General News of 2012-10-12

Free SHS is not attainable - University Lecturer

Ghana First, an academic think tank of some university lecturers, on Friday said infrastructure in the country’s Junior High Schools (JHS) and Senior High Schools (SHS) is woefully inadequate to accommodate the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) free SHS policy.
At a press conference in Accra addressed by Dr. Ebenezer Kofi Hayford, lecturer, Department of Earth Science University of Ghana, said in spite of over 1,250 set of classroom blocks built recently to replace schools under trees, there are still about 3,070 schools under trees that function at the mercy of the weather.
The press conference was organised by Ghana First to share with the media outcome of survey report conducted by the group.
Dr. Hayford said the number of pupils from JHS ready to enter the SHS is more than the existing facilities can accommodate.
This year alone, 376,859 candidates sat for the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) to fill 175,000 vacancies in the existing SHS schools nationwide.
The vacancy available leaves a surplus of 201,000 pupils who will not be able to gain admission into the SHS.
These 201,000 are unable to enter the SHS not because of cost but because of infrastructure deficit which includes laboratory space, dining halls space, Information Communication Technology space.
Dr. Hayford said: “it must be possible, for instance, for Ghana Educational Service (GES) to increase pre-school education infrastructure to cater for kindergarten children when the mothers have to work to subsidise the family income.”
“It should also be possible for GES to increase organised classes for the 57.5 per cent adult illiteracy in our country, in order to assist rapid dissemination of information to accelerate growth”.
On Science Laboratories the survey said the study of science and the desire to study science is less encouraging because there are no science laboratories in the public JHS.
“The study of science at the basic level without experiments becomes abstract, and is mainly based on wild imaginations,” the Group stated.
Financial analysis focusing on Greater Accra Region indicates that in 2011, a total of 54,315 JHS pupils graduated from the JHS system in Greater Accra Region alone.
There are currently a total of 45 SHS (second cycle) institutions in Greater Accra Region (511 SHS nationwide).
“If the 54,315 SHS students who completed in 2011 are to be shared equally among the 45 SHS in the region, each of these 45 SHS will be compelled to admit 1,207 students going by NPP’s proposal.
“If we conservatively assume that there will be 45 students per each class at the SHS level, Greater Accra alone will need 27 Form One classroom blocks per each of the 45 SHS currently available.
“If we assume further that each of the 45 SHS in Greater Accra Region already has 10 of the 27 required Form One classroom space currently available, then there will be a deficit of 17 Form One classroom blocks per each of these 45 SHS currently available.
“If we then multiply the 17 Form One classroom blocks required by the 45 SHS currently available, Greater Accra alone will require a total of 765 Form One classroom blocks by 2913 for NPP’s educational policy to take off,” Dr Hayford said.
The Group explained that working with a conservative estimate of 180,000 Ghana cedis, (this is the amount for constructing a complete JHS block taken from National Development Planning Commission documents) if we multiply the required number of classroom blocks in Greater Accra 765 by this conservative amount (180,000 Ghana cedis), NPP’s free quantity-based SHS education will cost 137,700,000 million Ghana cedis for Greater Accra alone.
There are 511 SHS country-wide. Now Greater Accra (with 45 SHS) carries 9.2 per cent of the cost. The nation-wide projection will therefore cost 1,370,000,000 (1.37 billion) Ghana cedis.
It is obvious from above, that current proposition for free SHS education (by the NPP) does not solve the cardinal problems of quality and accessibility. Besides, opening the floodgates of the existing schools to all students of the JHS to enter SHS whether qualified or not will certainly bring confusion into our educational system.
The Education Think-Tank Group said solving the problem is to expand the existing educational and other social facilities to cover all the Regions subject to the availability of funds as the Constitution demands.
Subsequently, the Government should also provide where required more SHS, more classrooms for the old SHS, more dormitory blocks, more dining halls, more assembly halls, more quality teachers and teaching materials and more accommodation in the new existing schools.
It is our opinion that these are basic requirements upon which any wholesale promotion and free SHS can be built.
Professor Lewis Enu-Kwesi, Lecturer, Department of Botany, University of Ghana, said the Educational Think Tank Group is concerned with education and ultimate development of the country.
He said the Group had noted with keen interest the perspectives expressed by the NPP relating to the policy on free SHS education and also followed the different positions expressed by various sectors of civil society, organisations and the NDC on the feasibility or otherwise of free SHS education in our current situation as a country.
The NDC on the other side refutes the feasibility of the policy and lays emphasis on improving access and quality as well as expansion of infrastructure; in addition to enhancing motivation for teachers who are the driving force for success in the teaching-learning process.
There are other schools of thought that suggest greater investment in the kindergarten and JHS to ensure solid foundation and quality.
These differences in policy have brought to the fore, the political debate on the approach to achieving access to school by children of school-going age and quality of teaching and learning.
It is as a result of the above differences that we the Think-Tank of some University Lecturers have decided to call this press conference in other to contribute to the veracity or otherwise of the debate; and express our researched opinion on this policy.
Source: GNA
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