How successful were Nkrumah’s education policies (1951-1966) as a tool for peace-building in Ghana?

I thought I’d share this in case anyone is interested in Nkrumah’s educational policies as a tool for peace-building – this is an essay I submitted last year as part of an MA in International Development and Education at UCL for a module on ‘Conflict, Fragility and Education’. Huge thanks to all the Ghanaians that I quizzed about the long-term impact of Nkrumah’s education policies. All comments welcome! Please do not reprint or reuse this text without permission. Cat Davison 2017

Ghana’s metamorphosis: an examination of the success of Nkrumah’s education policies in Ghana (1951-1966) as a tool for peace building.


Following Ghana’s independence from British colonial rule in 1957, Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), made use of the Ghanaian education system as a tool for diffusing ethnic tensions, unifying the country through the promotion of a national identity, and starting to redistribute wealth and educational opportunity. This was particularly important in the context of widespread dissatisfaction following the violence in the 1948 Accra riots, and significant tribal loyalties, which has led to sporadic conflict in the Northern Region of Ghana in particular. We will explore the extent to which Nkrumah’s policies, based on his ideology of ‘consciencism’ (Nkrumah, 1891), ensured not only that the Gold Coast was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to become independent of European colonial rule in 1957, but also guaranteed that Ghana continues to be acknowledged as a model of effective and stable democracy today (Panaf Books, 1977).

Nietzsche’s Three Metamorphoses

Nietzsche argued that human consciousness was restricted by the controlling moral absolutes of the church in the nineteenth century within Europe; he argued that humans needed to go through a ‘metamorphosis’ in order to achieve epistemological freedom (Nietzsche, 1883). This model of the stages of epistemological power is comparable to the freeing of Ghanaian minds that Nkrumah sought from colonialist narratives and systems (practical, moral and epistemological) through his policies. The church’s absolutes are represented by a dragon in Nietzsche’s work, with the description of ‘values, thousands of years old’ shining on his scales’ (Nietzsche, 1883). He suggests that these rules curb the creativity of humans, seemingly fitting with the alienation of the self and conformation to western values that so many describe as a key component of colonialist rule (Dei, 2000). Nietzsche suggests that the individual should transform into a lion, who holds the bravery to remove himself from a position of acceptance of the veracity of the imposed standards; similarly, in his Consciencism, Nkrumah argues that the people, must act against the imposition of colonial rules, through ‘positive action’, in order restore their own freedom; however, the lion is not able to create original values because he is so deeply influenced by the dragon’s values and thus it is at this point that it is suggested that the third metamorphosis must occur, transforming into a child who creates his own values like a ‘self-propelled wheel’ (Nietzsche, 1891). Indeed, Nkrumah argues that his consciencism ‘reclaims the psychology of the people, erasing the ‘colonial mentality’ from it; and it resolutely defends the independence and security of the people’. (Nkrumah, 1964)

Ultimately, this essay examines whether Nkrumah’s education-focused policies did successfully unite the country, and considers whether these strategies played a vital role in instilling an over-arching Ghanaian national consciousness which many suggest is based on ‘tolerance and respect for all, irrespective of their ethnicity’ (Tsikata and Seini, 2004). Does Nkrumah, like Nietzsche’s lion, struggle to entirely free Ghanaians from oppressive metanarratives? Does a lingering heritage remain in Ghana’s education system, which can be seen to be psychologically damaging (see Fanon, 1961)? Is Nkrumah right to differ from Nietzsche in recognizing the role that Euro-Christian and Islamic values have played in forming the African character, and combining these in his nationalist ideology? Did Nkrumah succeed in his attempts to remove underlying social inequalities through education, and did this prevent conflict?

This study of Nkrumah’s educational policies as a tool for peace building will seek to answer these questions, drawing on elements of Nkrumah’s ‘consciencism’, Friere’s ‘conscientization’, and Bhaskar’s ‘critical realism’, as theoretical frameworks throughout our argument.


