Terribly heart wrenching and deeply embarrassing scenes from the Black Star Square. No human being deserves to be put through the ongoing tribulations of Ghanaian students and parents seeking placement into Senior High Schools in their own country.
My thoughts and prayers are with the thousands who have been left stranded under the vagaries of the weather since yesterday and especially for those who collapsed and had to be rushed to hospital.
The paradox of what is unfolding at the Black Star Square is not lost on me. This is the sacred venue for our Independence Day Parades; where since childhood, we have constantly been reminded of the all powerful Independence Day proclamation of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, that:
“We have awakened. We will not sleep anymore. Today, from now on, there is a new African in the world! That new African is ready to fight his own battles and show that after all, the black man is CAPABLE of managing his own affairs.”
Some 62 years after that great hope and promise which inspired black people everywhere, the current generation of Ghanaian leaders cannot manage something as basic as the placement of just 400,000 students in Senior High Schools without subjecting our own citizens to such dehumanizing treatment which defiles the exact place Nkrumah lit the torch of African liberation – a square which for many years has famously symbolized hope, inspiration and boundless possibilities.
It is really time for the current generation of leaders to embark on a mission of serious soul searching, irrespective of our political parties, and regardless of who knows best how to beat their chest the hardest about self-professed competencies that barely reflect in any facet of the daily realities of our people.
With the depressing echoes of discordance from the Black Star Square, I pray that we shall all finally and in all humility seek that awakening the Osagyefo so boldly declared.
In the meantime, Government ought to consider the following suggestions without delay:
1) Immediately suspend the entire placement process and return to the drawing board;
2) Out-rightly abolish this weird and shameful concept of a dehumanizing CSSPS Solution Center currently operating from the Black Star Square. Government's decision to create more solution centers in other regions which only means nationalizing the agony of our people across the country is most insensitive, reckless and offensive. It should cease forthwith. In any case, Ghana is the only country in the world at this time of technological advancement where the solution center for a COMPUTERIZED SYSTEM is not virtual which will only require people conveniently completing all processes online from the comfort of their abodes but requires showing up physically at designated locations to form tortuous queues before one can be recognized by the computer. This international disgrace should be brought to a stop at once!;
3) Return to the previous software which was more robust and reliable. Changing a software which has served this country well for years just three months before such a major exercise was simply inviting hell – and hell have we brought upon ourselves;
4) Recall experienced personnel at the CSSPS Secretariat who have been relieved of their positions. Also, bring back the Technical Working Committee which exercised oversight as a board over the CSSPS Secretariat and had membership drawn from WAEC, PTAs, GES, CHASS and Software Developers. If President Mahama could keep them at post, President Akufo-Addo should have been able to do same;
5) Review new policy measures introduced such as the opaque 30% quota from public basic schools. Though I agree with the principle – based on current data, the allocation is too high and the criteria for selecting the 30% remains shrouded in mystery. When you add protocol which I am reliably informed is now between 10-15% and the other protocol quotas for old student associations and religious bodies in the case of mission schools; what these new interventions actually do is that meritocracy and transparency is overwhelmingly sacrificed as the vast majority of applicants who are not “well connected” actually struggle for less than half of declared vacancies;
6) The introduction of a so-called self placement model which in essence defeats the principle of a computerized placement system must be abandoned immediately. The self-placement route is simply an excuse for lazy computer programming and deficient algorithm associated with the new software;
7) Government must return to assessing students based on their raw scores and not their aggregates as used to be the case when Prof. Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang was in charge of the Ministry of Education. Obtaining a grade of 70 which is equivalent to aggregate one is not the same as the student who scored 95 to also secure aggregate one. Under a stanine system of scaling which is the model WAEC uses at this level, there can be no fairer alternative;
8)A full inquiry into the 2019 SHS Placement fiasco must be commissioned. From allegations of a dubious software, hacking into the vulnerable software and changing placements, alleged corrupt practices at numerous levels, countless cases of parents returning to school with their wards after satisfying prospectus demands only to realize that their names can no longer be found in schools they were originally placed and other bizarre accounts of frightening magnitude cannot all be swept under the carpet;
Furthermore, it is curious to observe that so far, none of the FOUR Ministers at the helm of the Education Ministry have stepped out to take responsibility. Neither have they been heard or seen addressing this major catastrophe from the front-lines. In many other jurisdictions where premium is placed on ministerial responsibility, the Minister responsible for Education would have long resigned or be fired.
This is the time for demonstrable competent leadership to take control and clean up the mess. Hiding behind lower level staff and assuming PR gimmicks will resolve the crisis is to abdicate, miss the real issues and completely ignore the ordeal of the masses brought about by the poverty of leadership.
My thoughts and prayers continue to be with all frustrated parents, guardians and students. Never again should disappointing leadership subject our own citizens to such unprecedented albeit disgraceful and totally avoidable predicaments.
Nkrumah's charge to us to demonstrate to the world that there is a new African ready to fight his own battles and show that after all, the black man is capable of managing his own affairs must happen NOW, lest, just as the Biblical Israelites, Ghanaians may soon start demanding a return to captivity/colonization.
God save the motherland.
The writer is the MP for North Tongu
He is also a Former Deputy Minister for Education