Some of the reasons why the boarding component in our state-assisted senior high schools must be removed. And now can we begin to have a calm national conversation?
1. Ghana has never been able to afford boarding as a major component of its state-owned education system, we cannot afford it, and not wanting to admit this puts us in some danger.
2. Since state-owned education was introduced over a thousand years ago in some countries, no nation on earth, has considered boarding as a necessary component of it.
3. That fact covers the most populous, the richest, and the most powerful nations on our planet: like China, Japan, US, and Russia (former USSR) In those countries and almost everywhere else, SECONDARY EDUCATION COVERS BETWEEN 90% AND 95% OF THE POPULATION, IT IS DAY, and IT IS FREE.
4. Apart from the confusion they have created around the issue by calling boarding secondaries “public schools” while they run them as private institutions, the British who introduced the model to us never attempted to use it for their state-owned system. (Please check this out on Google, Wikipedia, or the current UK High commissioner in Accra.)
5. Even for us, the British had meant boarding as a temporary measure to create a local nucleus to help them run the Gold Coast as a colonial space.
6. It was quite unfortunate that after independence, we not only kept boarding as part of the national educational system, but also allowed it to expand to its current unmanageable levels.
7. We can be bold enough to say that until the current government rolled out the free SHS program, state assistance covered less than 30% of Ghana children. The remaining 70% or so were just abandoned in the rural and urban poor areas.
8. It was reckless of this country's professional and mercantile elite to insist that the Ghanaian state undertook to board and feed their children when they are most ably placed to take care of the physical needs of their children. It is also to be noted that at this stage in their lives young people eat like rabbits. That was the original African state capture!
9. In some or most of the co-ed institutions the girls are shared among the headmasters and the male teaching staff as special stables for their own private use.
10. Over the last several weeks, Dr. Anthony Nsiah Asare, Director General of the Ghana Health Service, has been struggling to get us to see that currently our boarding schools are now also sites that threaten the health of our young people.
11. In any group of healthy boys and girls, the SHS years are about personal biology and the exploration of different sexualities. Especially where the environment is encouraging. So boarding schools have always been spaces for the growth of homosexuality. (It is to be noted that I’m not against any sexual preferences, because I don’t consider myself competent or knowledgeable enough to judge.)
12. But it is evident of the most dangerous form of hypocrisy to insist that being gay is evil, irreligious, untraditional etc., while at the same time, we worship boarding schools as the only spaces where we can get our own and other people's children educated properly. Worse, we try and hold ALL our governments, past and present, to ransom over this issue.
What kind of people are we?
Ama Ata Aidoo
P.S. Against this background, the idea that some religious bodies have been in conversation with governments about the possibility of taking back the management of their former missionary schools is the most confused, impracticable, backward-looking notion to enter the debate.