Ghana’s Independence

During the Second World War, thousands of troops from Africa fought for Great Britain; however, when they returned, they struggled to gain employment. Hundreds of Ghanaian veterans organized a march to present a petition to the Governor of the Gold Coast, requesting compensation; however, Superintendent Imray, who eventually killed three former soldiers, stopped them. This sparked rioting across Accra, which spread to other towns. On 1st March, the Governor declared a state of emergency and many including Kwame Nkrumah were briefly detained (Okyere, 2000). Following his release, Nkrumah indicated that he would prepare to start a campaign based on non-violent positive action (his version of Gandhi’s satyagraha) which he said would involve ‘the adoption of all legitimate and constitutional means by which we could attack the forces of imperialism’ (Nkrumah, 1955: 111-112). The colonial forces realized that they had underestimated the growing strength of Nkrumah’s nationalism (Addo-Fening, 1972: 83). It soon became clear that Ghana was no longer content to be ruled by Britain; in the 1951 elections, the CPP won a significant proportion of the seats (Ward, 1963), and five years later Britain conceded to further demands for self-government. Before colonialism, Ghana was made up of kingdoms such as the Fanti which fell along the coast, and the Ashanti in the middle of the country; these regions exist in Ghana today, with different dialects such as Twi, Fanti and Akan being spoken in each, with English as Ghana’s administrative language (Addo-Fening, 1972).

Education in Ghana: 1951-1966  

The Education Act of 1961 aimed to deliver universal primary education for all pupils in Ghana; this was known as the Accelerated Development Plan for Education (Archin, 1992: 57). This provided opportunities for people in Ghana regardless of gender or class, and improved enrolment for girls and people from disadvantaged backgrounds (Graham, 1985), which was a central aspect of Nkrumah’s egalitarian political philosophy, in which he wanted to ensure that every citizen was treated equally (Nkrumah, 1964). This also linked to the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), which reasserted that every person should hold an equal right to educational opportunities (Paris, 1960). The 1961 Act also expanded teacher training, and provided pupils with the necessary textbooks. Nkrumah identified basic education and literacy as a prerequisite for rapid economic and social development. This was furthered by the offer of free education in northern Ghana, which aimed to reverse centuries of discrimination by region (Tsikata and Seini, 2004). Specifically, the relative lack of wealth in the North has been a contributing factor in several conflicts that have taken place across the last 40 years (Anekunabe, 2009) such as the ‘Guinea Fowl War’ of 1994 where violence was reportedly sparked following a dispute over the ownership of a guinea fowl (Sulemana 2009:116), and indeed, in conflicts previous to Nkrumah’s leadership of the country, such as the Konkomba – Dogomba conflict at Sambuli in 1946 which was sparked by a Dogomba man reportedly fishing in a pond belonging to the Konkomba (Sulemana 2009:116).

Under the Nkrumah administration, secondary education in particular received notable attention, as it was perceived as vital for educational progress and overall national development (Quist, 2003, p190). A ‘national’ secondary schools project, in which quotas for different regions were given for each school, aimed to particularly increase access to secondary education in remote and poor regions such as the Northern, Upper West, and Upper East areas. This project was driven through the Ghana Educational Trust (GET) between 1957-1964; indeed, during this period, the GET established thirty-four secondary schools (Quist, 2003, p190). This strategy of targeting inequality across different regions of Ghana was a central part of Nkrumah’s peace building strategy in an effort to reduce the possibility of grievance as a potential cause of conflict. Most rebellions are ‘ostensibly in pursuit of a cause, supported by a narrative of grievance’, even though grievance alone cannot give a complete explanation of conflict (Collier and Hoeffler, 2000). Indeed, many of the conflicts that have flared up in the North have occurred sporadically across the past sixty years due to grievances: disputes over rights to chieftaincies, arguments over land ownership, and issues surrounding ethnicity. For example, a conflict between the Mamrusi and Kusasi in 2008 claimed at least 17 lives. It was reportedly sparked by a dispute over the theft of a horse (Anekunabe, 2009). States with a low per capita GDP more commonly experience civil war as wage-earning through waging war appear a more lucrative prospect in comparison (Collier and Hoefller, 2000); indeed, a rebel leader in South Sudan proclaimed that ‘it pays to rebel’ (Economist, 2011). Thus given the comparative lack of wealth in the North of Ghana it was vital that Nkrumah addressed this inequality, and focused on economic development in Ghana more widely.

