Shall we increase the volume on NCCE?

One cliché that has caught in recent times among the populace, particularly the youth to emphasise a point or get the needed attention in drumming home a message is, “Is the volume okay or should I increase the volume?”

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ghana in March this year which has since claimed over 200 lives, infecting about 40,000 others, the need for multi-stakeholder collaboration to control the surge has never been more crucial.

Indeed, the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in his maiden address to the nation after our first two cases called for an all hands on deck approach to manage the pandemic.

“This fight, fellow Ghanaians, cannot be that of government alone. It is for all of us. I am confident that, together, with all hands on deck, we will be successful in weathering this storm,” he said.

One major institution which expectedly rose to the occasion in response to the national call is the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE).

Per its set up under Article 231 of the 1992 Constitution, the independent, non-partisan governance institution works to promote and sustain democracy, inculcating in the citizenry, the awareness of their rights and obligations, through civic education.

In view of the fact that there is no cure in sight for COVID-19, hence the need to increase awareness on preventive measures to reduce transmission of the disease, the work of the NCCE came in handy due to its strong grassroots presence to drum home the message of prevention through active community engagement, particularly in rural areas.

Nonetheless, it had to take the strong unanimous efforts of civil society organisations (CSOs) and members of the general public to call government’s attention to the Commission’s key role in helping manage the pandemic.

Not to say that government did or does not appreciate the work of the NCCE which continue to reel under budgetary, staff and logistical constraints, but as usual, the apathetical attitude we have nurtured over the years as a country towards empowering and building strong institutions.

“Until the President came to our aid, we had not received any funds from government of even our annual budget to execute our work for the year, so most of the engagement we were doing, we did without resources allocated to us.

We were only leveraging on relationship we had on the ground through the Assemblies, Churches, CSOs, our partners and in some cases, our staff used their own money to embark on education,” the Chairperson, Ms Josephine Nkrumah shared with me in an interview at her office on Thursday, August 6, 2020.

“We received 10,000 masks, gloves, sanitisers, washing soaps, cocoa powder and an amount of 2.5 million cedis to project our work from government when we were requested to re-submit our budget for our activities this year and this was gratifying to us,” she noted.

According to the Chairperson, through the Office of the Chief of Staff, government lent the Commission 50 Suzuki pick-up vehicles from the National Security Council and upon another proposal put in to the COVID-Trust Fund, “we received 10 more Nizzan cross country pick-ups, funds for fueling and maintenance of the vehicles, 50 public address systems, funds to buy 100 megaphones, 10 computers, and four designed laptops for audio-visuals.”

The gesture, though satisfying, one would have thought that the NCCE which had to throw its earlier scheduled activities for the year to the wind in response to the national assignment, would have been overwhelmed with resources to embark on this tangent, looking at the severity of the pandemic which has even the world’s biggest economies on its knees.

Even graver is the burden that hangs over its head going into the 2020 general elections in barely four months.

The NCCE would have to kill two birds with one stone; sensitising the populace on its civic responsibilities towards consolidating Ghana’s democracy by ensuring a successful elections and holding the fort to prevent a spike of COVID-19 cases.

It begs belief therefore that despite the enormous task ahead, very little is actually being done to address the myriad of challenges confronting the NCCE.

“For the first time since I joined this Commission, we have seen some steps to address our staff challenge. In the five years prior to 2020, we have had only 45 staff replacements when hundreds of staff members have exited the Commission over the years.

We have received clearance to recruit 240 personnel this year which is a good start, but looking at our present population of over 30 million and our staff strength of about 1,434, now, it means that we need almost double this figure to be able to provide effective civic education in the communities,” Ms Nkrumah noted.

Currently, she said the NCCE has 70 vehicles at its disposal to serve its head office, 16 regional offices and 260 district offices across the country, but most of these vehicles “are aging and cost of maintaining them has a heavy toll on our budget”.

“We received 50 vehicles from the government and 10 others from the National COVID-19 Trust Fund for sensitization, but the vehicles from the government were loaned to us and we have to return them this month (August), unless we are given an extension of the use,” the Chairperson lamented.

Judging from the rising public disregard for the outlined COVID-19 safety protocols with many others assuming the country is out of the woods and probably the disease even never existed, we need institutions like the NCCE to keep the heat on.

In recent times, the Commission has proved that it was dedicated and committed to discharging its duties with its increasing visibility through social and traditional media among others to promote national development.

If we are living the new normal, then it is imperative that as a country we step up our game in prioritising allocation of resources to key institutions like the NCCE, and power lies within the citizenry to ensure authorities do the right thing.

“We must be citizens and not spectators.” The NCCE must not lose these vehicles, at least not in these critical times of its work, neither should they be deprived of other logistics and resources to discharge their duties nor be relegated to the background.

We must increase the volume on this now!!!


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