Free things they say are very costly. With whatever lens you might be waring now, you cannot miss noticing we are slowly paying dearly for the option of free Education.
Hey, do not get me wrong! Free Education is one of the best offers any government can offer her citizenry; however, in our case, we probably rushed into enforcing it; not much adequate preparation was made. It appears some equally major stakeholders in Education: teachers, heads of schools, parents, and even non-teaching staff were not involved; some even feel threatened when they want to express themselves regarding the educational system in this country.
For political gains, free Education is perfectly registered. However, for the true purpose for which it was enacted, we are seriously failing. Many parents and guardians who know the worth of Education do not have their children in the “free education program.”
The idea of having every child or person educated is a noble one, which of course, every growing country would like to have. However, the real question for us Ghanaians is, despite our endeavour, are we achieving what we bargained for, or we are simply happy with children occupying classrooms? Freedom, they say, goes with responsibility. Probably, we are overstressing the “Free” aspect of the system to the detriment of the “Responsibility” aspect.
Many parents (especially those in the rural areas) today seem content with their children in school uniforms. Whether the child is in class studying or not is not their business anymore because the essential worry about the child’s Education is now taken care of by the state; it is free, so why trouble yourself anymore. Try getting into a typical classroom, and the number of children per that class (most public schools) would horrify you; the pupils’ are literally packed in the classroom, and those who are privileged would have dual desks to sit on. This, in my estimation, does not support effective teaching, learning and assessment even if we want to get everyone to go to school.
If Basic Education, which lays the child’s educational foundation, is not taken seriously, then we are heading towards severe problems in a few years to come. Once the foundation is not solid, we would be merely tottering unsteadily down the stairs of the collapse of our educational system. Seriously speaking, the standard of education is falling. Measures that were put in place to aid children learning are now softened. These include; repeating children who are not doing well in class and promoting those who are outstanding in class. Wholesale promotion has succeeded in producing learners who enter Junior High School and sometimes Senior High School but have no clue about any subject content or even express themselves in simple language. In the past, the fear of repeating a class motivated us to learn; it was shameful to be repeated in class, your friends would go ahead of you, and worse still, your parents would not be happy with you. This propelled us to put in our best. Today, all that has been thrown away. Students do not have to worry about learning because they would be promoted anyway at the end of the year.
Most parents are not even perturbed about what happens to their children in school. Gone are the days when the Parents’ Teacher Association was also viewed as a measure to support teachers, encouraged teachers and met to deliberate upon issues that affected the school, teaching and learning. Strange enough, some parents are in support of children not being repeated as a deterrent. They would fight any teacher or school who tries that; some teachers are even scared to dialogue with parents on how their wards are doing in class. The truth of the matter is, it appears we are in a hurry to get the kids out of school for whatever reason. The emphasis is no longer on how well they are educated but how fast they come out; whether good or bad, they are done with school.
Many second cycle institution teachers complain of how they have to re-teach students from JHS level to read, which should have been taken care of at the Basic level. Instead of building on core skills that were learnt at the Basic level, such as reading, writing clearly and expressing themselves well, teachers at this stage begin all over again. This obviously can be frustrating and discouraging, especially for many teachers. Most of these children cannot express themselves in simple English, let alone write any meaningful thing on paper. This is a worry, and we should not politicize the core of our existence as a country; meet children who are just about to enter SHS or are in SHS and you will be terrified at what they do not know.
Most of the second cycle institutions are managed poorly; some of the schools are densely populated, the classrooms are very small, some of the students stand during learning in class. Some students also lean on windows to write during lessons, dining times are done in shifts, some dormitories have been turned into classrooms, and there are not enough furniture. This is no joke. As noted earlier, even though everyone is vying for every child to be educated, this surely does not give a good picture of quality education. According to Fredrick Muyia Nafukhoan, Professor of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development, quality education describes an educational system that emphasizes the importance of focusing on five essential elements, namely: quality learners, quality teaching and learning environment, quality content, quality processes, and quality outcomes. I am not sure which of these indicators our current educational system satisfies.
Enough preparations should have been made before rolling out the free educational system; constructing adequate classrooms, dormitories, and providing the needed teaching and learning resources. The “free money” should have been rolled out as an incentive (scholarship package) for students who perform well at the end of JHS. For instance, for students who attended school in the southern belt of the country, the last score or grade should be pegged at an aggregate 15, to qualify them for the Free Education or, better still, scholarship. In contrast, those in the country’s northern belt (whether a native or not, as long as you attended school there) be pegged at aggregate 20. Those in the country’s northern belts do not have the same facilities as those in the south; however, this could also be changed to a uniform national grade with time.
This suggestion, in my opinion, would encourage both parents and teachers to work together to help their children merit the scholarship or “Free Education.” This would also do away with the gold, red and green system, which do not give the children enough time to learn. Every parent and school would work hard to get their children to do well. Students, on the other hand, would find this a little competitive. Students who do not make the grade would now become the responsibility of parents, teachers ( of their respective schools) and the students themselves to beat down the grade to qualify for the scholarship. I stand to be corrected again, currently, as it stands, there is no fair treatment in the Free Education Program. Some students from far off places are renting close to their schools while others who live closer or even come from those towns are in the boarding house, enjoying all the benefits.
