I had prayed that what seemed to be a u-turn of the president's stands on the debate on whether to pursue free S.H.S education prior to the 2012 election was never true. I had entertained this wish until I heard government spokesmen defending the president against those who believed that the president's latest speech on Free SHS was indeed a u-turn of his stands prior to the election. In fact, I had thought that the president then did made the most practical argument in relation to the way forward to improve our educational system.
Then, the argument was that we should first pursue the constitutional goal of providing to the letter Quality, Free and Compulsory Basic Education for all our children before pursuing a Free S.H.S education for all. And I believe that this argument might have carried the day.
It is barely a year now and nothing much has been achieved in respect of providing Free Compulsory and Quality Basic Education for all. In recent times, a private television station has been airing on their news segments the disappointing reality of our basic education system. We still have to contend with some of our children attending school in very dilapidated structures; we find schools with no professional teacher on staff and myriads of other challenges confronting our basic school system. If what we see on television is a reflection of what could be found in our basic schools scattered all over the country, then I think someone must try and convince us why we should be using available resources in this difficult economic times to pursue a free S.H.S system instead of using such resources to solve these difficulties amidst our basic educational system.
I do believe that if we have the funds that the government seeks to spend to provide free S.H.S system, the government should for now pursue the agenda of providing for all our young ones quality basic education. For now, if the government does not make that extra effort to achieve this goal, many of our children will not be able to aquire any meaningful basic education. It is a fact that many of the populace cannot support their wards to acquire basic education without government intervention. On a tour around many of our basic schools found in our rural areas, one will come across the reality of the poverty in our society. Many parents cannot provide even uniforms for their wards in school. This and many other challenges affect the quality of education in the basic schools. Presently, many of our junior high school graduates go to the senior high school more or less illiterates. It is common to find students who are offering Literature –in-English, an elective subject in the Senior High School who cannot read. Is anyone not worried about the ever increasing pre-universities and remedial schools sprouting everywhere in our communities? Many of our youths spend many years re-writing failed papers after their senior high school education. The root cause of this situation can be traced to falling standards of basic education in Ghana.
The solutions to our educational challenges are not far-fetched. We need to provide the infrastructure that will guarantee conducive environment for learning at the basic and secondary level of our educational system. I pray that a scientific approach will be used in the staff rationalization process that the Ghana Education Service wants to pursue. Although it is a fact that there is concentration of qualified teachers in the urban centres, it is also true that teachers in the urban centres deal with large numbers of pupils in one class. Any staff rationalization that does not take into consideration the student – teacher ratio will defeat the purpose. One policy that could make some positive impact on our basic educational system is the school feeding programme. There are many societies that could benefit from this programme considering the living standards of many of our citezens.This will help in the population drive into the basic schools if we want to achieve a universal education for all. Talking about school feeding, why can't we serve a cup of chilled cocoa drink to every child at each school day as a matter of a nation's pride? After all, we are a cocoa producing nation. The last thing I wish the government could do is to put actions into words in implementing proposed twenty-percent extra income for teachers in deprived areas. I do believe that policy could attract professional teachers to take up teaching appointments in the deprived areas of our country. Now that our leaders don't give us much to learn from in respect of patriotism, it will be difficult to use moral suasion to get professionals to willingly take up appointments in deprived areas and to give of their best whilst there without promising any handsome benefit to the professional who decides to take up this national course.
I am hoping that the president's latest decision on education is not politically motivated. Because, with all the liquidity challenges this economy is facing, I believe any resources allocated to the educational sector could be prudently used to pursue a Free, Compulsory and Quality Basic Education before anything else. For the secondary level, what is needed now is creating more access and improving existing structures. Now that it seems the president is pursuing a stand contrary to what he stood for prior to the latest election, I do hope the president will not go into history as having led us to miss it again in our educational agenda.
PAUL ZOWONU. TUTOR-ACCRA