Nkrumah’s Consciencism

Indeed, Nkrumah’s policies rested upon a belief that every individual in Ghana had an equal right to basic needs. He stated in 1964 that he wanted every child to develop his talents ‘to the fullest degree’ regardless of the wealth of his parents (Office of the Planning Commission, 1964:141). This seems to align in part with the capabilities approach (Sen, 1999), rather than seeing investment in the education of an individual as a means to the wider economic improvement of the country, as suggested by the human capitol approach (e.g. Mincer, 1963). Nkrumah saw the value of each individual as arising from a materialist analysis of nature, noting that it is the ‘basic unity of matter’, which shows us that ‘man is one’ for the existence of all men and women arise from the same evolutionary process (Nkrumah, 1964). Nkrumah also employed Kant’s ethics in his system asserting that the education of each individual held intrinsic value: no individual was to be seen as a ‘means to an end’ (Kant, 1785) as had been the case during colonial rule, when the individuals in the country were widely exploited for the wealth they could generate, as powerfully communicated in texts such as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which depicts the abuse of the Congolise at the hands of King Leopald II of Belgium (Conrad, 1899).

Nkrumah acted quickly to quash perceived disloyalty to the state within Ghanaian universities, demanding that these institutions acted for national benefit, reflecting the values and aspirations of all Ghanaians rather than creating research that suggested it ‘existed in a vacuum’ (Nkrumah 1963d: 2) (Afhan, 1992:80). In this way, Nkrumah attempted to ensure that all educational intuitions worked towards improving the conditions for all rather than furthering their own agendas, but in the process he may have alienated key educational leaders. Ultimately, it is clear that education tends to have two dimensions: the negative and positive ‘faces’ of Nkrumah’s policies will be discussed (Bush and Saltarelli, 2000: 9).

Analysis of Specific Educational Policies for Peacebuilding

  1. Anti-Tribalism

The over-arching strategy that Nkrumah employed throughout the education system to ensure political stability was to try to eliminate tribalism: he wanted to ensure that the citizens of Ghana had a primary loyalty to the nation-state rather than to their local regions (Fuller 2014: 29-33). Nkrumah saw that national unity was essential for the modernization and industrialization of the country. Nkrumah and the CPP criticized the power of local chiefs as undemocratic, and acts were passed in 1958 and 1959 to reduce their powers (Arhin, 1992). Nkrumah also banned tribal flags, and instead tried to promote the use of the new Ghanaian national flag. He took many measures to ensure that he was perceived as representing the entire country, for example, he wore a traditional northern robe, fugu, but wore Kente cloth, from the south of the country, during ceremonies (Arhin, 1992). Nkrumah was a careful architect of a new Ghanaian identity; Anderson compares the nations such as Nkrumah’s Ghana to an ‘imagined political community’, arguing that all national communities are ‘imagined’ because the individuals within even the smallest nations will not have knowledge of most of their fellow-members, yet within each individual dwells the image of their communism (Anderson 1991). May is correct to assert that this does not mean that the national identity is imaginary, but rather indicates that all large-scale collective identities have to be cultivated and promoted (May, 2012: 70), as Nkrumah specifically did through measures such as the creation of the Young Pioneers Movement, a national organization with regional sections which promoted nationalism and also a pan-African consciousness in the Ghanaian youth (Bush & Saltarelli, 2000).

Durkheim notes that education is a ‘pivotal agency’ in the formation of societal values because society cannot exist without a significant degree of homogeneity (Durkheim, 1956:50; May, 2002: 175). Integrating different regions through a common set of values has long been seen as vital to political stability (Bush and Saltarelli, 2000). In Gourevitch’s work on the Rwandan genocide, it is seen as a vital sign of progress, when, in the closing chapter, a group of female students are attacked at the school in Kibuye by a Hutu Power group of militants, and they are asked to divide themselves between ‘Hutu’ and ‘Tutsi’, that they refuse proclaiming themselves to be ‘simply Rwandas’ (Gourevitch, 1998).

However, the success of a particular nationalism is rarely achieved without the removal of other ways of ‘imagining peoplehood’ (Billig, 1995, 27,28, May, 2012: 84). Connor offers the term ‘Staatsvolk’ to describe a people who are culturally and politically pre-eminent in a state and determine the ‘national essence’ of the nation-state, despite the existence of many other groups with competing ‘essences’ (May, 2012:85). He suggests that the dominant group’s culture and language come to be represented as the core national culture and language, with minority group cultures and languages being ‘excluded’ from national recognition (May, 2012:85). Indeed, in the Ghanaian context, those who protested against Nkrumah’s policies were indeed often labeled as neocolonialists (Arhin, 1992), and it was implied that they were driven by greed and motivated by the desire for further individual power.

