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Letter from the President: Reforming to fail

Mon, 17 Sep 2007 Source: Daily Dispatch

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, we promised (positive) change and we are delivering it, aren’t we? Change is everywhere. The economy is on track but most of our people still can’t afford a single decent meal per day. We have fast track courts but the wheels of justice still turn at the pace of a tired, old tortoise. We have new streets and highways but traffic is as horrendous as ever and just a few days ago we introduced a new education system with ‘failure’ written all over it.

I’ve heard all the complaints about the lack of logistics, lack of teachers, lack of textbooks, lack of classroom facilities, lack of teaching and learning aids and the general lack of adequate planning and preparation for the introduction of the reforms. We lack everything, but we are pushing on all the same. Fact of the matter is we can’t wait until everything is in place before we do what we have to do.

I know it pays to plan. But you can’t blame me for the slipshod start of the reforms. I am in a hurry. I need to get these reforms on the roll before I leave office because it should be one of my lasting legacies. That’s why I am asking you all to do away with the pessimism. Be optimistic for once. These educational reforms have been very well thought out to prepare our kids to face the challenges of the modern world – equipping them with vital science and technology skills. For example, we are going to focus a lot more on ICT education – departing from Jerry Boom’s idea that the best way to prepare children for the modern world was to teach them to mix brick and mortar and knock nails into wood. It’s very important that these reforms succeed. It’s important for me; it’s important for the nation. Sometimes, I get tired of your numerous complaints. Instead of embracing the reforms with open hearts and minds, everybody seems to have absolutely no confidence that this will work. But we’ve got to make this work – if for nothing at all, to show those ‘abongo’ boys and girls who introduced the JSS/SSS system that they should have dug deeper into their cerebral hemisphere for a better idea like the one we have just introduced.

The teachers who are to implement the reform are complaining that they have not received any orientation. They say that they don’t know what is expected of them. This is very annoying. They are teachers for Christ’s sake. We don’t expect them to do anything other than teach. So they should go ahead and do just that. I know they don’t have the syllabi for the new subjects that are being introduced. But I want to believe that our teachers are innovative and they can come up with ‘something’. I know that it doesn’t make sense to start a new educational system without the requisite syllabi. But I am chasing a legacy here and I need all the help I can get. I will therefore encourage all the grousing teachers to shut the hell up and get on board. We will not sit down for any teacher (or group of teachers) to do anything to sabotage the reforms. If you think you can’t teach without the syllabi, then you are not worthy of the title of ‘teacher’. Aristotle and Plato didn’t teach without syllabi, did they? So what’s your problem? Why can’t you be like them?

In any case, I am reliably informed that some of the syllabi are available on the internet. I will encourage all teachers – even those in Saboba Chereponi – to get on the world wide web and start surfing for the syllabi. Lack of syllabi should not be an excuse.

I have also heard some parents complaining about the lack of textbooks. Let me assure you all that the textbooks will come. Not immediately. But they will come. In the meantime, just look around for books that might be of use to your wards. They might not be particularly suited to our environment but anything will do for now.

Parents particularly have an important role to play in all this. If these reforms fail (and it appears they will), your wards will fail as well. The good news, though, is that your wards can succeed even when the system begins to fail. However, this will happen only if you strive to give your ward the best tutorials and textbooks. So dig deep into your pockets and get ready to pay more for extra classes and/or private tuition.

In fact, if you can afford it consider sending your kids to a private school, where they will be prepped to sit for an American or British exam. Surely, in a private school, your kids will have a roof over their heads – unlike the 40 percent of Sikaman kids who study under trees. Whenever it rains, school is called off. In some cases, even the ‘under-tree’ schools run a shift system – one group comes in the morning, the other comes in the afternoon. According to the director general of the Education Service, this is no problem at all because “people can still enjoy life under trees.” He will know, won’t he? He sits in an air-conditioned office every day so he surely knows how people enjoy life under trees.

With such people at the helm of affairs, you shouldn’t be entirely surprised that very little preparation has gone into the introduction of the educational reforms. But it behoves on you as citizens to make the best of the situation. It’s your patriotic duty. I know we are literally forcing these reforms down your throats and that, ultimately, these reforms could just amount to a change in nomenclature (from Junior Secondary to Junior High and from Senior Secondary to Senior High) but when all has been said and done, “the value is the same”.

Rest assured, though, that all is not lost. In about 20 years, someone else will be in power and I believe he would have the sense and the courage to reform what we have just introduced to replace the reforms of Jerry Boom’s era. My hope is that he will not be in a rush as I am and that he will take his time and make meticulous plans which will ensure that when he decides to roll out his reforms, teachers will be adequately prepped, at least the very basic infrastructure will be available, textbooks and syllabi will be provided (village teachers in Enchi will not be asked to go and download stuff on the internet) and the children of Sikaman will receive the best education to be able to compete on the global stage with kids from places like India, Malaysia and Japan.

For now, countrymen and women let me welcome you to my kind of educational reform. I am very optimistic that if a miracle doesn’t happen soon, these reforms will fail as woefully as Jerry Boom’s did. That’s my legacy. What Jerry Boom can do, I can do better. Such is change!

