In the last five or so years, our education sector appears to have been buffeted in several ways – both for good reasons and the reverse. For reasons that appear not too clear, almost every level of the education ladder has had some attempt being made to make major policy shifts.
The first policy shift introduced was sometime in 2013 when the Community Day Senior High Schools concept was introduced with a promise to build 200 new Community Senior High Schools in Ghana. The idea was to reduce the surge for people having to travel long distances to access the already established Grade A Secondary Schools. Unfortunately, the government in its haste, made grievous errors in the siting of the schools ending up with some day schools located in the middle of nowhere. How such schools were to remain day schools and easily accessible could only defy logic.
Then in 2017 the current government, seeking to fulfil a major campaign manifesto promise, introduced the Free Senior High School policy (Free SHS). Though anticipated, the policy appear not to have been fully thought through but understandably implemented. It was the hope that the teething challenges would be dealt with in the course of the year so that the second batch of Free SHS beneficiaries would suffer less stress and encumbrances. Somehow, the implementation of the policy got all school authorities (Headmasters, Academic Staff, etc) gagged to the extent that no school head could freely speak about challenges being faced in the implementation of an otherwise very laudable policy. In the process, some daring Headmasters got interdicted with others transferred to ‘Siberia’. All the others succumbed and Free SHS became the policy without any hitches… afterall, that’s what the political apparatchiks wanted!
For those who are active in support of their alma mater, the truth is obvious, that our secondary schools have been made worse off. Infrastructure already reeling under gravity have been put under even intense pressure with the increased numbers. Policy implementers have argued that this should have been anticipated but no, we on this side of the Equator always see things differently. In a twist of events, the hitherto very supportive alumni of schools had been weakened in the admission of their wards (as part of the agreed protocol) and thereby making them feel slighted whilst Parent-Teacher Associations had also been emasculated of the much-needed PTA levies which they use to augment administrative expenditures in the running of the schools. As things stand now, a number of the elemental costs in running secondary schools are off the bill payable by the State and our schools risk being at the mercy of their alumni associations if the situation is not checked.
While all of this was being digested, the academic year ended and from nowhere our Education authorities realised that they had to contend with almost a double admission intake to the secondary schools over that of the previous year. Quickly, the Double-Track system was devised and foisted upon the school system. Make-shift seminars were held and pronto, the SHS calendar had been double-tracked with a further shift from the three term structure to the semester structure to be run from between three to five years. Some school heads were heard during the process explaining that they could deal with their admission quotas without the double track, but no… the State insisted. After a few months, Ghanaians woke up to the announcement that the several uncompleted projects dotted across the over 800 secondary schools were to be completed with a World Bank facility being sought. The facility has since been approved by Parliament and we are told now that the double track system will begin to face off from September 2019…good news!
As if we had had enough, our Training Colleges that had in 2015 been converted into Colleges of Education were now announced to become University Colleges which will award Degrees instead of the initial College Diplomas. Just as that was being digested, a further announcement kicked in that in a matter of a few years, the basic requirement for teaching at any level of basic education will be the University Degree. I had a good laugh! Most of the excellent pupils that we celebrate year in-year out with excellent BECE results are not prepared by trained teachers but most often, by untrained teachers with WASSCE, Ordinary Diplomas and the Higher National Diplomas. Therefore, whoever told our Education authorities that the University Degree as a basic qualification was the panacea to enforcing quality education must have been living in a different world! Meanwhile from 2018, graduate teachers from the Colleges of Education were to begin writing the Licentiate Examinations to enable them be certified. While applauding the initiative, it again appears that very little consultation went into the process thereby leading to needless protests. The examination was held and the outcome was not good enough. The second examinations in the series has been announced a few weeks back and we pray that this would be a much-better improvement.
Then, the education bus made a stop at the basic level. Word leaked that our education authorities were preparing to unleash a certain Ghana Partnerships Schools Project for selected public basic schools across the country. The policy was to have the selected schools to be financially resourced with funds from the World Bank and the school management privatised to ensure optimum effectiveness and efficiency. The question to then ask is, ‘If government had that money and actually paid its capitation as required on schedule, wouldn’t the schools have run well enough without the GPS project?
Well, my dear friend, that did not end there. From nowhere, we were told by the Sector Minister that there were plans to upgrade the BECE Certificates into Ordinary Diplomas and the WASSCE certificates into Higher Diplomas. How that was going to fit into the whole educational spectrum was something I personally never grasped.
In the midst of all this and on hindsight of recent developments at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the University for Education, Winneba (UEW), we are now told that government intends introducing a Public Universities Bill. My understanding is that the intention is to harmonize the various Acts upon which our public universities operate as well as introduce clauses that would deal with emergency situations, should they occur. As laudable as such an idea may have been, would it have been much more prudent to have stakeholders dialogue first to pick the views of the University dons before putting together the draft? We now have a draft that the Ministry has circulated to the universities and which is being heavily bashed by them.
Going forward, my view is that, it may be necessary for the Education Ministry to put together a comprehensive policy on education in draft and table it at a broad stakeholders forum where all the matters will be discussed very dispassionately. The conclusions from such a dialogue could then become basis for either firming up the policies as necessary, develop legislation, etc. As things stand now, we risk having a sector that is rolling out individual policies that appear good by themselves but which may not fit into the bigger puzzle.
Let’s all kindly be minded please, because our collective future is at stake.
My dear friend,