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DankwahM-InfoctessUEW, Ghana.

Petitioning the Ministry Of Education, Ghana

Petition for Mandating Use of Free and Open Source Software in Educational Policy of Ghana-2017.

Note: This draft is adapted by DankwahM, a FOSS activism group and Infoctess-UEW, a students’ association based at UEW, Ghana from an original draft document prepared by Krishnakant Mane, Prof Nagarjuna, Rushabh, J T Dsouza, Siji Sunny, Arun Khan, Pralhad C, Milind Oka and GNU/Linux Group, Mumbai, India on behalf of all FOSS activists.

Recommendations on National Education Policy (NEP)
This is a draft of suggestions/recommendations to be presented to the Government of Ghana’s Ministry of Education on the National Education Policy (NEP) for Ghanaian citizens.

This draft is adopted from Krishnakant Mane, Prof Nagarjuna, Rushabh, J T Dsouza, Siji Sunny, Arun Khan, Pralhad C, Milind Oka and GNU/Linux Group, Mumbai, on behalf of Ghanaian students by DankwahM, a Ghana-based advocacy group.

This draft particularly focuses on recommendations regarding ICT in education.
Note that this is a work in progress and changes will be added as per feedback from other organisations/ individuals.
Information Communication Technologies (ICT) is the pivot and backbone of our lives in this digital age.
Education is one of the most important aspects affected by ICT.
The said sector depends heavily on computers and other such devices like Tablets and more so on the software (programs) and the Operating System on which these machines run.
There are two types of software systems available as choices. Free (as in freedom) often referred to as Open source software, and proprietary software. These two systems differ in the way they are provided to the end-users, development practices and amount of freedom users have with the technology.
While Free and Open source software gives everyone the permission to use, understanding and make copies with or without modifications, the proprietary software only allows user to use a single copy on a single machine without any permission to understand, modify or make copies for personal or professional reasons even though license has been paid for.
There are several issues governing what kind of Software and OS should be used in education. This document focuses on these issues and will make recommendations on software and OS to be used in educational institutes’ syllabus and administration.
FOSS as the mandatory solution:
As mentioned in Preface, it becomes obvious that Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) should be made mandatory in education as a government policy.
As a matter of fact, almost all proprietary programs and OS have free software replacements, some being even better.
This report lists strong reasons for such a recommendation in the following sections.
Free of charge to download:
All Free software is free of charge to download, although commercial support may be purchased from individual companies.
The fact that downloading and making copies of Free software is not charged, makes it an extremely cost effective replacement for proprietary counterparts.
This has a serious implication on procuring technologies in education.
Firstly a lot of public money can be saved and used for better purposes within educational institutes itself.
Secondly such cost effectiveness also has an effect on the fees (note that schools and colleges have to pay heavy for buying proprietary license copies of software, the same is compensated through high fees ).
Ghana being a country where right to education is a rule, we must realize that poor people can’t afford high fees which essentially denies them good quality education.
Since FOSS replacements are available, for example Libre Office or Open office for Microsoft Office, Firefox or Chromium for Internet Explorer, GIMP for Photoshop, GNUKhata for Tally etc, there is no reason why institutions should prefer closed and proprietary software.
There are plenty of examples as proofs of concept and success, including the Kerala Model in India which has proved that the cost of education can be brought down to a great extent using Free Software.
In addition there are other international examples like Extremadura in Spain on a bigger scale and high success using FOSS in education.
Free to customize and localize:
The very principle of free software is to freely customize software.
All Free software thus can be altered to suit local requirements.
This also includes translating such FOSS programs in Ghanaian languages.
This becomes very important culturally because education is many a times determined by local cultural factors.
Language is also a major issue, given that some Ghanaian populations are more comfortable learning in their own language.
Since the FOSS licenses like GPL allow and encourage improvements, government can dedicate organizations/ institutes to alter free software products and even localize them. Dedicated funding can be allocated for such work.
Such an arrangement will not just help utilize financial resources in a justified way rather than spending on costly licenses, but also generate lot of employment in such technical and semi-technical areas.
Furthermore if we have to spread digital empowerment in the semi-urban and rural areas of the country, then such localized versions are a must have and FOSS is the only way we can achieve this on a large scale without a lot of financial overhead.
Importance in ICT education:
The ability to study and customize the software has particular importance in the field of ICT education. Research has proved that if students can study and modify already mature and professional quality programs, they learn standard programming practices and acquire high degree of professionalism by learning from senior experts and by seeing existing source code and also learn from community.
Using proprietary software only makes them users of existing languages with no scope for their own ideas as would-be software engineers.
In short just like medical students have to learn human/animal anatomy to become good doctors, good engineers must have the freedom to see the insides of Operating Systems (OS) or other software such as programming languages.
Most of the IT companies today are using Open source for almost all their work, thus making it even more important for universities to stay in sync with the industry trends.
Ease and comfort of use:
There is a popular misconception that FOSS OS or related programs are difficult, command line oriented and uncomfortable to be used.
Such a wrong notion stems from the fact that we have been only exposed to proprietary software for a long time. More over even if we use FOSS in daily life (android for example is an Open Source OS on Most mobiles), we are not aware of it. Most big organizations including commercial enterprises especially those concerning Internet based services use FOSS. Several schools and colleges also possess dedicated labs for Free Software.

There is enough evidence that FOSS is not just easy to use but also very user -friendly (sometimes more user friendly than proprietary counterparts).
Add the fact that GNU/Linux is totally virus free and developed in a transparent way. All that it takes is a persistence of use of FOSS.

In fact as discussed in all the previous sections Free Software, also referred to as Free and Open Source Software must not just be preferred but made mandatory. A rare exception can be made where a Free Software is not up to the requirement of a certain task or some job which some proprietary software in its latest version is able to do. Such a comparison should be well justified and enough reasons should be given as to why a free software can’t be used. Even in a situation where such an exception is made, the government must take active steps to bring a free software replacement to the required standard by funding development of such programs.

This petition will be delivered to:
Ministry Of Education, Ghana
Hon Minister ………Matthew…Opoku Prempeh…………………

National Education Policy

DankwahM started this petition with a single signature, and now has …. Supporters (needed to reach 400)

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A shining example:

India sets the pace:

the OLPC (one laptop per child) was an educational project, not a business one. It seems that when it comes to children and societal benefit, the issue of “business case” needs to be sacrificed in order to aid the objectives of our 21st century educational system. I need ask what has become of the OLPC now, i hope big business is not frustrating this noble dream, especially with regard to the operating system…