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, we promised (positive) change and we are delivering it, aren’t we? Change is everywhere. The economy is on track but most of our people still can’t afford a single decent meal per day. We have fast track courts but the wheels of justice still turn at the pace of a tired, old tortoise. We have new streets and highways but traffic is as horrendous as ever and just a few days ago we introduced a new education system with ‘failure’ written all over it.

I’ve heard all the complaints about the lack of logistics, lack of teachers, lack of textbooks, lack of classroom facilities, lack of teaching and learning aids and the general lack of adequate planning and preparation for the introduction of the reforms. We lack everything, but we are pushing on all the same. Fact of the matter is we can’t wait until everything is in place before we do what we have to do.

I know it pays to plan. But you can’t blame me for the slipshod start of the reforms. I am in a hurry. I need to get these reforms on the roll before I leave office because it should be one of my lasting legacies. That’s why I am asking you all to do away with the pessimism. Be optimistic for once. These educational reforms have been very well thought out to prepare our kids to face the challenges of the modern world – equipping them with vital science and technology skills. For example, we are going to focus a lot more on ICT education – departing from Jerry Boom’s idea that the best way to prepare children for the modern world was to teach them to mix brick and mortar and knock nails into wood. It’s very important that these reforms succeed. It’s important for me; it’s important for the nation. Sometimes, I get tired of your numerous complaints. Instead of embracing the reforms with open hearts and minds, everybody seems to have absolutely no confidence that this will work. But we’ve got to make this work – if for nothing at all, to show those ‘abongo’ boys and girls who introduced the JSS/SSS system that they should have dug deeper into their cerebral hemisphere for a better idea like the one we have just introduced.

The teachers who are to implement the reform are complaining that they have not received any orientation. They say that they don’t know what is expected of them. This is very annoying. They are teachers for Christ’s sake. We don’t expect them to do anything other than teach. So they should go ahead and do just that. I know they don’t have the syllabi for the new subjects that are being introduced. But I want to believe that our teachers are innovative and they can come up with ‘something’. I know that it doesn’t make sense to start a new educational system without the requisite syllabi. But I am chasing a legacy here and I need all the help I can get. I will therefore encourage all the grousing teachers to shut the hell up and get on board. We will not sit down for any teacher (or group of teachers) to do anything to sabotage the reforms. If you think you can’t teach without the syllabi, then you are not worthy of the title of ‘teacher’. Aristotle and Plato didn’t teach without syllabi, did they? So what’s your problem? Why can’t you be like them?

In any case, I am reliably informed that some of the syllabi are available on the internet. I will encourage all teachers – even those in Saboba Chereponi – to get on the world wide web and start surfing for the syllabi. Lack of syllabi should not be an excuse.

I have also heard some parents complaining about the lack of textbooks. Let me assure you all that the textbooks will come. Not immediately. But they will come. In the meantime, just look around for books that might be of use to your wards. They might not be particularly suited to our environment but anything will do for now.

Parents particularly have an important role to play in all this. If these reforms fail (and it appears they will), your wards will fail as well. The good news, though, is that your wards can succeed even when the system begins to fail. However, this will happen only if you strive to give your ward the best tutorials and textbooks. So dig deep into your pockets and get ready to pay more for extra classes and/or private tuition.

In fact, if you can afford it consider sending your kids to a private school, where they will be prepped to sit for an American or British exam. Surely, in a private school, your kids will have a roof over their heads – unlike the 40 percent of Sikaman kids who study under trees. Whenever it rains, school is called off. In some cases, even the ‘under-tree’ schools run a shift system – one group comes in the morning, the other comes in the afternoon. According to the director general of the Education Service, this is no problem at all because “people can still enjoy life under trees.” He will know, won’t he? He sits in an air-conditioned office every day so he surely knows how people enjoy life under trees.

With such people at the helm of affairs, you shouldn’t be entirely surprised that very little preparation has gone into the introduction of the educational reforms. But it behoves on you as citizens to make the best of the situation. It’s your patriotic duty. I know we are literally forcing these reforms down your throats and that, ultimately, these reforms could just amount to a change in nomenclature (from Junior Secondary to Junior High and from Senior Secondary to Senior High) but when all has been said and done, “the value is the same”.

Rest assured, though, that all is not lost. In about 20 years, someone else will be in power and I believe he would have the sense and the courage to reform what we have just introduced to replace the reforms of Jerry Boom’s era. My hope is that he will not be in a rush as I am and that he will take his time and make meticulous plans which will ensure that when he decides to roll out his reforms, teachers will be adequately prepped, at least the very basic infrastructure will be available, textbooks and syllabi will be provided (village teachers in Enchi will not be asked to go and download stuff on the internet) and the children of Sikaman will receive the best education to be able to compete on the global stage with kids from places like India, Malaysia and Japan.

For now, countrymen and women let me welcome you to my kind of educational reform. I am very optimistic that if a miracle doesn’t happen soon, these reforms will fail as woefully as Jerry Boom’s did. That’s my legacy. What Jerry Boom can do, I can do better. Such is change!

Excellently yours,
J. A. Fukuor
(fukuor@gmail.com)

Columnist: Daily Dispatch