John Stuart Mill advanced the myth of the incompatibility of ethnic heterogeneity and modernization, arguing that ethnic affiliations and associated languages were counter-productive to the political stability of the nation state (Mill, 1861). The strength of Mill’s position rests in the benefits of a common culture and language for universal political citizenship; however, this simultaneously seems to deny minorities of linguistic and cultural rights. Indeed, ethnicity does matter to a number of people, as shown by the fact that many groups reproduce their ethnicity even when it reduces the group’s chances of gaining political power and increased wealth (e.g. Kurds in Iraq, or Tibetans in China (Eriksen, 2010, May, 2012: 44)). This is partially due to the ‘ineffable cultural and symbolic attributes of ethnicity largely dismissed in instrumental accounts’ (May, 2012: 44). Therefore the loss of tribal culture is significant, even if this significance cannot easily be measured in economics terms.

Nkrumah promoted Ghanaian culture through education, overseeing the opening of the Ghana Museum in March 1957, creating the Arts Council of Ghana in 1964, and opening the first Institute of African Studies in 1962 (Arhin, 1992). However, it seems that these cultural advances were not accessible to the vast majority of citizens. In addition, Nkrumah’s government did not pay sufficient attention to the quality of the secondary educational expansion in their introduction of a new kind of secondary school ‘the national school’ (Quist, 2003, p203). Whilst reform was attempted it was not pursued with enough fervor, especially with regards to transforming content away from Eurocentricisms; History in particular, still featured western themes. (Quist, 2003: 203) It is fundamental for syllabi to both reflect local customs and to promote critical thinking, so that Ghanaians are able to evaluate different epistemological accounts for themselves, referencing the ‘chew and pour’ method often promoted which involved learning key facts rather than developing abilities in evaluation and creative thinking (Adjei, 2007:1048).

Ultimately, Nkrumah did not give sufficient focus to the role Ghanaians took in constructing their own education, and improving basic critical thinking skills. It is vital that the oppressed play an active role in the creation of knowledge and knowledge-systems. Freire (1968) criticises what he terms the ‘banking model’ of education that treats pupils as empty vessels waiting to be filled. Freire argues that the imposition of knowledge into the minds of the oppressed leads to the dehumanization of both the pupil and the teacher, furthering oppressive practices within society. His desire to use education as a means to empower individuals is termed ‘conscientization’ (Friere, 1968). He highlights the importance of achieving an understanding of the world in which you understand the correct causal links between presented statements and reality (Freire 2005), suggesting the value promoting truth-seeking in education rather than passing on biased propaganda (as seen in India and Pakistan (see Lall, 2008)).

This seems to follow a long tradition of philosophers highlighting the importance of truth-preservation, with Plato famously highlighting his concerns with individuals indulging in what he terms ‘false pleasures’ – those based upon a false conception of events (Plato, 360-347 BC, Philebus). Individuals in Freire’s case study in Brazil appear to have moments of realisation where they feel empowered in the increased understanding of the value of their position in society, and indeed in their own role in changing the culture of a nation (Freire, 2013: 46). Project Seringueiro in Brazil most notably highlights how education can bring personal empowerment and peace through long-lasting partnership between communities (Keyck, 2010). Indeed, Sulemana (2009:125) notes that 95% of the Konkombas in the Northern Region cited the fact that their ethnicity is not respected by the dominant groups as a cause of conflict in the area; Freire’s ideas suggest that if they had been more involved in developing a syllabi that was relevant to the specific ethnic groups, this sense of identity would have been restored. Moreover, ‘children do not come to the classroom as blank slates’ – they bring accompanying practices, behaviours, attitudes and behaviours (Bush and Saltarelli, 2000: 3). This links to the need presented by critical realism (explored later) to consider the underlying structures which make up each child’s life (Alderson, 2006:5). Sulemena concludes that a form of civil peace building education should be prioritized in the Northern Region, but it seems also vital to look at the relevance of the broader syllabus to the life of each individual child and their community (Sulemana, 2009:137), and for them to play an active role in constructing this.

