“Just as we were the first country, south of the Sahara, to gain our independence, Ghana’s distinguished diplomat, Patrick Seddoh, was the first African to be elected chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO in 1983. We were also the first African country to have a female representative on the Executive Board, in the person of another distinguished diplomat, Mrs. Therése Striggner-Scott. I say this to demonstrate how proud we are of our membership of UNESCO.”
These were the words of the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on Friday, 12th November 2021, at the 75th Anniversary celebration of the founding of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in Paris, France.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Akufo-Addo indicated that UNESCO is, arguably, the outstanding global agency to have emerged out of the formation of the United Nations.
Ghana, the President said, was not there at that seminal ceremony in London, as she were entering, at the time, the active phase of her struggle for freedom from British colonial rule.
“But twelve (12) years later, in 1958, a year after our independence, we took our rightful place as a member of UNESCO. It has since been sixty-three years of fruitful, cordial co-operation, and the benefits are evident,” he said.
According to President Akufo-Addo, from the training of science teachers for our schools in 1965, UNESCO has helped shape many policies in Ghana’s educational sector, including the recent National Teacher Policy, the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, and the mainstreaming of biosphere conservation plans in the national development agenda.
“At the time when there was only one media house in Ghana, needless to say state-owned, UNESCO helped establish private, independent newspapers and radio stations, contributing to the making of a vibrant and free media, the envy, today, of many on the continent, and, indeed in the world,” he said.
The President continued, “With Ghana serving as the unfortunate location for seventy-five percent (75%) of the slave dungeons built on the West coast of Africa to facilitate the barbaric, inhumane Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, we have been able to preserve significant numbers of these World Heritage sites with the assistance of UNESCO”.
In contemporary times, he noted that UNESCO has been able to redefine and reposition itself to address the pressing needs of the world.
“When the pandemic of COVID-19 struck, it assisted several countries, including Ghana, to help ensure that the education of hundreds of thousands of children was not truncated,” the President said.
Just as UNESCO believes that education is a human right for all throughout life, President Akufo-Addo indicated that Ghana, ”through the Free Senior High School policy”, is committed to every Ghanaian child having access to a minimum of senior high school education”.
Tertiary education, he added, has also seen a major boost in infrastructural development, with some sixty (60) public tertiary institutions now able to accommodate our fast-expanding student population.
With UNESCO’s mandate broadening considerably beyond what the founding members may have envisaged, President Akufo-Addo stressed the importance of its niche areas of expertise not being compromised.
“UNESCO is its Member States, this anniversary is ours too. It has been seventy-five (75) years of multilateral solidarity, and we must continue for the next seventy-five (75) years to deepen our co-operation even further in the areas of education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, communication and information to achieve the future we want, and leave no one behind,” the President added.