Too Much Interference with School Curricular
Health and Education are two areas that should never be politicized and interfered with much in any country that has plans for the next generation. There is too much political interference with the school curricular in Ghana. Any government that comes to power wants to change something about the Educational system. Interestingly, governments are eager to cause an artificial change (renaming the system, change of years involved) but pay deaf ears to the core factors like the developing educational content that focuses on solving the needs of the country, resourcing educational institutions with quality laboratories, libraries, simulation centres and improving teaching techniques. At best, they often end up keeping everyone confused except themselves. Sometimes the teachers are not even abreast with what they are currently teaching. When they are just getting used to one, a new one is being introduced. This contributes significantly to the poor performance of the Students. Most times, parents do not even know what the old curricular is. They only see their kids graduating with aggregate forties and fifties, which is nothing to ride home about.
Many Parents in the olden days took their wards to certain schools not because those schools were teaching well but because there was discipline in such schools. Today, the indiscipline in most of our schools is creeping into the workspaces in the country. The hallmark of any good school is how disciplined the school is, from the head of the school to the last worker. Now, all that is not considered necessary. What is needed is to attend school and go home. Heads of institutions pretend to manage, teachers pretend to teach, the supervisors pretend to monitor, accountants pretend to manage the finances, and the students pretend to learn. It’s a chronic cyclical trend of pretense. The God-fearing schools of yesterday are all gone. This tells you where we are heading to. Most disciplined schools were the mission schools, where faith, morals and other learning activities took place. There was a cordial relationship between the school and parents.
Today, you dare not discipline a child and parents and the media will trail you all over the place. When I talk of discipline, I don’t mean “lashing” a child. There are many other civilized forms of disciplining children. Everyone today is acting out of fear, and that is crippling our society and country. Many parents today would not even find out from the teacher what their wards have done. However, they would come after the teacher and create a problem for him or her. Because of such confrontations from parents, a lot of good teachers have coiled back, just to do the barest minimum. Many students paddle attitudes around, and as a teacher, you dare not talk. In history, we have teachers who have crossed the line of disciplining children. Such teachers should be sanctioned. I think every school, no matter how small it is, should have a disciplinary committee (with the Head of the School or Assistant as the head of that committee). I think dialogue between parents and teachers should always lead the way when such things happen.
The Akans have a saying that “san ko fa, eyen chir.” I would instead urge that we bring back the old system where we have the primary, middle and secondary school. I was not privileged to attend such a system, but I met the last two batches. This is the system I call a “grown and matured school system.” We can rebrand the name to whatever we may wish to call it but believe me, and it is a well-tested educational system. This system takes away the “mass production” we are having now. It matches well with our workforce and the few job opportunities we have. Children should stay longer in schools to avoid all worries of looking for quick money and getting themselves into all kinds of atrocities.
The shorter system we run currently is definitely not helping us as a country and even as a continent, where there are not enough work or job opportunities. Currently, the number of teachers, nurses, accountants and other technocrats loitering around is very pathetic. This is where frustrations and disappointments set in; armed robbery, premature or early marriages, which do not last, looting and defrauding to survive becomes the order of the day. In some countries, jobs are readily available, so such a short educational system supports them. I do not think it is shameful to go back for what had stood the test of time. This, I believe, will help us to return to the quality education Ghana is noted for. We have to discern between political affiliations and what is worth for our country.
Finally, needless to add that, when you visit most of our health centres and hospitals now you will find some health personnel using a phone to diagnose sickness; while you are still giving the history of your sickness, the person is busily googling to come up with the equivalent medication.
On the other hand, some teachers can not construct any meaningful sentence in front of the kids. We have heightened political gains and the search for money to the detriment of our educational system and country.
I watched a short clip on WhatsApp, which showed a lecturer during examination allowing a medical student to cheat. He later took money from the student and made him get away with the crime. Years later, the lecturer’s wife fell seriously sick and thankfully, it was the same ‘aided Medical student’ who was to take care of the lecturer’s wife. When the lecturer saw his former student, whom he took a bribe from, coming towards him from the theatre room, he realized he sold his dear wife’s life long before she passed on. These are the terrible things happening because we’ve compromised on our morals and our educational system. People are graduating from schools today from phones and laptops (purely Online); there is no human touch in learning anymore, and yet they are expected to come and deal with human beings in their practice. I stand to be corrected. I believe the core of Education is a human touch phenomenon. Take away that Education has fallen short. People are racing for degrees that their works and lifestyles have very little to show for it. This is pathetic. It is high time we bring people who have love and understanding for Education (educationist and other stakeholders) together, give them free space to map out a comprehensive National Educational Framework for our country for the next decade. I will urge that whatever system they come up with being left to run for ten years. This is how other countries like Singapore, which gained independence at the same time as Ghana, developed. According to a survey conducted by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an influential worldwide study on educational systems, Singapore has the highest international education performance and tops in global rankings. The try and error period should come to an end; we are jeopardizing with people’s lives. Quality education is non-negotiable if we must eradicate poverty and unemployment in Ghana because by providing quality education that is more solution and practical oriented to one generation, we automatically eradicate poverty from the society.
Written by: Nicholas Aazine, SVD (Coord: Justice, Peace and Integrity of creation – JPIC Ghana- Liberia province).
Divine Word Missionaries – A Catholic Religious Society