The Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) Caucus in Parliament is asking the government to address the challenges of the “double track” system in the implementation of the Free Senior High School (SHS).
Aside infrastructure deficits, the Minority noted other challenges as high rate of teenage pregnancies as a result of long and frequent semester breaks; the ‘Semester System’, it said, is not helping the delivery of quality education, heads of institutions not allowed to speak their minds on the running of the ‘double-track’ system; and poor quality and inadequate food is given to students.
Others are; poor quality of, and insufficient exercise books, with only textbooks for Core Subjects being supplied and that of Elective Subjects left out; and parents ignored in running of the Senior High Schools.
Mr Peter Nortsu-Kotoe, Ranking Member on Education, and MP for Akatsi North, with some Minority Members on the Education Committee, addressing a News conference, at Parliament House, in Accra, called on the Government, to urgently address the concerns to make the administration of the schools less laborious and hazardous for the Heads of schools and for the benefit of Ghanaian people.
He blamed the Government for ignoring the Minority’s advice to hasten slowly in implementing the Free SHS Programme, recalling that the Minority’s concern at the time was that the Government provided the necessary infrastructure and logistics that were critically needed for the take-off of the programme.
“This was ignored and we all saw what happened, such as the overcrowding in dormitories as well as classrooms,” the Ranking Member said.
He added: “In the second year of the Free Senior High School programme, and in response to the increasing lack of space in schools, Government introduced the infamous shift system called the “Double Track”.
Mr Nortsu-Kotoe, said Mrs Benedicta Seidu, the National Director of the Girls Education Unit at the Ghana Education Service (GES), was reported in the media that a total of 7,293 teenage pregnancies were recorded in basic and second cycle schools in the 2018/2019 academic year across the country.
Of that data, Mrs Seidu was reported to have said upper primary recorded 1,024 cases, junior high school (JHS) had 4,836 cases, while there were 1,433 cases in SHS; and Mr Nortsu-Kotoe said “the long and frequent semester breaks were the major causes of the teenage pregnancies.
“Students spend eight weeks at school and the same length of time at home.” He described the resultant “semester system” emanating from the “Double Track System” as operating like a “traffic light”, which is not helping in the delivery of quality education.
Also, “sometimes the reopening date for one track is hurriedly postponed to the disadvantage of plans put in place by parents and their wards.
The Minority was worried “a long stay at home by students during the long vacations also unnecessarily exposed them to social risks such as teenage pregnancies, alcoholism, cultivation of deviant behaviour and lifestyles arising from peer pressure and abuse of other drugs.
The Minority described as inaccurate the claim of the Government of completing 804 projects, explaining that contractors did shoddy work as a result of excessive pressure put on them, and urged the Government to release contractors’ payments on time to fill the infrastructural gap for the Fres SHS.
Mr Nortsu-Kotoe appealed to Government that heads of institutions should be allowed to speak their mind on the performance of the “Double Track”, without victimisation.