Friday, August 25, 2006

Conservationists Meet On African Elephants

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Thursday, 24 August 2006 (Page 4)

More than 25 delegates from 18 African countries are meeting in Accra to review the challenges confronting the management and conservation of the biggest game on earth – African Elephants.

The three-day symposium was organized by the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission in Ghana with funds from the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Speaking at the opening ceremony on Tuesday, the Executive Director of Wildlife Division, Ofori Frimpong ,said human and wildlife conflicts have the potential to escalate due to the increasing clearing of lands around wildlife protected areas.

He said, the growing human population near the protected areas with virtually no buffer zones between the agriculture dominated landscape and the wildlife reserves themselves posses great challenges that need collective ideas and inputs from stakeholder to manage".

Mr.Frimpong indicated that most of the elephant ranges and their habitats are under severe threat from illegal and sustainable resource exploitations and utilization.

Cross border migration of elephants from Ghana to Burkina Faso and vice versa through the Red Volta corridor with its associated illegal hunting for elephant ivory is another major challenge in elephant conservation.

In Ghana, Elephants can be found in the Kakum National Park in the Central Region, Bia National Park and Ankasa Rain Forest in the Western region, the Kyabobo National Park and some parts of the Brong-Ahafo Region.

He suggested the strengthening of collaboration to find local solutions to specific country problems.

"Our quest to speed up the pace of sustainable development as an agricultural-based economy will definitely place on us some of the challenges afore mentioned."

He called on the delegates to share information and knowledge to continually reassess their strengths, weaknesses and opportunities as organizations involved in conservation.

The Head of Elephant Programmes of the Wildlife Division, Moses Kofi Sam said the expansion of roads, towns and farming had caused rapid loss not only of natural vegetation conservation but the elephants too.

He said that there are about 2000 elephants scattered within the 12 ranges in Ghana, one third of which are found in forest and the rest in the savanna areas, adding that the Wildlife Division had collaborated with NGOs to update the status of some of the elephant population in the various ranges.

Deputy Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, Andrew Adjei-Yeboah, who opened the meeting said the government is committed to the conservation of biodiversity for the ultimate benefit of the present and future generations.

He said traditional authorities in Ghana for decades now, have shown great commitment to the conservation of wildlife noting that "this has been seen in the institution and enforcement of customary rules and regulations that protected wildlife and their habitats"

He said government is concerned about the plight of elephants on the continent and their dwindling populations and it would therefore support measures at the international level to improve their status.

Another area of concern, Mr Adjei-Yeboah said is the poaching of elephants which is fuelled by illegal trade in ivory, adding that "Ghana will continue to collaborate with all agencies dealing with these conservation challenges".

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Minister Warns Against Assault On Teachers

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Tuesday, 22 August 2006(Page 15)

Any community that assaults or poses a threat to a teacher or teachers will have its school closed down, Mrs. Angelina Baiden-Amisah, Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Sports, has warned.

Any teacher, who misconducts his or herself will also face severe sanctions, she further warned.

Speaking to the Times shortly after launching a UNESCO Teacher Training Initiative for Sub-Saharan Africa (TTISSA) in Accra on Wednesday, she observed that teacher-beating is becoming a phenomenon in the country and, therefore, called for measures to safeguard them.

The initiative, which aims to increase the number of teachers and improve the quality teaching was taken at the UN General Assembly held in Paris, France last year where 46 African countries were selected to progressively participate through a four-year cycle by 2015.

She cited an instance of her order for the closure of a school in Accra for a week, after a gang raided the school and threatened the teachers and management and beat up a teacher for punishing a student who reported the incident to the gang.

Mrs. Baiden-Amissah indicated that whenever such an incident occurs, a committee will be set up to delve into the matter and if it is found out that the teacher or teachers were assaulted unnecessarily, then that school will be closed down, to "serve as a warning to them and other communities."

She indicated that the country needs more teachers to meet the demands arising out of the introduction of the Capitation Grant by the government noting that "efforts are being made to train enough teachers to fill in the gap."

The Deputy Minister noted that senior secondary school graduates were being recruited to be trained so as to help close up the gap.

Launching the initiative, she asked institutions which prepare teachers to ensure that their products acquire the requisite knowledge, competencies, skills and dispositions that would make them effective on the field.

She also reminded teachers to promote quality teaching through diagnostic testing, guidance and counseling of students for better learning outcomes.

She assured UNESCO of government’s preparedness to support the initiative for it to adequately address the needs of the teaching profession in the country.

