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‘Wisdom wasn’t applied before introduction of Free SHS’ – Mahama laments abandoned E-Blocks

Former President John Mahama has bemoaned the Akufo-Addo government’s inability to complete some community day schools the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government initiated to help absorb more students into senior high schools (SHSs).

The school blocks were commenced across the country to cater for the infrastructural deficits in the country’s SHSs while the government rolled out the ‘progressively free senior high school policy’. However, the Mahama-led government lost the 2016 elections, stalling most of the projects.

The Ministry for Education under the leadership of Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh announced that the Akufo-Addo government had completed some of the school projects bequeathed to them in 2017.

Some of the abandoned E-Block

 

But Mahama, who is touring the Western Region to thank Ghanaians for their overwhelming support during the 2020 polls, believes the government has not done enough to finish the projects and get students in SHS to study comfortably.

Speaking in an interview on Bogoso-based Trinity FM, Mr Mahama indicated that the completion of the E-Blocks would have saved the government from running the double-track system.

“Everything you’ll do, you have to apply wisdom. To start the free SHS, you have to know that when you open the gates like that, the children will be many and that means you have to make provisions for the students before opening the gates,” the 2020 NDC Presidential candidate said in Akan.

lamenting the development, he said the failure to complete the E-Blocks has become  “a waste of taxpayers’ money”, adding that the government has left the projects unattended to and is embarking on different projects.

“Today some of the schools have been left unattended. If they were operational, there wouldn’t be this double track,” Mahama added. “Because of this, the quality of education is declining and that is why the children want to rely on ‘apor’ (exam leakages) before going to the examination centre.”

He continued, “We have heard how students got angry after their final exams and went on rampage, attacking teachers because they did not allow them to engage in examination malpractices.”

To him, “if the quality of education in the second-cycle institutions is good and you train the children well, we won’t be seeing all these.”

Experts’ Concerns

Mr Mahama’s claim has been corroborated by some experts in the country who believe the double-track is dwindling the quality of education in the country’s public senior high schools.

For instance, a sociologist and lecturer at the University of Ghana, Dr. Sampson Obed Appiah has cautioned policymakers in the country’s education sector to, as a matter of urgency, take steps to tackle the issues that are reducing the quality of education in the second cycle institutions in the country.

Speaking on Tonton Sansan on TV XYZ in August, the educationist observed there were a tad more challenges affecting the quality of education in the government-assisted senior high schools under the Akufo-Addo administration’s flagship free SHS policy which needed urgent attention.

“Because we could not plan ahead of the free SHS, there has been an infrastructural gap which is adversely affecting the quality of education,” Dr. Appiah told co-host Pomaa Kyekyeku and argued that the pro-poor policy has turned into a capitalist idea due to the reduction of contact hours which force parents to resort to paying teachers to take their children through extra classes.

“I attended Mawuli School for 3 years but the only time I did extra classes was when I was in my final year, but today it is not like that. Someone told me at Peki that he is paying GHS 200 cedis for every core subject for his ward to be taught at home,” the lecturer noted.

Dr Samson Obed Appiah

Dr. Appiah also noted that “the double track has been the most unfortunate policy in our educational system because of the lost of contact hours. Parents would have to spend more on extra classes given room for capitalism which favors the rich to the detriment of the poor and thereby gradually creating a class system in the education sector to allow the rich to be able to get their children to get quality education.”

Asked by Pomaa Kyekyeku about what he makes of the entire second cycle education structure, Dr. Appiah said “at the secondary education level, I can say that the quality is reducing.”

“Something needs to be done because when the pupils do not get the quality education, they will struggle in the tertiary level,” he added and asked the government to go back to the drawing board and correct some mistakes he termed “political.”

Challenges of Free SHS

The challenges confronting the free SHS programme have been reiterated to the government ever since the policy was birthed in 2017.

Students, parents, and teachers have listed the challenges as lack of accommodation facilities resulting in students sleeping on the floor, and congestion in classrooms.

Other challenges pointed out by stakeholders are: the inconvenience relating to erratic schedules for the double-track system, poor quality of food served to students, little attention to end-of-semester examinations, and minimal contact hours.

In May this year, the Ghana Education Service (GES) rallied the support of parents, students, and other stakeholders for the Free SHS Policy, and promised the challenges bedeviling the implementation of the pro-poor policy would be tackled.

Admit Free SHS Challenges

In May this year, a former Education Minister, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang indicated that it will not be wrong for the Akufo-Addo government to admit that the flagship Free SHS programme is saddled with numerous challenges and affecting the quality of education in the country,

The 2020 Vice Presidential candidate for the National Democratic Congress (NDC), who was speaking to Eric Ahianyo on the Morning Update on TV XYZ, bemoaned the government’s approach to dealing with the challenges of the Free SHS programme.

In her estimation, the government has to lay down a channel to receive complaints from parents and school managers and deal with them rather than painting a picture that depicts all is well with the Free SHS programme.

Confirming the concerns from worried teachers and parents, Prof. Opoku-Agyemang said,  “I have picked from many, I’ve picked from students, I’ve picked from parents, I’ve picked from people in the Ministry [of Education] and outside the ministry. they have many stories to tell. And their major concern is that we can’t speak.”

 

She continued, “So when they come and give me all these litany of complains, my question to them is, but you have your boss; you have your committees, that’s a proper channel [so] why don’t you send all these concerns there so they will reach where they need to reach? [and] they say ‘we don’t even know

Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang is former Education Minister.

who to trust, we don’t know who is listening to you and before you know they’ve transferred you’ and I find that very, very unnecessary.”

Asked whether the government has to meet stakeholders to tackle the challenges confronting the government’s flagship programme, she said it was good that some of the stakeholders had begun talking about the challenges and calling for a review of the policy.

More Budgetary Allocation to Free SHS

Despite 23 percent of the country’s budget going into the education sector, President  Nana Akufo-Addo says government will allocate additional resources to address challenges relating to increasing access and inadequate infrastructure plaguing the free Senior High School programme.

President Nana Akufo-Addo

Addressing the Global Education Summit in London on last month,  the President said government was fully committed to ensuring every Ghanaian child has access to education, admitting that the free access has exposed challenges in the sector that are impacting quality.

“We’re spending some 23 percent of our budget on education…. and we intend to ramp it up even more,” Akufo-Addo stated.

To him, “the policy has reversed decades of exclusion, which denied, on the average, one hundred thousand young men and women, annually, entry to senior high school education because of the poverty of their parents.”

 

By Henryson Okrah|Myxyzonline.com|Ghana

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