BECE: This isn’t the way to go!

....a future leader

A retired educationist, Mr. K. B. Asante, has observed that the overemphasis on examination is partly to blame for the country’s educational problems. He said the dictatorial nature of examinations in Ghana’s schools de-emphasized the critical element of education – acquiring knowledge to be able to solve problems in the society.


Speaking on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, Mr. Asante said while passing exams was important, creating the impression that the ultimate aim of education was passing examination, was counterproductive.
Mr. Asante also has concerns about the form of examinations in the country’s schools. He believes setting up objective tests for students was not really a proper assessment but conceded the teeming number of students per class makes it practically impossible for the teacher to mark essays.
He said the curricula should allow teachers some flexibility to determine how and what to teach students. “If you want real education, you need to get the students to enjoy and understand what they are learning,” he added.
He is even more worried about the values the society has about education. “When we were young, the people we looked up to, were people with knowledge, people who were supposed to be very learned. Now [however], society has different values – if you make money you are important – so people go to school, even young people, aspiring to a certain position to make money,” he noted.
He said, under those circumstances, education is no longer a means to acquire knowledge and help the society.

“These days the emphasis is on passing the exam, getting a First Class, getting a profession and the aim is to live well, to put it bluntly, make money and that is the value of society. When you have such value predominating, you cannot get the best out of education,” he stated.
The former diplomat said parents must take keen interest in the education of their children, stressing that relying on extra classes will not necessarily work. Source: myjoyonline.com

I was beside myself with joy when I read this article on 1st March, 2011. Not only is Mr. Asante a role model in Ghana, he is a man who knows a lot about education. I saw and experienced a lot of ugly things during the Basic Education Certificate Examination for the junior high school students in Ghana which ends today. The essence of examination is misunderstood by certain stakeholders of education at the junior level.

test or an examination (or “exam”) is an assessment intended to measure a test-taker’s knowledge, skill, aptitude, physical fitness, or classification in many other topics. A test may be administered orally, on paper, on a computer or in a confined area that requires a test taker to physically perform a set of skills. Tests vary in style, rigor and requirements. For example, in a closed book test, a test taker is often required to rely upon memory to respond to specific items whereas in an open book test, a test taker may use one or more supplementary tools such as a reference book or calculator when responding to an item. A test may be administered formally or informally. An example of an informal test would be a reading test administered by a parent to a child. An example of a formal test would be a final examination administered by a teacher in a classroom or an I.Q. test administered by a psychologist in a clinic. Formal testing often results in a grade or a test score. A test score may be interpreted with regards to a norm or criterion, or occasionally both. The norm may be established independently, or by statistical analysis of a large number of participants.

Senior high schools are able to admit students from the junior level based on the BECE. Apparently, the BECE has lost its meaning if what I witnessed is anything to go by. I believe there will be a lot of students who will be admitted into their selected or first choice senior high schools but will not do well since they had their way in the BECE. Leakage of examination papers has been a problem in Ghana. Even in our universities, examination questions get leaked to students. It is a well known fact that some female students sleep with lecturers in exchange for the exam papers or grades. The same can be said of the senior high schools. What worries me is that, authorities pay so much attention to the senior high schools and universities leaving the junior high examinations to rot. An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.

Each morning before a paper, students from various schools are seen reading answers and not notes. What I observed really got me astounded. I decided to pass by one school and talk with some of the students. I asked them how the paper went and the general answer was, “easy because we had the questions.”  Teachers felt no iota of shyness when they admitted they were given the questions. A shocking revelation was that, the policewoman on duty took 5 cedis from each of the proprietors of the schools so she wouldn’t be strict, making way for teachers to help their students. I wish I wasn’t talking about this but if we don’t talk about our problems, we will never get them solved. Ghana must move forward. A better Ghana cannot be achieved while the future leaders are fed with answers before an exam. It is unethical and doesn’t help nurture students for the future. It must be frowned upon and measures put in place to nip it in the bud.