¢1.5b Scholarship For 400 Needy Students

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Tuesday, 22 August 2006 (Page 16)

The Areeba Educational Scholarship Pro-gramme has pre-sented ¢1.5 billion scholarships to 404 needy but brilliant students for the 2006/2007 academic year to enable them to pursue their education successfully.

Hundreds of the beneficiaries, were selected from the country’s tertiary, senior and junior secondary schools after a screening process by the scholarship secretariat in Accra.

A total of 170 people have successfully benefited from the scholarship programme which was instituted six years ago with about ¢183 million which covered 182 beneficiaries.

Speaking at the presentation ceremony in Accra at the weekend, the Deputy Director General of the Ghana Education Service, Ms. Lydia Osei, said government is taking measures to bridge the gap between rural and urban schools by putting up decent infrastructure and creating the same congenial atmosphere for effective teaching and learning.

She observed that the infrastructure situation in schools, especially in the rural areas, discourage teachers from accepting postings to these places noting that providing good infrastructure would motivate teachers to be at post in such areas.

She appealed to the company and other stakeholders to comple-ment government’s effort at improving educational infrastructure in the rural areas.

Ms. Osei urged the recipients to study hard to reciprocate the investment in them saying, "You have to work very hard to realize your aim".

She warned the beneficiaries that the scholarship would depend on their academic performance, conduct and social responsibilities.

She commended Areeba for the initiative to support brilliant but needy students to pursue their education successfully.

The scholarship supervisor, Mrs. Betty Andah, said the scholarship programme forms part of the company’s programme to assist brilliant but needy students in the country.

Mrs. Andah said the company in its quest to help raise the standard of education in the country has constructed a six classroom block for Odorkrom near Akosombo in the Asuogyaman District and a vocation/technical school for the people of Damango in the Northern Region.

Mother To Child HIV/AIDS Transmission Still High - Report

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 19 August 2006 (Page 3)

The Ghana Aids Commission (GAC) says 603 children below the age of four last year tested HIV positive in spite of the Free Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) services introduced by the commission in 2003.

The Commission’s Research Coordinator, Atuahene Kyeremeh, who made this known at a forum yesterday, attributed the widespread incidence of PMTCT to the failure of many pregnant mothers to access the service.

PMTCT is a service for counseling and testing for the HIV status of present women at ante-natal clinics to protect the unborn child against contracting the virus.

Speaking at a workshop to disseminate research findings on sexual exploitation of children in tourism and its implication for the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Ghana, he said 227 other children aged between five and nine were also reported of being HIV positive.

"We have low uptake of the PMTCT service and this is worrying," he stated.

Mr.Kyeremeh said, about 30 to 40 per cent of children born to HIV positive mothers get infected, and therefore called for the strengthening of the PMTCT services in Ghana.

He said that last year, 603 children below four years were reported of being HIV positive while 227 within the age group of five to nine were also reported of being HIV positive.

He said HIV/AIDS impact on children is complex and multifaceted, adding that it has created orphans globally, and "in Ghana, it would have created about 291,000 orphans by 2015".

He explained that knowing the HIV status of the pregnant mothers would help to put them on anti retroviral treatment which would protect the child from contracting the virus.

Mr.Kyeremeh said if nothing is done and more and more children get the virus, the low HIV/AIDS prevalent rate in the country would go up. He therefore appealed to all to help in the campaign against the disease.

The research was conducted by the Ghana NGO Coalition on the Rights of the Child to assess the prevalence, magnitude and consequences of child sex tourism with focus on boys at La and Osu, in Accra.

It aimed at highlighting the fact that boys are also exploited sexually by tourists.

Presenting the findings, a research coordinator of the coalition, Edmund Acquaye, said in their attempt to sexually abuse children tourists adopt various strategies including money inducement and promises to take the prospective victim abroad.

He said: "The study revealed that anal sex among the boys was rampant. Most of the respondents pointed this out and they stressed on the fact that in recent times one gets a lot of money in anal sex".

Mr.Acquaye indicated that some of these boys agree to have sex with their partners without a condom because according to them, it attracts a higher fee, although 90 per cent of respondents said they have heard of HIV/AIDS.

He observed that the high promotion of tourism would lead to an increase in sexual exploitation, hence he stressed the need to look at the badside of tourism.

He said a tourist admitted the fact he was engage in homosexuality and that his clients mostly boys had no age limit adding "his main aim of traveling to Ghana was to have fun and carry on these sexual exploitative activities"

He called for a well structured and systematic community based sensitization on sexual exploitation of children.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Ghana has been selected among 17 other African countries to participate in a-four-year pilot UNESCO sponsored programme to restructure national teacher policies and teacher education.

