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09.06.2019 Feature Article

Unwholesome Marriage Between Political And Educational Leaders – The Cause Of Untold Woes In Educational Sector?

Unwholesome Marriage Between Political And Educational Leaders – The Cause Of Untold Woes In Educational Sector?
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If all Ghanaians knew and/or clearly understood the extent to which our destiny has been compromised on the altar of political expediency, we would discard our sense of fashion and replace it with sack cloth to mourn the disastrous state of our country. After claiming independence, amid pump and pageantry, with our prospects as a nation, at the time, widely touted for all its bright prospects, we have still managed to backslide heavily with our decline in education being one of the most noticeable retrogressions among the lot. Our educational system has been too haphazardly managed, to say the least.

In spite of this, one can hardly call out key stakeholders to take them on for their goofed up decisions and policies; a situation which has, unfortunately, dominated our educational system, post-independence. Once you go that tangent, you will be politically coloured and tagged, and sometimes, victimised. Hmmm! But tell me: What substantial progress have we made, as a nation, in our education sector to catapult our economy to the desired levels that our potentials can attain? You can go ahead and mention some, but once you are able to easily mention one or two, you would end up confirming the assertion I hold. Little has been achieved! What this means is that, those who have been entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring a good job is done in our pursuit of quality education for our wards have let us down! So who are those responsible for pulling the strings in the education sector? Key stakeholders! Who and who are these stakeholders: parents, teachers, Government (MoE), Ghana Education Service (GES) and NGOs? If all these stakeholders were to function effectively in the discharge of their duties, we would no doubt have an effective education system. It could not also be the case that not even one stakeholder is functional. No. Definitely one or some stakeholders are operating within their means, even if it is below expectation.

The truth is that some of the stakeholders are undeniably powerful because they have authority to take decisions, formulate and supervise the implementation of policies to get the education system run. So, if they set the standards for some other stakeholders to operate with, then they reserve the power to let things work in this country. Obviously, the teacher whose work is more or less centered in the classroom only implements sanctioned policies, curriculum and trainings from the government, and enforces the decisions and rules of the GES and MoE. Therefore, a teacher, though a stakeholder, cannot be a power-wielding one. Parents are stakeholders but what power do they have if all they can do is to provide guidance for their wards to do well in school? NGOs too may be influential but can only support stakeholders. They do not enact policies neither do they implement any such policies. They do not operate on a national budget too hence they are not accountable to the Ghanaian citizenry. They do not wield authority. The government and GES are the most powerful stakeholders in the education system but their performance over the years leaves much to be desired. They have actually become a pale shadow of what they are meant to be. They are refusing to function up to task. Bluntly put without mincing words; they have failed!

The other day, I saw a directive from the National Teaching Council (NTC) which requested all in-service teachers to download an application from play store, the NTC app, and fill in professional details and particulars. Surprisingly, the said app was underdeveloped and could hardly be used conveniently. Users did not even have the opportunity to edit fed data yet that is the app the NTC instructed teachers across the length and breadth of the country to download with their money and feed data into. I have my doubt if NTC really paid a dime for the development of the app otherwise, how on earth would they accept such an underdeveloped app from the developer? Come to think of it, the NTC, one of the most powerful teacher organisations in this country, gathering data with such a pathetic application is simply inexplicable. It is an indictment on their integrity. It is a shame. It is a complete affront to the very institution they preside over- teaching. Stop presiding over mediocrity because it presents the teaching profession as substandard. Mediocrity has no doubts been the bane of our education for so long a time. And it is now at an all time low to the point where grades do no longer determine who should progress to higher institutions, and who requires polishing before making the step up. Now, with aggregate 45, non-reading JHS graduates are conveniently admitted to senior high schools in this country. We now lack the discipline of purpose, fairness and firmness to ask them to go back and prepare well and become ready for the more demanding academic platform at the senior high schools. We think it is OK to push and rush them through. That is mediocrity of the highest order! We are simply compromising our future.

Can you imagine that teachers at both the basic and second cycle levels of our education system still are being harassed for not writing lesson notes? I mean the age-long handwritten lesson notes! Lesson notes, in this era, should have been made digital, but still are manual, and you expect the teachers to be capable of properly teaching ICT to the pupils? Until we adopt technology as a basis for administering education in this country, we will continue to stumble and fall in that sector. Once we continue to see ourselves as incapable of placing technology at the heart of our education system we will continue to chase shadows in the pursuit of education in this 21st century. As a country, our commitment to Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is not spirited enough. We are not ready to revise our system to accommodate the dynamics of the ever-changing world. The very tenets on which other countries are revolutionalizing, and taking the world by storm, are being neglected, here, in Ghana, much to the chagrin of serious-minded countrymen. Our men with a say are alarmingly falling short of the standards of their peers. What a disappointment!

