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Of Education In The Northern Region And Its Sinking Quality

Mon, 2 Mar 2015 Source: Ziem, Joseph

By Joseph Ziem

I have been reporting on the prospects and challenges confronting education in the Northern Region of Ghana for almost a decade now as a journalist. But what bothers me most at times is about the fact that, many of the challenges discussed at workshops and conferences I attended eight years ago, are still being tabled for discussion in recent times.

Some of these challenges include teacher absenteeism, truancy, lack of or inadequate teaching and learning materials, lack of or inadequate classrooms and furniture, irregular PTA, SMC and District Education Oversight Committee meetings, poor performances and teenage pregnancy leading to high dropout rate among girls in many schools.

Other challenges are lack of or inadequate teachers, poor management, monitoring and supervision of schools by Headteachers, Circuit Supervisors, Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), School Management Committees (SMCs), Educational Units and Regional and District Directorates of the Ghana Education Service (GES).

Thus, the question many concerned citizens always ask is: Has the GES, government and non-governmental organisations been getting it all wrong in their attempt to address these challenges, over the years? For parents in particular, it sounds unconvincing that technocrats will meet to examine the challenges confronting education, proffer solutions and the problems will persist.

Recent statistics released by the GES on educational sector performance about the Northern Region are very depressing to say the least. For instance, the Northern Region has 26 districts– none of which had a senior high school (SHS) that made it to the top 130 schools in the 2014 WASSCE rankings released by the Statistics, Research, Information, Management and Public Relations (SRIMPR) Division of the Ministry of Education (MoE). Over the past 5 years, the region has scored below average results in their schools.

The Savelugu-Nanton Municipality, like the rest of the other districts in the region, is at the moment struggling to redeem its sinking image in the educational sector since it took the bottom spot in the 2013 nationwide Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) placing 167th position out of overall total of 167 districts nationwide. Besides, of the 22 Junior High Schools presented by the Municipal Directorate of the GES for the 2012 BECE, 15 schools scored below 40 percent representing 68.20 percent.

But, there are underlying causes responsible for the poor performances of schools and pupils in this municipality and for that matter the rest of the region. Some of the causes of poor performances of schools and pupils often cited by the GES include candidates’ lack of adequate understanding of simple concepts in the subjects being taught; incomplete coverage of syllabuses/loss of contact hours; weak foundation at the primary level; poor attitude of teachers towards work; lack of standardized mode of assessment to track schools performances; and high level of truancy among BECE candidates after registration.

Other reasons given are lack of parental supervision and monitoring of children’s learning behaviour; negative peer influence; inadequate or poor supervision of schools by GES officials as well as mass promotion of pupils to the next class at the end of academic years.

While organisations like RAINS has done well to revive and build the capacity of many Executives of PTAs, SMCs, DEOCs and other civil society groups in the Gusheigu, Karaga, West Mamprusi and Savelugu-Nanton Districts to enable them monitor and supervise community schools more effectively, there are still many of such non-functional groups in other districts thereby making it impossible for schools/pupils performances to rise.

The BECE English and Mathematics pass rate for the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions as well as the Volta Region has been consistently not appealing over the years; (MoE 2012, 15). According to the National Education Assessment (NEA) report of 2011, less than one out of five pupils at both primary 3 and primary 6 are proficient in mathematics. While the figures for English look better than mathematics, they are still low with about 1 out of 3 being proficient in English at primary 6; –MoE 2012, 13.

However, compared to the private school system, the NEA report consistently showed that the private schools outperform the “public schools with a huge gap” (MoE 2012, 13).

Tamale Metropolis is another case in point. As capital of the Northern Region, it is supposed to be a model city in terms of education and every aspect of development to all districts in Northern Ghana. Unfortunately, pupils and schools performances at the BECE have been very abysmal. For instance, between 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, Tamale secured 60th, 69th, 88th, 91st, 89th, 98th and 103rd positions respectively, out of a total of 134 districts nationwide.

The reasons accounting for the sinking quality of education in the region are inexhaustible. But the most glaring ones being the ones stated in this article could give one a bit of understanding of what is happening in the educational front. Thus, for the region to be able to avert these negative statistics, current and future governments must be focused, realistic and discipline in the way and manner they take decisions and implement those decisions.

One of the woes of the GES is indiscipline. There is high level of indiscipline among majority of GES staff and anywhere there is indiscipline, there is bound to be non-performance. Until the service begins to stamp on its authority, performances of schools and pupils will never improve. This may sound pessimistic but this is not the kind of problem one should expect God to perform a miracle.

Educational Reforms in the past are also blameworthy for the sinking quality of education in the region. I daresay some of the crucial educational reforms that took place in the past were not thought through enough. Things were not carefully planned with realistic goals in mind to be achieved over a longer period of time. Thus, the governments responsible were not able to measure the positive outcomes or otherwise of such reforms. It therefore gives many citizens the impression that any education policy by government often does not achieve a people’s centred objective but instead, a political one.

Another thing to seriously consider is government taking serious interest in monitoring and supervising the GES and teachers to do their work and do it very well. Government should not just stop at building new schools, and providing material and human resources. In the private schools where there is adequate supervision and monitoring, the results are there for everyone to see. Until this principle is religiously applied or followed, the performance of pupils in the region will continue to nose dive.

Subjectively, I also think that it is of no essence for every new government to want to build new schools instead of concentrating on old ones which require only renovation and perhaps, expansion with more material and human resources to ensure efficient delivery. An example is President John Mahama’s 200 new SHS and 10 colleges of education. Mr. President should only consider newly created districts which probably do not have SHS and build them one school each. But as for the colleges, existing ones can be expanded with more infrastructures, learning and teaching materials. Let’s stop dividing the nation further with this ideology of satisfying ethnic and regional balance through the provision of schools and other forms of economic infrastructure.

In conclusion, I will say that due to the numerous disappointments parents constantly face in their attempt to get the best form of education for their children, those who can afford to enrol them in private schools where adequate and quality tuition is guaranteed, are fast withdrawing them from the public school system which hitherto was the preferred choice of most people. This is obviously pathetic and a shame to the GES and MoE especially when private schools use untrained teachers (mostly SHS graduates) to teach the children of doctors, nurses, professors, engineers, trained teachers, chief executives, managing directors, legislators, government ministers and so on, and still, they excel far better than the public schools which use professional teachers.

Columnist: Ziem, Joseph