The 1992 Republic Constitution of Ghana makes it clear the State must make provision for a free education at the basic level in a program dubbed Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education. Under this program, every child of school going age in the country should have access to basic education without any financial, parental, material or any form of hindrance.
In this instance, the quality of the basic school system must not in anyway be sacrificed for its free nature. Unfortunately, this is the sad reality the public basic education system is faced with.
In addition to absorbing the tuition fee paid to teachers in the public basic school, the State has also taken upon itself to pay into the coffers of all public basic schools, capitation grant. The capitation grant is supposed to cater for certain fees which the school would have demanded from pupils.
It was perceived that some significant number of pupils could not afford certain fees like sports and culture fee, PTA levy, and other fees demanded by the school which could have been used for textbooks and the purchase of other resources. Because of some parents’ inability to pay for such fees, pupils could not go to school. So the capitation era came in to salvage he situation.
For every term, the government will be paying the grant on behalf of each pupil so that pupils will not have any reason not to go to school. It will also enforce the compulsory nature of the FCUBE package. It will also make ready to headteachers available funds and resources to run the basic schools as they will be using some of the funds for procuring furniture, teaching and learning materials, sanitary kits, stationary for teachers, etc.
Due to government’s inability of not paying the grant often and on time, the public basic school headteachers are starved of the needed resources to run the basic schools. This situation is gradually ‘killing’ the public basic schools. It has created the impression in the minds of majority of parents having their wards in the public school not to put in much and also invest in their ward’s education financially.
Most pupils in the public schools go to school having uniform not in good shape; without textbooks, exercise books, and other instruments and materials essential to teaching and learning. Why is this happening? Because most parents are hiding under the banner of the promise of government that there is free education at the basic level. Most parents do not want to make any contribution to the development of the school their children are. There used to be a time in our history where parents took upon themselves to ensure that the school their wards are gets accelerated in development in order to enhance quality teaching and learning.
This is what is currently happening in the private basic schools. It is not that their headteachers are working some wonders in terms of administration but parents are paying and pumping in resources into the school to ensure their children enjoy quality education.
They will pay for furniture, provide textbooks and other resources recommended by teachers, make contributions to the raising of structures like science lab in the school, etc. But this will not happen in the public basic school because government had promised to provide them so till it comes, everyone must wait.
This piece does not seek to say parents must be made to pay for everything in the public basic school but trying to get government to be committed to the pledge of providing free QUALITY basic education to its young citizens. Such commitment should be seen in the regular release of the capitation to headteachers.
If it will be possible, a system must be in place to ensure that the grant get to the headteachers directly through a means where they can be checked as to how they use the funds instead of going through certain offices. Auditors must be seen at work with regards to the use of the funds.
Government must also must have a standard in putting up structures to be called basic schools in the country. It should not just be a six unit classroom block with no science lab, technical and vocational workshops, staff common room. Schools must be made complete before giving it to the society. Effort must also be made to provide existing schools without such facilities these educational centres to enhance teaching and learning.
It will be very safe for government to desist from making public if it distributes about twenty thousand exercise books to public basic schools nationwide which at the end a pupil in each school will have at most two exercise books for the term and in some cases the entire year. The state must get serious with education in the country, specifically the basic schools.
It will also be prudent to redefine the role of headteachers in the public basic schools. They should not be just administrators taking and delivering information to teachers. They must be ‘executive managers’ of the school they manage. They must have time bound plans for the school they run which when they fail to achieve must be made to account.
Parents must also be sensitized to appreciate the point that government is only supplementing their efforts in the provision of quality education to their children so they must take keen interest in their children’s education especially in the provision of useful teaching and learning resources. They should see themselves as also owning the school and contribute to it success.
Our fathers who framed the Constitution recognized the essence of education so they codified the FCUBE policy but it seems for cheap political points, the focus is only on access and not quality. Free education should not mean just putting on a uniform and go to sit in a room to be taught by a teacher but must involve the experience of quality education.