Politics of Friday, 19 October 2012
A Response To “Ghana First” ON THE NPP’S FREE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL POLICY BY A GROUP OF CONCERNED UNIVERSITY LECTURERS, ON WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2012 AT THE GHANA INTERNATIONAL PRESS CENTRE, ACCRA.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon and thank you for responding to cover this press conference at such a short notice. We are, indeed, very grateful to you.
We invited you here this afternoon to share with you our perspectives on the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) Free Senior High School policy (FSHS) and to respond to a recent statement by a group of lecturers calling themselves “Ghana First”. Since the NPP articulated its vision on education, there have been several debates in the country with various groups including political parties and civil society organizations expressing varying opinions on the subject of Free Senior High School. The latest group to comment on the issue is this group of lecturers who have constituted themselves into a think tank. This group has claimed that the NPP’s proposed FSHS policy is not attainable principally because of what it perceives as an infrastructural deficit in Ghana’s educational sector.
Ladies and gentlemen, we intend to discuss the issue of infrastructure and classroom facilities as raised by the think tank. However, before we do that, it is instructive for you to know who these individuals in the group are. Dr. Ebenezer Kofi Hayford, a retired lecturer of the University of Ghana, is a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC). Dr. Hayford contested and lost the primaries to become the NDC’s parliamentary candidate for the 2012 elections in the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency. He is currently the NDC government appointee on the University Council for the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT). On his part, Professor Lewis Enu-Kwesi, is also a retired lecturer of the University of Ghana. The good professor was a member of the Council of State in the first NDC administration, and has been an active member of the NDC in the Western region.
These two retired colleagues of ours are clearly sympathizers of the NDC who have decided to hide under the guise of an educational think tank to criticize the FSHS policy. Constructive criticism of the policy should be a welcome contribution in the current discourse on this all important issue in the campaign. However, the intellectual dishonesty demonstrated by this so-called educational think tank for the parochial political interest of its members is most unfortunate. As we will demonstrate later in our press statement, these two university lecturers and their group have dishonestly manipulated figures to support a highly illogical conclusion that the FSHS policy is unattainable.
Infrastructure is undoubtedly one of the three major variables in the equation of access to education. The group’s attack on the FSHS Policy was reduced to the cost of providing additional classrooms to absorb the additional number of students who would be admitted under the new policy. Using Greater Accra as a case study, Dr. Hayford and his Think Tank unbelievably assumed that all JHS students in Greater Accra who sat for the BECE would apply to gain admissions only into senior high schools in the Greater Accra region. This is highly preposterous. Ghana First should know that there is no rule or regulation in this country which suggest that students are forbidden or restrained from moving out of their home region to pursue secondary education in other regions. The Computerized School Selection and Placement System, a mechanism put in place to ensure fairness and integrity in the admission process, is not a regionally based program.
Ghana First failed to recognize possible inter-regional distribution of students from the JHS into SHS. In particular, while they provided national statistics on the number of JHS pupils who graduated in 2011 (376,859) and the number of SHS (511) available, they failed to subject the national data to their analysis; in so doing they failed to present the nationwide picture. Such a regional analysis, given that a corresponding nationwide data is available, is unscientific and it might have been calculated to throw dust onto the eyes of the public and score political points. An analysis with the nationwide data, which was listed during the press conference and therefore was available to the think tank, would have been more realistic. If the think tank proceeded to apply their logic to the Central region, they would have seen the fallacy in the conclusion they reached.
Overestimation of cost implications from the analysis
Even going by the regional analysis adopted by the group, it is obvious that they deliberately and willfully overestimated their cost values when they equated their estimated number of classrooms to number of classroom blocks required. It should be noted that a classroom block is made up of a number of classrooms. For example, a JHS block is usually made up of three classrooms and each classroom may accommodate about 45 students (the figure used in their analysis). The think tank divided 1207 students by number of students per classroom (i.e. 45 students per class) and got 27 classroom blocks instead of 27 classrooms. The think tank in their estimation suggests that 17 extra classrooms would be required per school; given the fact that each school already has 10 classrooms (their 10 classroom blocks).
They then proceeded to multiply the extra classrooms by the number of schools in Greater Accra region and by their conservative estimate of unit cost for a JHS block. Since a JHS block is made up of at least 3 classrooms, about 6 blocks of classrooms should have been used and not 17 blocks. It is obvious here that the cost analysis of Ghana First is flawed and their total figure of 137,700,000 for Greater Accra alone is overestimated by about three times. This is intellectual dishonesty, calculated to misinform and mislead the good people of Ghana in this all important political discourse.
Ladies and gentlemen, assuming, without admitting, that the data adopted by Ghana First for the Greater Accra region is true, the total cost should have been calculated as follows: 6 classroom blocks multiplied by 45 SHS in Greater Accra region and multiplied by 180,000 Ghana Cedis (i.e. 6 x 45 x 180,000), giving 48,600,000 Ghana Cedis (48.6 million Ghana Cedis, but NOT as: 17 classroom blocks multiplied by 45 SHS in Greater Accra region and multiplied by 180,000 Ghana Cedis (i.e. 17 x 45 x 180,000), giving 137,700,000 Ghana Cedis (137.7 million Ghana Cedis). The figure 137,700,000 for Greater Accra alone can only be true if Ghana First want us to believe that the cost of constructing one classroom under the NDC is 180,000 GH cedis.
