materials, and infrastructure development. Ghana government for that matter must assess the country’s priorities and needs and invest in areas that will foster innovations and help to build a skilled and educated workforce. As Africa is facing a severe shortage of highly-skilled African talent, governments must make a concerted effort to correct such serious disparity between skills of graduates and the demands of a local and global workforce.

Every success and system is a deliberate design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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