This seems to take us back to Nietzsche’s image of the ‘metamorphoses’ towards the child or ‘ubermensch’ who is a driving force in their own moral values (Nietzsche, 1891). Nkrumah’s policies imposed a new nationalist anti-tribalist framework, rather than allowing individuals to participate in a new Ghanaian identity created through a two-way education. One commentator went as far as to suggest that Nkrumah’s education strategy was principally concerned with cementing party ideological propaganda, rather than providing Ghanaians with a relevant education which helped to ensure that their basic needs were met (Lowe, 1970: 24) (Arhin, 1992: 81). However, this lack of locally relevant educational policy does not seem to have directly led to physical violence in Ghana, as most accounts note that violence emerges very specifically through issues relating to land ownership between different ethnic groups (Ayee, Frempong, Asanta, and Boago-Arthu, 2011).

It has certainly been suggested that Nkrumah failed to sufficiently untether the Ghanaian syllabus from its colonial origins; indeed, Adjai goes as far as to suggest that Euro-centric knowledge became the ‘cultural capital’ by which people could gain employment in Ghana (Adjai, 2007). Evidently, Nkrumah’s suppression of local cultural identity that did not fit with his vision of society is counter to ‘positive peace’ (Galtung, 1990), in following the key elements necessary to create sustainable peace and generate a just society, which Fraser refers to as involving redistribution, recognition, reconciliation and representation (Fraser, 2005). Nkrumah made little space for cultural and ethnic diversity demanded for ‘recognition’; however, Nkrumah did focus upon the redistribution of wealth, as well as driving further representation across the entire country in the government organizations such as the civil service.

  1. English as National Language

Political leaders in the Nkrumah era saw English as the best instrument for achieving improving communication across the nation, and unifying the state economically and politically (Smock and Enchill, 1976), with many highlighting its key past role in easing inter-ethnic relations and eliminating preconceptions with regards to dominance (Bush and Saltarelli, 2000:11). Achebe highlights the practical motivations for using English as the national language, arguing that due to modern internal migrations in secondary schools, ethnic mixing had reached significant levels and this introduced a practical difficulty in regions learning in their mother tongues – it was difficult for a pupil who had moved from the Northern Region to the Ashanti region, to study in Twi, and thus English became a useful common language (Achebe, 2009).

Whilst Nkrumah didn’t choose a language that benefited a particular ethnic group, linked to the idea of the ‘Staatsvolk’ (Connor, 1973), this decision did reproduce inequality as many people could not speak English and therefore felt excluded from many social systems. In postcolonial Africa, it is easier to see a clear division in social class along linguistic rather than economic lines, due to the role being an adequate English speaker can play in being a ‘gatekeeper to positions of prestige’ within society (May, 2012 and Alexandre, 1972). Speaking English has certainly become a powerful tool for exclusion as well as inclusion – if you are unable to speak English in Ghana, to this day it is difficult to complete forms needed to apply for jobs and establish businesses, access key health information, or even understand the voting system during elections (see e.g. Knowles, 2017).

As a result, many have felt an alienation from their own systems of government and education (Some, 1994). Furthermore, despite the possible advantages of minority groups losing their language for the overarching purpose of national development, many argue that there is a great cost of losing a local language and attached culture (Howe, 1992), for it seems impossible to not lose a degree of culture if a language goes out of use, due to the functional origin of meaning (see Wittgenstein, 1963). Much communal anger has developed in response to prior generations being given a false dichotomy between development and preserving linguistic and cultural heritage (May p177). There are clear possible harms of minority languages being diminished in use, including educational disadvantages for those who cannot speak the national language well – such as those without English-speaking parents in Ghana. Although it is important to note that local dialects are still taught in schools in Ghana alongside English.

Skutnabb-Kangas (2000) is more concerned about the wider use of English as a ‘replacement language’ (Brezinger, 1997); it is suggested that English does not sit alongside minority languages unproblematically, but rather leads to the potential for a ‘linguistic genocide’ Skutnabb-Kangas (2000) in which its power for social-economic advancement pushes local dialects out of use. Indeed, if minority languages are seen as solely playing the role as ‘(merely) carriers of ‘tradition’ and ‘historical identity’ then they will be viewed as unhelpful by even the speakers of the languages themselves (May, 2012). Thus it can be seen that while the use of English as a national administrative language did play a key role in facilitating development, it also led to a loss of cultural heritage, and excluded many from many aspects of social life. Certainly, returning to Freire’s conscientization, it seems difficult for individuals to feel in control of their own education, if the principal language is that of a past colonial ruler and therefore oppressor.