In all of these, the nationwide data should have been subjected to their analysis rather than using data for Greater Accra region, which is clearly an outlier, on the high side, for the analysis and then use the outlier estimates to project for the nationwide cost of 1,370,000,000 (1.37 billion) Ghana Cedis.
Using national statistics on number of JHS pupils who graduated in 2011 (376,859) and the number of SHS (511) available nationwide, according to Ghana First, one will arive at a national cost of 367, 920, 000, that is 0.36 billion Ghana cedis, and not the whooping 1.37 billion Ghana cedis that Dr. Hayford and his group qouted to throw dust in the eyes of Ghanaians. We have provided the national calculations here for your attention:
[Using national statistics on number of JHS pupils graduated in 2011 (376,859) and SHS (511) available, class size 45 students, number of classrooms (not classroom blocks) required is 16. Now, assume that each SHS has 4 classrooms (not 10 classrooms used by the think tank in their analysis), the number of classrooms needed by SHS is 12, translates to 4 classroom blocks per SHS. The nationwide total cost will be (4 x 511 SHS x 180,000 Ghana Cedis), which is equal to 367,920,000 (0.368 billion) Ghana Cedis. Thus, the think tank‘s estimate of 1,370,000,000 (1.37 billion) Ghana Cedis for the nation is willfully overestimated.]
What are the facts on the proposed free SHS policy?
Any educational think tank worth its salt should have taken a critical and objective analysis of the proposed policy before coming out to condemn it. A cursory reading of the NPP’s manifesto and the feasibility study that went into the policy would have educated Dr. Hayford and his group on the policy, including the issue of infrastructure. To begin with, the concept of free SHS, as outlined by the New Patriotic Party, is intended to make senior high school affordable and accessible to all Ghanaians. Specifically, the intended policy is for government to absorb the following component of fees at the senior high school:
• Admission fees
• Library fees
• Science Centre fees
• Computer fees
• Examination fees
• Entertainment fees
• SRC dues
• Bed-user fees
• Feeding fees
The policy is also intended to extend basic education to senior high school. This means that the Ghanaian child will complete his/her first education at the approximate age of 18, when he/she is relatively more mature and has acquired some basic skills to better meet the challenges and opportunities of adult life. Thus, in the Ghanaian context, Basic Education will be defined as education from KG up to, and including SHS, that is 15 years in all.
On access to senior high school in terms of availability of classrooms, the proposed free SHS has four components addressing accessibility: These components are:
1. Expansion of existing senior high schools and their facilities
2. Promotion of community based schools primarily through the provision of new SHS in cluster of schools zones
3. The free bussing of students to and from schools
4. Recruitment of more teachers – including a fast-track recruitment/training drive involving unemployed graduates.
The NPP plans to build 350 new cluster schools and upgrade existing SHS institutions. It is expected that this should be able to fill the existing infrastructural deficit at the SHS level. The fear of Dr Hayford and his team on the issue of lack of classrooms to implement the policy is, therefore, unfounded and misplaced. It is instructive for Ghanaians to know that according to the deputy Minister of education, Hon. Mahama Ayariga, speaking on Joy fm’s Super Morning Show, on Monday, October 15, 2012, the Ghana Education Service (GES) informed the Ministry of Education that there are available classrooms to absorb 99.6% of pupils who sat for the 2012 BECE. This means that for the year 2012, government would need additional classrooms for less than 1% of prospective students graduating from JHS to accomplish a 100% wholesale progression to SHS. This revelation by the Deputy Minister is very revealing and highly significant in this whole debate.
The NPP and its flag-bearer have laid down a clear policy direction for education that, for the first time in this country, has a cost component embedded in it. It would have been useful for an educational think tank as Ghana First to constructively criticize the policy and then offer an alternative policy on secondary education. This, obviously, was not done in this instance. However, what the group did was to conveniently twist figures to support the NDC’s position that the free SHS policy was unattainable. It is not by sheer coincidence that the position taken by the educational think tank on the need to build more schools before implementing the free SHS is the same position taken by the NDC. We admit that university lecturers are also political animals who engage in politics. However, in doing so, we must be guided by empirical evidence as practiced by academics everywhere. It is obvious in their press statement that this is not the product of any scientific academic research.
Knowing very well that the NPP’s free SHS policy has gained currency throughout the country, the NDC is desperately using credible institutions such as the universities to discredit a rather visionary and progressive policy by the NPP. As concerned university lecturers, we encourage all Ghanaians, including think tanks and civil society organizations, to constructively contribute to national discourses in ways that inure to the collective benefit of the Ghanaian. In this very important national discourse on education, let us all be guided by the national interest.
Thank you so much for coming, we will be glad to answer your questions.
Group led by:
Dr. Ziblim Iddi
Dr. Kofi Ohene Konadu
Dr. Margaret Amoakohene
Dr. Francis Nunoo
Dr. Kingsley Nyarko