In my opinion, the government and other stakeholders of education do not hold the BECE so high. If we are building a better Ghana, we must let our future leaders know that examinations don’t kill. The fear of examination has crippled the students to the extent that they worry parents to get them money to buy question papers and even answers.

Education… has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.  ~G.M. Trevelyan. That is what our nation is turning the future leaders into. It is high time we paid so much attention to the BECE, to the junior high education and to our future leaders. We must make Ghana better. We must shape our destiny. No one can do that for us. We must do it ourselves. Long live Ghana…. Long live our future leaders!

Stop Comparing Yourself with Steve Jobs

Comparing yourself with Steve Jobs is not healthy. Never mind that it’s probably the pastime of every alpha male and female businessperson on the planet these days.

Drawing inspiration from Steve Jobs — or from anyone else you admire — studying them, and learning from them, now those are different matters. But all too often we conflate admiration and comparison. They’re two completely different things. One is smart, the other debilitating.

Comparison sounds like this: “Why aren’t I that creative?” “How come I don’t have the negotiating cojones he does?” “How come I can’t manage my people to that level of excellence?” “Why can’t I run two companies at once like he does?” “Why didn’t I have the guts to drop out of college and do what I really wanted to do?” “How come I haven’t had a comeback?” And it’s no surprise what comes next: “What a loser I am. I’ll never be like him. I’ll never be able to do anything that big. If I were sitting across the office from him he’d make mincemeat of me. I just don’t have what he has.”

The loop is repeated every hour or every time you read something about your icon, whichever comes first.

And this is healthy how?

Such comparisons spiral you into depression. They demotivate you, demoralize you, and generally suck every last bit of enthusiasm and aliveness out of you, so that you go into your next meeting or activity unable to contribute an ounce of energy to the room. How could you? You just annihilated your spirit.

Don’t touch hot stoves, don’t forget to call your mother on Mother’s Day, and don’t compare yourself with others. Wire this into your brain. Ruthlessly comparing yourself with others has become confused with some kind of tough-love work ethic. It isn’t the same thing. And it isn’t the least bit productive. It leaves you with nothing but personal unhappiness, and you can’t create very much of anything with that.

Because we confuse destructive comparisons with a strong work ethic, we make a habit of them, and mental habits get hardwired into our brains.

Break the cycle. Do an intervention on yourself. Begin the process of permanently rewiring your brain by consciously recognizing that this thing you thought was good, or responsible, is in fact the opposite.

There’s a saying, “You can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought.” It’s true. And comparing yourself with others is the equivalent of smothering yourself in negative thought. The feelings of self-loathing that follow are ultimately self-centered and self-indulgent in the most negative possible way. Yes, it’s a form of self-pity.

And if all that isn’t enough, consider this: The last way you will ever get to play in a game remotely like the one your icons play in is by comparing yourself with them.

When I was in my 20s I moved to Los Angeles to try and get a record deal as a singer and songwriter. I compared myself with Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell constantly. Using that approach, I never produced a remotely memorable song. And then I started observing pop/rock songwriter John Cougar. He was derided by the critics for being derivative of, but never nearly as insightful or affecting as, the greats. In a brilliant stroke of authenticity, he dropped the name I assume record producers had forced on him and began using his real name — John Mellencamp. As he embraced his own inadequacies, he began to write about things that were actually real and personal to him, instead of trying to channel Bob Seger, and suddenly he was producing critically acclaimed music. He went on to found Farm Aid and in 2008 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Using Mellencamp as my model — which meant being true to me and not someone else — I began writing much better, much more authentic material, and even had a song recorded by Edgar Winter.