  1. Tackling the North-South Educational Divide

Building on Freire’s emphasis on the importance of individuals engaging in the actual state of affairs, Bhaskar argues that the revindication of ontology is necessary in development (Collier, 1975). Critical realism prioritises ‘the world’ over any system of understanding or practice, with Bhaskar directing his work at those who suggest that we must only speak of the way in which we arrange the real world, through analysis of customs and language (e.g. Wittgenstein, 1953). Bhaskar divides the ontology of the world into ‘the real’ (essential structures and mechanisms) ‘the actual’ (the perceivable events which are created by the ‘real’), and ‘the empirical’ (experiences) (Alderson, 2017:4). He argues that society is to be viewed as a collective of structures, practices, and relationships, which individuals both reproduce and transform. In looking at Nkrumah’s educational policies within Ghana, did Nkrumah address the underlying structures, which might have otherwise led to conflict, rather than simply analyzing our empirical observations? Alderson compares such an approach to describing many falling objects rather than looking at the real causal explanations offered by gravity, or observing many birds’ beaks without discovering natural selection (Alderson 2017: 5). Bhaskar (2008) argues that research driving causal mechanisms such as underlying class distinctions and economic inequalities can fix and transform societies (Alderson 2017: 5). Interestingly, Bhaskar’s theory seems to fit with much of Nkrumah’s philosophy articulated in Consciencism where he espouses the importance of a materialist framework, particularly in demonstrating his egalitarian views in relation to human existence.

Nkrumah introduced the first Secondary School in the North in 1951, and it is clear that ensuring that the North also had access to education was key to creating a united Ghana, where the same opportunities were universally available, regardless of location. Nkrumah recognized that the underlying ontology in regards to wealth would make the country vulnerable to outbursts of conflict (see Tsikata and Seini, 2004). Nkrumah also instituted the Northern Scholarship Scheme, as another policy to bridge the educational development gap between the North and South. The award package included not only fees but also feeding grants and final examination registration fees (Arhin, 1992). Applying Bhaskar’s Critical Realism, it is clear that Nkrumah’s government quickly saw beneath perceptions, addressing the underlying existence of poverty: a lack of opportunity with regards to both education and employment, with farming the main source of income, upon land which was relatively infertile in comparison with the lush fields of the Volta or Ashanti region.  Nkrumah recognized that it was impossible to win the support of individuals in the North and gain their belief in the new national identity without addressing the underlying causes of possible grievance. Nkrumah saw that localized ethnic conflict, such as those seen in the ‘Guinea Fowl’ war in 1994 were partially caused by the ‘real’ structures of significant inequality, poverty, injustice and extortion. Sulemana (2009: 117-125) notes that 90% of the Konkombas who were interviewed said that they felt that they lived in relative deprivation compared to the Gonjas and Dagombas. Even to this day, one news article notes that the conflicts northern regions are over-simplified as being attributed to disagreement over ‘guinea fowl’, when rather, metaphorically, that bird represents the persisting ‘inequality, bitterness, and discrimination, prejudice, grinding anger, years of repression…and reprisal deeply rooted in ethnic and clan animosity’ (Modern Ghana News, 2009). Although it is clear that underlying realities cause these perceptions, the psychology of humans both as individuals and groups vastly alter those perceptions; encouraging truth-preservation in education would certainly help to close the gap between perception and reality.

As this article suggests, whilst Nkrumah’s policies focused on a vital area, his measures did not go as far as they might have done; significant northern educational disadvantage remains today. It can be argued that the focus on the North was tokenistic, with Nkrumah’s government favouring the Ghana National College at Cape Coast, established by Nkrumah in 1948 as one of the first ‘national’ secondary schools more than any other situation in the country (Quist, 2003: 194). Indeed, the distribution of GET schools in the Nkrumah era were unevenly distributed and heavily concentrated in the south despite the Trust’s suggested aims to expand nation-wide secondary education and remove regional imbalances. (Ghana: Parliamentary Debates 1964:72-98) However, it is also clear that Nkrumah had limited resources, especially after the worldwide price of Cocoa fell in the 1960s, meaning that government expenditures outweighed the income obtained through exports. This led Nkrumah to create an austerity budget in which is took savings from workers and borrowed heavily, eventually led to a workers’ strike in 1961 when it became clear that Nkrumah’s popularity was diminishing (, 2017).