The Teacher Training Initaitive for Sub-Sahara Africa (TTISSA) which aims to increase the number of teachers and improve the quality of teaching, was initiated at the UNESCO general assembly in Paris last year, where 46 African countries were selected to progressively participate.

The project, launched in Accra on Wednesday will, among other things, focus on school level curricula to meet new needs of learners through appropriate technologies and distance education, develop networks for teacher training institutions for joint activities and sharing of resources and good practices among member countries.

It will also address the status, working conditions and performance of teachers so as to give a new image to the teaching profession to be more attractive and thereby inspire confidence and efficiency.

Speaking at the launch, Ms. Elizabeth Moundo, Director of the UNESCO Cluster Office in Accra, said the initiative is designed to assist countries in synchronizing their teacher education and labour policies with national development priorities for Education-For-All and the Millennium Development Goals.

She said that the right to education is for all and it is therefore important to focus on teachers as the most significant component of the education system.

The project will be implemented in close collaboration with governments, especially ministries of education, teacher education institutions and educators.

The Chairman of the TTISSA advisory committee, Professor Jophus Anamuah-Mensah, said the initiative has come at the right time given the acute teacher student ratio in the country.

He hoped that it would address the shortage of teachers, especially in the rural areas to make the teaching profession more attractive, as Ghana cannot train enough teachers to fill the gap by using conventional means.

Prof. Anamuah-Mensah, who is also the Vice Chancellor of the University of Education, Winneba, suggested that with Ghana benefiting from the inititative, teachers would in due course be licensed and their promotion based on performance and not on the number of years they have served.

Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Sports, Angelina Baiden-Amissah, who launched the initiative assured UNESCO of government’s support in running the project to adequately address the needs of the teaching profession.

She urged teacher training institutions to ensure that their products acquire the requisite knowledge, competencies, skills and dispositions that would make them effective on the field.

"Teachers, too, should promote quality teaching through diaqnostic testing, guidance and counseling of students for better learning outcomes," she said.

Mrs.Baiden-Amissah said that curriculum reforms in all teacher training institutions would be pursued to include literacy, sustainable development, HIV/AIDS prevention and management, information and communications technology and appealed to the private sector to support the initiative to enable Ghana to adequately prepare its human resource to be globally competitive.

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Friday, 18 August 2006 (Page 4)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fun And Games At 'Old Skuuls' Reunion

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 05 August 2006

(Times Weekend)

The Joy F.M Old Skuuls Reunion last Saturday created a magnificent and unifying atmosphere at the Aviation Social Centre where thousands of current and old students of many schools thronged to re-live and reminisce over their old school days.

For about ten hours, the Aviation Social Centre in Accra was thrown into ecstatic mood as old classmates and schoolmates met. For some it was the first time meeting old pals after a long time.

Every part of the Aviation Social Centre vibrated with variety of music from huge loud speakers which were positioned at the various spots along the street from the El-Wak Stadium traffic lights to the centre.

The road leading from the El-Wak traffic light was blocked by police personnel detailed to provide security for the event resulting in a long traffic jam from the Flagstaff House, through the 37 Military Hospital and the El-Wak stadium to Burma Camp area.

With few reported incidents of theft and technical hitches, this year’s Skuuls Reunion, the sixth in the series, witnessed the most impressive turnout, and was described by many as "one big exciting and reuniting event one wouldn’t want to miss in a life time".

Before the curtain was raised for the various activities around 12 noon, the student associations were seen everywhere with their musical instruments singing ‘jama’ songs and school anthems.

The more than 60 tertiary and second cycle schools which participated in the event, started trooping to the event grounds as early as 8.00 am to participate in the variety of outdoor games and sporting activities that had been lined up to mark the special reunion.

The event was mostly characterized by scenes of clapping, singing, hugging, cuddling, kissing, shouting, and jumping and the likes that are associated with schoolmates.

For some ladies, the Skuuls Reunion provided a suitable platform for them to show off their "fashion sense". It was more of a fashion parade for these "beauties" as they appeared in the "I’m awares, show your backs, bare backs, mini skirts" and other ‘killing’ dresses.

Like last year, a group which claimed to be old students from a Tuobodom school became a cynosure of all eyes as the crowd surged forward to catch a glimpse of the members, some of whom wore pampers while others wore primary school uniforms and carried a caged rabbit. In fact, their outfit depicted the dress worn by Nkasei in their "Yefri Tuobodom" video clip which raised a lot of controversy last year.

