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08.09.2005 Education

Quality education is key to national devt -Prof

GNA

Koforidua, Sept. 8, GNA - Professor Ivan Addae-Mensah, chairman of the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), has observed that both formal and non-formal education was indispensable in the nation's quest for a just, equitable and democratic society.

According to him, any educational institution, from the primary to tertiary level, was a catalyst to the development of the whole society, since "it is what is done in the educational institutions that will transform the nation and the society as a whole."

Prof. Addae-Mensah, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon, made the observation when he delivered the keynote address to open the 43rd Annual Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) at Koforidua on Wednesday.

The six-day conference being held under the theme, "Enhancing National Democracy Through Formal Education," drew participants form the 480 senior secondary schools in the country.

He said the human resource that was vital for the development of any nation was largely determined by the quality of the educational and other training institutions in the country.

According to him, "those who actually build a nation and make it what it is, a country worth living in and being proud to belong to, are the scholars and intellectuals, the innovators, creators and educators, who together constitute the highly-trained human resource of the nation."

"A good educational institution must therefore, have the right capacity to unearth and nurture talent to its highest capacity, no matter the social background from which the student entered the particular institution", he stated.

Prof. Addae-Mensah therefore, reminded the heads of schools that it is vital to unearth the talents of the youth and nurturing them to maturity, so they become useful and productive citizens of society. He noted however that, excellent education required massive infusion of resources into the system, including the provision of the right tools and the right incentives for those, who work in or manage the educational institutions.

"Democracy is expensive and so is good education, if therefore, the development of sound democratic principles in any society depends on the quality and level of education of the citizens, then adequate resources will needed to be infused into all levels of education, particularly the lower levels, where character formation and development of good leadership qualities actually begin", he stressed.

On the country's examination and mode of assessing students, he noted that in recent times the quality of the systems and results from the primary to the tertiary levels had been called into question, as to whether it was capable of selecting tools at various levels of education.

The Chemistry Professor, who deplored the current situation, said it should be of concern to school heads and asked the conference to address the issue.

According to him, because of the intense competition for limited places in educational institutions, many students are also looking for shortcuts to success and the achievement of the right levels of qualifications to continue their education.

Prof. Addae-Mensah noted that cheating at examinations and forging of qualifications were therefore becoming more rampant, which he said was a worldwide phenomenon that was giving teachers and heads of educational institutions and employers a lot of headaches.

He said in the effort at nation building, which required the production of the right calibre of persons with the right mental and intellectual orientation in the quest for good governance and democratic principles, heads of educational institutions were those, who should shoulder that great responsibility in order to create a great society. "But of course, no matter how well you prepare them, if the country is saddled with poor governance and the government does not create the right environment for the creation of appropriate and adequate jobs to meet the manpower that you train, then we shall be laying a sure foundation for future major disruption of our democratic 'experiment' and a possible social upheaval", he warned. The Minister of State in-charge of Tertiary Education, Ms Elizabeth Ohene, drew attention to the introduction of the computerized system of admission of students to the SSS this academic year, saying, though it had come to spare them the annual trauma of the period the go through, some people were holding their breaths and "hoping that the system works and nobody has to go through the annual chaos that has characterized the admission process for a long time."

She expressed her Ministry's gratitude to the CHASS for the support towards the introduction of the new system, saying, "doubtless, we shall all learn some lessons this year to improve on it, since, as education providers, we do not preside over the chaos and frustration that has characterized the admission process for such a long time." Ms Ohene referred to the recent publication, which stated that the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Ghana Education Service (GES) occupied close to the top of the league of most corrupt institutions, saying, the public perception stemmed from the frustration they felt about the admission process.

"It is unacceptable that the public should perceive teachers and school administrators as corrupt, no matter how unjust that perception might be", she stated, saying, "it is imperative that we all hold our nerves and make the computerization work." She said the provision of educational infrastructure was the first stage in the government's efforts to improve the education system and assured that the required incentive for teachers to deliver quality education would soon follow.

Ms Ohene noted that the many extra-classroom activities that used to characterize life in secondary schools seemed to have disappeared, citing school sports, debating and drama societies among other groupings that helped to give rounded education to the young and said the additional year under the new proposed educational reforms was to remedy that shortcoming and hoped they would help make the recommendations a reality.

The President of the CHASS, Mr Bolina Saaka, welcomed the fact that this year, both the Basic Education Examination Certificate (BECE) and the Senior Secondary School Certificate of Education (SSCE) were leakage-free and urged his colleagues to collaborate with the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to stamp out examination malpractices from schools to preserve the integrity of the youth. On the strike by the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), he hoped that both the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and NAGRAT would do business together towards the improvement of the lot of teachers for quality education for the school child. Mr Saaka expressed the frustration of school heads about the late release of funds and grants to schools and non-payment of fees by students in recent years, despite persistent complaints to the authorities and appealed to the government to pay absorbed fees and feeding grants to schools at the beginning of each term to enable them run their schools better.

He also called for the revision of the approved school fees to reflect the rise in the petroleum prices with the corresponding rise in prices of goods and services before schools re-open, noting that, the situation led to some schools incurring huge deficits, while others could not do the required number of weeks for the terms.

On the theme of the conference, Mr Saaka appealed to the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) to consider introducing the teaching of civic education in schools as soon as possible.

While commending the MOES and GES for sponsoring four CHASS members to attend international conference of Principals in Cape Town in South Africa, he appealed for improved salaries for teachers to fall in line with the education reforms. The Chief of Ada-Koforidua, Odeefour Boadi Asiedu, chaired the function.

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