The GES and MoE are, in my opinion, lazy. They refuse to take carefully thought-through decisions and solutions to challenges/problems when they arise. A case in point is the recent shambolic handling of the issue of illegal fees being charged in some schools by some irresponsible teachers. Instead of finding a laudable and sustainable solution to the problem, they sat in the comfort of their heavily air-conditioned offices in Accra and issued threats to teachers via ambiguous letters and pressers to stop charging “all forms of fees”. Well, it properly sunk in and we all know what the outcome is. I think the outcome, which saw many schools take to conducting exams on chalkboards was a true reflection of the lazy approach that power wielding stakeholders resorted to. Situations like these only tend to expose the overdosed political influence of key sectors such as education. The politicians who are mostly mindful of the next election rather than the well being and progress of the state and citizenry are mostly behind such shallow decisions based on some calculated one-sided benefits. So, when there is a backfire of this nature, it usually serves them right while highlighting the need for politically independent people to be put in charge of professional activities.

Recently, education authorities decided that the major problem that this country faced in its quest to advance education for the masses was affordability deficit on the part of parents. I don’t know what research informed that position, neither do I contest it but I doubt if that is the key drawback in our pursuit of education for the masses. However, political expediency has ensured that today, we have the Free Senior High School policy in place. But some communities are still without basic schools, while some other communities still have no school structures to sit in and learn, there are still no textbooks for some subjects in some schools, pupils in most public schools, including SHS, still learn about parts of the computer using textbooks, pupils in school cannot read due to inadequate guidance for them to learn to read. Government has not supplied any furniture for pupils and teachers, in some districts, in the last 3 years. Yet we think making SHS free is the panacea to this country’s education problems. OK, then why are the people of the then three regions in Northern Ghana still are the least educated and the poorest even though they have been enjoying subsidized (some people claim it is free) education since time immemorial? That is how some past government built Community Day Senior High Schools in so many communities whose basic schools lacked basic facilities and equipment for effective teaching and learning yet woefully lost the last election, which was actually their focus for undertaking those projects. This should have served enough warning to the politicians, but, no, they will continue to focus all their attention on trivialities and compromise the national interest for political party interest in the end. And that is why our country’s educational standards continue to decline while we look on helplessly. Why should the education authorities be affiliates of political parties? If we are serious about reaping the benefits of education in substantial folds then we must also embrace the tenets of education system management by formulating and implementing relevant policies. We must shift away from pursuing trivialities and focus on the future with vision and purpose. Under no circumstances, whatsoever, should our education policies be tied to winning political power while the impact, effectiveness, and relevance are relegated to the backdrop. No!

Some people are, by now, beginning to think that I am trying to underestimate the significance of the roles of other stakeholders such as the teacher and the parent. It is not the case. Both must come to the fold before we can have an effectively working system which will also guarantee efficiency. Nonetheless, a critical look at the situation suggests that the effectiveness of the other stakeholders including NGOs will surely be in tandem if key stakeholders, MoE and GES, live up to expectation. With good policies, we will have well-trained and up to standard teachers whose training will guarantee the much-needed dynamism to excel in the job. They will by default, via same training, retain a high level of professionalism. Add good working conditions and remuneration to it, and you would have hiked up the motivation of these professionals. What will sermons on commitment to duty serve if they are motivated to work? At the moment, there is little regard, and honour associated with the teaching profession hence forcing a lot of them to constantly exit the profession or remain there with little commitment. We all know that the most relevant thing to gaining honour and regard in today’s Ghanaian society is wealth. As for parents, they are supposed to provide guidance for their wards first and foremost. However, we often reduce the whole role to the provision of basic education needs. Please, it goes way beyond that. After about six hours of the day is spent in school under the guidance of the teacher, how is the remainder of the eighteen hours of the day managed by the parent? That is what makes the difference. No matter how good your ward is, they can only become better if you make some time to prioritize their activities when they are outside school. Meanwhile, 33% of Ghanaians are illiterate so how do illiterate parents play an effective role in the improvement of academic work of their cherished wards? What policies are in place to ensure that all categories of parents realise how significant their roles are when it comes to improving education standards? Remember that even the elite parents have forgotten that their wards cannot perform at full potential without parental guidance that is why they continually claim to be too busy to monitor the educational development of their wards. Well… I think something is wrong somewhere and key stakeholders should know and act towards changing this situation. The NGOs may do their best to improve the situation but without adequate support from powerful stakeholders, their efforts will always come to naught. This is why I maintain, firmly, that the power-wielding stakeholders need to up their game- become effective- if not we will do mark time ceaselessly, with eternity being our only likely saviour.

In spite of my strong dislike for rants about the ills in our education setup, I cannot hold back my disappointment in the glaring lapses in the system. Some of the happenings are simply unpardonable and embarrassing, to say the least. How then can I sit aloof and watch without uttering a word? It is this mute posture of educators, in the face of all shortcomings, that has compromised our system to politicians and allowed the whole system to collapse. Wake up, everyone, our education stakeholders are in coma while the policymakers are busily underperforming.

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