In the evening various hip-life artistes took centre stage and rendered captivating musical performances. People craned their necks in order to have a clear view of their performances while some also tried to climb the stage to dance.

Among the artistes that performed at the event were Lord Kenya, Obrafuor, Tic Tac, Bright of Buk Bak fame, Praye, Jay Dee, 2 Toff, and Reggie Zippi among others.

After the various competitions among the schools present, Accra Academy was adjudged the winners of the Tug-of-War, Ofori Panin Secondary School and West African Secondary school also won the "gari soaking", competition of the mixed school category with Aburi Girls’ Secondary School and St. Paul’s Secondary School at Denu winning the single sex category.

Friday, August 04, 2006

PNC Advocates Policy On Drug Abuse

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Thursday, 03 August 2006 (Page 3)

The People’s National Convention (PNC) has proposed a national drug and substance abuse policy that will define strategies for the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of victims.

Addressing a press conference in Accra yesterday, Dr.Edward N. Mahama leader of the party, observed that drug and substance abuse has now become a major killer and destroyer of health in the country.

He suggested that the formulation of such a policy should include parent’s and family, school, work place and professional strategies, among others, for it to become the basis for a comprehensive law.

It will define the role of local government in law enforcement, rehabilitation and integration of drug abusers into mainstream society, he added.

Dr. Mahama who is a medical doctor and a former lecturer at the University of Ghana Medical School, mentioned marijuana, cocaine, sedatives, stimulants, alcohol and narcotics as some of the drugs being abused in the country, and said that the situation as it is now stifles the potential and well-being of the youth and "threatens our national security".

He stated that licit and illicit drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, have permeated every segment of our society, adding "it is most alarming in children and adolescents".

Dr Mahama said that drug and substance abuse has become a serious problem in Ghana, and "some of our elite and prestigious schools are facing this menace quietly, with wee traffickers lacing "shito" a pepper sauce, with substances for some unsuspecting young people who then develop the habit".

Dr Mahama revealed that he had to dismiss one of his nurses who has become addicted to a substance.

"The unfortunate thing about the situation is that she needed help but there are no programmes in our current system," he noted.

"Recent news reports indicate that drug barons may have already infiltrated our national security and confirmed to some extent the impression that it is a multi-billion dollar business profiting a few but leaving considerable cost in the reform of violent armed robberies, road traffic, accidents involving substance abused impaired drivers," he said.

Dr Mahama said that that since drug and substance abuse is a global problem, it should be dealt with in a global approach.

He proposed that the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union should combine combating drug and substance abuse with the fight against, HIV/AIDS, and African youth emigration.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

'Old Skulls Reunion' Here Again

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 29 July 2006 (Times Weekend)

THE time is here again! The Aviation Social Centre in Accra will today be "electrified". It will become the assembly point in Ghana for thousands of current and old students from the country’s tertiary and second cycle institutions to reminisce about old school days.

All roads in the metropolis leads to the Aviation Social Centre for this year’s Joy F.M Old Skuul Reunion.

More than 60 old school associations have registered to participate in today’s event which starts at exactly 9am.

In the last week, about 10 of these old schools associations such as Adisco, G.S.T.S, Ketasco, Okuass, Rosec, Presec Legon, WASS and Mawuli have been featured live on Joy F.M’s programmes.

Characterize by scenes such as singing, clapping, hugging, cuddling, kissing, shouting, jumping and the likes, the Old Skuuls Reunion which is the sixth in the series, will create a large platform for broad smiles as people meet their friends whom perhaps, they have not meet for decades.

The student associations will be competing in various activities like jama and school anthem, ampe, four-a-side football, tug of war, gari soaking, eba eating and formation dance which is a new addition.

The large crowd expected at the centre will also be entertained with musical performances from the erstwhile Nescafe African Revelation Champions; Praye, Okurasinii of TV3 Mentor fame, Wutah, Obrafuo and Eebo; new entrant in the music industry.

The Sales and Marketing Manager of Joy F.M, Max Fugar said organizers will give attention to the older folks who will make it to the event grounds to participate in the event.

Speaking to the Times, he said a different stage will be set up for the older generation who participate in the event, adding "we are introducing pop chain and card playing for the older folks."

He said that there is going to be improved security at the grounds, saying that over 40 police personnel are expected to ensure sanity and discipline. He also noted that the 37 Military Hospital is providing ambulance service to respond to any emergency that may arise.

He said the Old Skuuls Reunion would create a platform for participants to re-establish link with their old friends and establish business relationships, noting "we are asking everyone to come with their call cards which we will take and enter into a database".