  1. Internal Ethnic Migration through Education

Further to the improved educational provision in the North, the impact of internal ethnic migration within Secondary Schools upon long-term peace building is also significant (Quist 2003). The effects of a migration policy were two-fold: firstly, it ensured the pupils gained further understanding of different region areas, language and cultures; secondly, it played a significant first step in reducing regional inequalities of wealth and opportunity. During the colonial era, there was no quota system established to ensure that educationally neglected areas such as the Northern Region could have access to Secondary Education, and this lead to significant regional imbalances (Quist, 2003, p189). Part of Nkrumah’s focus on a ‘national’ secondary school system involved creating regional quotas to ensure that all parts of the country had access to secondary education; all young persons irrespective of their regions of origin could attend the boarding schools that were established by Nkrumah’s government (Tsikata and Seini; 2004). One Ghanaian, Francis Yeboah (2017), noted this single policy as key to Ghana’s peacefulness as a nation, highlighting this strategy as an instrument for promoting cross-tribal understanding of language, economy, and cultural practices. He notes that it led to many cross-regional marriages and friendships, ensuring that the sense of ‘other’ was diminished.  Indeed, it is clear that the boarding schools Nkrumah introduced enabled young people to learn other languages, and build life-long friendships, with Elvis Wallace-Bruce, who moved area for secondary school, noting that moving area enabled him to ‘master the Dagme language’ despite being from the Ga ethnic group. He spoke of a strategy employed in schools to place students from five different ethnic groups into a dormitory together, stating that ‘the camaraderie formed has lasted for a very long time’ (Wallace-Bruce, 2017).

In addition to this, teachers were regularly transferred to different regions of the country (Tsikata and Seini, 2004); Adjibolosoo (2003) goes as far as to suggest that the failure of post-Nkrumah government to continue these policies led to ethnic disharmony. However, whilst these policies, which altered underlying structures, certainly helped ethnic integration, further issues remained with respect to ethnic tensions relating to land and sovereignty which migration could not solve, and were not strongly addressed. There are long-term problems with the administration of the land tenure system in Ghana, which has exacerbated land tenure insecurity and has led constant despites over land boundaries (Tsikata and Seini, 2004). However, perhaps if Nkrumah had been more successful in improving living standards in the North, issues over land would become less relevant as the economy modernised, and moved many away from local subsistence farming.  Certainly, there seem to be many administrative issues that can surround a system in which dual power authorities exist between local governments and chieftaincy power, which survive to this day in Ghana.


Nkrumah successfully established a peaceful democracy in Ghana; but, much more work was needed to ensure that Ghanaians could truly self-govern, and transform themselves, dictating a educational narrative and development agenda relevant to their context, preserving their ethnic heritage, and freeing themselves from neocolonialism. Nkrumah was right to suggest that this relevant educational agenda needed to bring together the three traditions that make up the African conscience: the Islamic, the Euro-Centric and the original African (Nkrumah, 1964) – Nietzsche’s metamorphic model importantly fails to acknowledge the important part that past absolutes have to play in driving future change. Furthermore, to a large extent, Nkrumah did succeed in preserving regional heritage whilst encouraging pride in the Ghanaian nation and reducing the power of regional authorities; he also succeeded in enabling considerable ethnic mixing in the country and ensuring some redistribution of wealth and educational advantage.

However, Nkrumah did not entirely remove the system’s unnecessary educational ties with its past colonial narratives, and it can be argued that a second stage of Ghana’s development is still required in order for Ghana to move away from the ‘chew and pour’ approach that Adjai (2007) describes, into a period where Ghanaians further consolidate their heritage and move forwards positivity constructing their own narrative. Nkrumah’s focus on a nationalist identity was a useful instrument for short-term peace; indeed, Ghana has remained relatively peaceful to this day. Nevertheless, more work needs to be done to ensure that Ghanaians drive their own educational and economic progress in a manner relevant to their own context and ethnicity, perhaps through Adjai’s application of Gandhian satyagraha (Adjai, 2007), preserving not only the ‘African character’ which Nkrumah (1994) clearly treasured, but the Ashanti, Fante, and Ga heritage which is central to the identity of Ghanaians. This preservation and recognition of ethnicity is vital to Ghana’s continued long-term future as a peaceful and stable democracy.


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