I heard an interview on NPR the other day with Justin Townes Earle, a great and now successful songwriter in his own right, and son of Mellencamp’s contemporary, the great rural songwriter Steve Earle. Justin bears his dad’s last name, and his middle name was given to him in honor of the legendary songwriter Townes Van Zandt. He was asked if this was a burden, to be compared with these guys. His response was brilliant:

“I know both of ’em. They ain’t legends to me. They’re just regular guys. I’ve seen them throw up on themselves… I knew early on that anyone that decided they were going to be in competition with Steve Earle and Townsend Van Zandt as a songwriter is gonna live a fool’s life. You just gotta try and write for yourself and not worry about what other people think. I think that that’s what screws a lotta people up. You’re not Dylan…you’re who you are and you gotta learn who you are in order to write decent songs.”

And this credo has made him a success.

Steve Earle or Steve Jobs — if you’re comparing yourself with them you’re betraying yourself and your life and all of the possibility that lies within it.

By: Dan Palotta ( Founder of Palotta TeamWorks)

Solar Power Brings Night-Time Football to Kenya Slum

  • A football stadium in Kenya becomes the first of its kind to be lit by solar power.
  • The light entices local youths to practice out of the heat of the equatorial sun.
Mathare street football

It is eight in the evening and amateur teams of youngsters drawn from one of Nairobi’s toughest slums are locked in a five-a-side football match.

Normally they would have gone home long before dark to avoid the unsafe night-time streets of Mathare. But that was before the stadium became the first in Kenya to get solar-powered floodlighting, an incentive to stay on.

“We have already begun to see the changes. There is a big turn-out of teams who want to use the pitch for training in the evenings,” said Stephen Muchoki, manager of the Mathare Football for Hope Center.

The development is a direct legacy of the first football World Cup in Africa held in South Africa last year: governing body FIFA afterward chose 20 African groups to house a Football for Hope Center to promote the sport, as well as health and education.

One was the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) to which the new solar lighting system was donated by China’s Yingli Green Energy Holding Company, quoted on the New York Stock Exchange.

On top of the extra four hours of light a night provided by the new system, football players welcome the chance to practice away from the glare of the powerful equatorial sun.

“During the day, the sun is too direct but at night it is (now) easy to see the ball without straining,” said 16-year-old Edwin Ivusa, a Kenya under-17 international who aims to enter the national team in five years.

“Training at night is good for our fitness,” added striker Kevin Irungu, a former ball boy. “We run a lot — always on the ball — and we don’t get tired.”

“I didn’t think I would ever have a chance to play in a field like this. But the center has made us believe in ourselves and think we can do even better and that good things will come,” he said.

Muchoki expects the newly flood-lit pitch to attract more players, and also to be rented out for events to raise funds for the association.

“We are targeting kids between the ages of eight to 18 and also the retired former players who are too busy in the offices during the day and want to train at night,” he said.

MYSA was founded in 1987 and prides itself on having transformed the lives of more than 20,000 Kenyan youths living in the slums through training drills and courses ranging from football coaching to life-saving.

“These drills are very educative because they touch on every aspect of the daily life in the slum areas. They require a lot of concentration and skills from the participants,” said games coordinator Robert Chege.

Programs are based on those of Streetfootballworld, a non-profit Berlin-based organization which uses the sport to promote development and gender and social equality in disadvantaged areas.

The Mathare association has a strong showing in ranks of street football — a low-budget version of the game that can be played barefoot in the street without referees — and dominated the previous two street football World Cup competitions in Germany in 2006 and South Africa in 2010.

Alongside its sport training, it runs programs on HIV/AIDS education and organizes clean-up groups to help prevent the spread of disease in Mathare, which is a collection of mud and corrugated iron shacks without sanitation or infrastructure.

Its pick as one of FIFA’s “20 Centers for 2010” was a boost for its years of work. This center as well as ones in South Africa, Mali and Namibia have progressed well and are already hosting young sportspeople.

The Mathare stadium is the only sports facility in Kenya with a floodlighting system outside the two stadia in Nairobi — Nyayo National Stadium and the Moi International Sports Center, Kasarani — which are powered by the national grid.