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Our Whining Southern Compatriots; Angered By Free School Lunches and the Northern Scholarship Scheme


They are at it again – our southern compatriots -harking back to the past and dredging up long settled issues with the intendedpurpose of stoking tribal tensions and casting the northern regions as ungrateful recipients of government largess.

My point of reference is the current hot-button issue of free school lunches. A heated debate hasinvariablybeen ignited. It has been a healthy discussion, of course, but underlining it, sadly, are the unbridled prejudices and ignorance of our southern compatriots.

The merits of the free lunch program are hard to ignore. Since its inception, thousands of students in the country have been adequately fed and this augurs well for their future. Students who would otherwise come to school hungry now look forward heading off to school every day content in the knowledge that a hot meal awaits them.
Besides, the program is a good indicator of the government’s commitment to the physical and intellectual wellbeing of our children; after all, good nutrition, they say, is the basis for a sound mind and a healthy body. Providing free lunch for students is morally just and economically prudent.

However, the good intentions of the program are being questioned by a few disgruntled southerners who want the entire program scrapped because northern students benefit disproportionately from it.

Our southern compatriots are always quick to conflate any government program in the north with the free scholarship program started at the time of Ghana’s independence by the British colonialists for northern students to address the educational gap between the north and the south.

Southerners see in the free lunch program a sinister maneuver by the government to prolong its policies of subsidizing school fees for northern students and closing the wealth gap between the regions.

This attitude is the not least surprising; from time immemorial, the north has and continues to be, an object of derision and ridicule for southerners. Southerners have always viewed northerners with scorn and utter contemptand are predictably up in arms about the free lunch program.

It is not only ordinary southerners who rail against the free lunch and the scholarship programs for northern students,southern politicians have joined the fray on several occasions. Their stance is always politically motivated, to garner votes. Professor Mawuse Dake formerly of the Social Democratic Party of Ghana decried the programs in the run-up to the elections in 1979 that saw Hilla Limann trounced his opponents.

It is embarrassingly naïve to assume, as southerners do, that the northern regions have emerged from the economic doldrums that have defined their existence and should therefore be weaned off the free lunch and scholarship programs.

But this assertion is as false as it is grossly misleading. The painful fact is that the northern regions are still mired in unrelenting poverty. Certain economic indicators have not changed since independence; for instance, the concentration of wealth and jobs in the south is still higher than it is in the north, and the odds of foreign and local investors pumping capital into creating jobs in the north are miniscule.

To bolster their frivolous claims that the north has weathered its economic problems, southerners point to a few wealthy and well-connected northern politicians, businessmen and academics, a group they derisively refer to as the ‘northern elite’ as evidence that the northern regions do not need government handouts. What a charade!
Our southern compatriots should remember one important fact; historical wrongs do take a REAL long time to rectify and no matter how hard and long they demonize and clamor for the scrapping of the free lunch and scholarship programs for northern students, their wishes are just that, wishes.


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