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Opinions Wed, 11 Nov 2015

Revert to the four-year Senior High School Programme

Education is crucial in any type of society for the enhancement of the lives of its members but we cannot run a smooth education devoid of infrastructure.

The Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) was introduced followed by the capitation grant. With this programme, parents are under obligation to send all Ghanaian children to school. By the introduction of this policy there has been an increase in enrollment in schools and there is also the need for more classrooms to be built to complement these large numbers.

In deprived areas, teachers are compelled to have classes in makeshift structures. In the second cycle level, the government could not prepare fully for the 3-year senior high school programme when it took off in the mid-eighties. Because of the numerous problems, the Kufuor administration took a decision to change it to four years to give children enough time to learn while they improve infrastructure in the deprive areas.

When the change came into being, Hon. Alex Tettey-Enyo, the former Minister of Education was a ranking member of the Parliamentary Committee on Education under the chairmanship of Hon. Baladoo Manu.

When the report recommending the change from 3-years to 4-years was laid before the committee of the whole parliament, it was approved; which subsequently came into effect as Act of parliament (Education Act 778 of December 2008).

As part of NDC’s manifesto, this same former Minister, acting on behalf of the Government had amended the very Act he helped to put in place, thus bringing back the 3-year senior high school programme. An opinion poll conducted since this infamous reversal revealed that, most Ghanaians especially, parents and students are very much in favour of the 4-year senior high school programme. While a few insist that, it must be changed to three year with the excuse that the united States, France, Libya, Zambia have similar programmes which run for three years yet they don’t encounter any problems.

I happened to teach in Libya for some years back and what I observed was that the infrastructure was the same everywhere. And all the schools are equipped with workshops, teaching aids, science laboratories, sports materials etc. similar to Presec and Achimota with their primary, Junior High and Senior High all sited on the same compound. In their case, it is a continuation school in that, the primary feeds the junior high, whiles the junior high also feeds the senior high.

In Achimota and Presec, about 40% of their primary and junior high ends up in their senior high schools. The best students are admitted there; while others enter into institutions of their own choice. In Libya for example, no teacher or student will seek transfer to another school outside his or her mother school. Schools are the same on the desert and long the coastal belt.

Generally, if you consider the results of the WASSCE for the senior high schools, in the first twenty top notch schools, more than 50% of their students get admission into tertiary institutions. This is contrary to the last twenty schools (in ranking) where they get between 0% and 10%. There are also occasions when no student gets even aggregate 24 to qualify him or her to enter the teacher training or nursing colleges. The top notch 20 schools are in the developed areas and are mostly run by missions like the Catholic, the Presbyterian, Muslim, Anglican, SDA, Methodist etc.

The last twenty are in Savanna belt, forest belt and coastal belt. They attend classes in temporary buildings, makeshift structures and lack workshops, science laboratories, teaching aids and experienced teachers. Few trained teachers accept postings into these local schools. The best schools get full enrollment before school re-opens but the last twenty which are located in the deprived areas get full enrollment after 40 days and this affects their timetable.

Such schools spend less than the three years. The 3 years programme has not helped the state in anyway, especially in sports. When it was five years plus two years advance course, the students had extra time for sports.

There was keen competition in football and athletics where the best represented the country in international and Olympics Games. Some of the outstanding athletes were Brong-bron Owusu Mensah of Prempeh College fame who won gold medals in 100 and 400 meters for Ghana in the early sixties. Others include Rose Hart, Alice Anum, Mike Ahey, Christiana Boateng and many others.

In soccer we had the academicals who were the best selected players from the secondary schools all over the country. In the sixties they was the Republicans, one of the top three teams in the country; majority of their players were selected from various secondary schools in the country that also ended up playing for the Black Stars of Ghana.

Due to lack of time, students don’t engage themselves in sports because the tutors spend their spare time on extra classes which give them money. In Athletics, Ghana is always represented by few over-aged athletes selected from the Ghana Army, Immigration Service, Prison Service, Police Service, Customs and few patriotic ones from the regions and other departments. The number is always few because they cannot make the grade. In soccer we must be grateful to the Zongo boys who are dominating in all the premier and division one clubs.

The sporting activities in the country will progress if the cabinet and most especially Hon. Prof Nana Opoku Agyemang revert the duration to four years. This will enhance sporting activities through keen competitions. All the teachers will give their support to it.

This will compel the Zongo boys who form about 30% of the playing body of various clubs to go to school. Students in the private schools perform poorly in sports but better in the academic work in high schools than those in the public schools where most teachers are well trained and receive higher salaries apart from the availability of workshops teaching aids, science laboratory.

If the minister wants to help parents and students they must put up good classrooms for schools in the deprived areas to attract experienced teachers. The FCUBE compels parents to send all children to school.

In the Afigya Sekyere District there are only six senior high schools and about eighty junior high schools. If the six are to admit only students from the district, about 40% won’t get any school due to the numbers. The government must rescind its decision of changing the programme to three years but rather find ways and means for teachers to accept postings to less endowed and newer schools where there are no facilities to deliver quality education.

The results of the first batch of students who went through the 4-year senior high school system introduced by former president John Agyekum Kufour were very impressive. Parents, students and teachers were all very happy with the results.

Bringing it back will not embarrass the president and his cabinet who had changed the system to three years against the wishes and expectation of Ghanaians with these good results. Majority of the students got admission into Universities, Polytechnics and other tertiary institutions. This is a case for Ghanaians to judge.

My appeal goes to His Excellency President John Mahama to VETO for the implementation of the 4-year programme. Majority of Ghanaians have expressed their views on the issue publicly and if there should be REFERENDUM now, majority of parents, students and the general public will vote in favour the return of the 4-year programme.

The 2015-2016 academic year begins in the first week of November 2015. The placement of students began in October but the last batch is not yet out. First notch schools like Presec, Legon, Holy Child, Cape Coast, Mawuli Ho, Prempeh College, Kumasi, have got their full enrollment by now.

Where will those who have qualified but have not been placed go, as His Excellency President John Mahama has not yet completed the 200 community Senior High School he promised to provide if the 2015-2016 academic year starts in November and ends in May – June 2018? The three year duration is only two and half years.

The government has appealed to conference of Heads of assisted secondary schools to give their opinion on the revert from 3 years to 4 years senior high school programme, its merits and demerits. The 4 years programme is better so we must all give our support to it.
Columnist: Joseph Appiah Brobbey