Feature Article of Thursday, 10 October 2013
Columnist: Appiah-Kubi, Kojo
Kojo Appiah-Kubi, (PHD)
The education sector currently faces many challenges including declining quality standard, admission crises, endemic corruption and bribery, poor infrastructure, lack of learning and teaching materials, poor performance of teachers, etc. All these appear to affect the fortunes and performance of the education sector. Hence the apparent lack of correlation between the quality of education investments (31-40% of national budget) and educational output.
Many analysts attribute the compounding problems of the education sector and the miserable performance of the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service to “huge” leadership failure as well as to the propaganda politics of the ruling NDC government that has brought education to its knees. To many the poor state of the education sector in Ghana is the result of the NDC propaganda politics with the sector since assuming office in 2009. These are a few examples:
Reduction of SHS duration from 4 years to 3 years: As one of its first propaganda shams the NDC government on assuming government in 2009 reduced the duration of the SHS system, against good advice, from four years to three years, on the grounds that it was a manifesto promise “cast in stone”. Through that change the NDC government managed to achieve a substantial 38.43% increase in SHS enrolment in 2010 from 479,296 to 663,500, and heralded that as an unprecedented accomplishment. But this drastic percentage increase was largely due to having cohorts of four-year and three-year duration of senior high school running simultaneously, that brought in its wake serious admission crisis for many young people wishing to enter tertiary institutions.
School Feeding Programme: The NDC administration would not be tired of shouting from all rooftops for having “more than doubled the number of beneficiary school children from about 600,000 pupils in 2008/2009 to over 1.4 million in 2011/2012 (NDC 2012 Manifesto, p.15)”. In actual fact they promised Ghanaians to expand the programme to cover all primary schools countrywide. Apart from the expansion propaganda the state of the programme can be seen to be failing. The programme seems to be permanently running out of operating cash. It even owes caterers, who have been contracted to provide services, about 9-10 months of services provided. The non-payment of services by the state has pushed many caterers into huge indebtedness to their suppliers. Since the state cannot fulfil its part of the contract with the caterers a lot of them are also failing to fulfil their part of the contract and resorted to cheating the system. Many do not provide regular services as agreed upon but manage to get paid eventually even for the days they do not work. Some also resort to procuring only the cheapest and low quality ingredients to prepare food for the school kids. Thus it is not uncommon to find school kids being served rice with only cooking oil and no sauce. Reports abound in the news media of kids boycotting food provided by some caterers because of their poor quality. All these are due to the fact that the NDC has chosen to do propaganda politics with the programme by focusing on the number of beneficiaries instead of ensuring the effective and efficient running of the programme.
Capitation Grant: In 2007 a UNICEF report revealed that 40% of children between six and 11 years of school going age remained out of school as of 2003. This was largely attributed to the about 76 different types of levies imposed by the schools. In response the Ministry of Education established the Capitation Grant Scheme to relieve parents of these levies and to boost enrolment at the basic education level in public schools as well as attain the MDG 2.
The NDC government prices itself so high for having increased the capitation grant by 50% in 2010. In actual fact the grant is currently bedevilled with severe delays in its distribution processes. As at September 2013 beneficiary schools are yet to receive the Capitation Grant allocations for the third term of 2011-2012 and the whole of 2012-2013 academic period. Currently its disbursements are so unpredictable that proper planning of the receiving schools is not possible. Beyond delays, the grant has been plagued with issues of inconsistencies in the amounts received by the schools. These challenges, which are largely created by the government, defeat the original intent and purpose for which the scheme was established and raises serious questions about the NDC Government’s commitment to an efficient and effective implementation of the Grant Scheme. As a result of the mal-administration of the scheme the schools have gone back to reintroduce fees and levies in the basic schools once again.
Schools under Trees: The NDC government asserts to have eliminated 40% of the “Schools Under Trees’’ in less than 4 years with the construction of over 1,700 new Basic school buildings out of a total of about 4,300. The truth is that a list of these over 1,700 new Basic school buildings cannot be produced and published for the general public. It is all propaganda. The NDC government and for that matter the nation is constructing new school buildings in the air, whilst our children continue to attend schools under trees and in overfilled classrooms.
Free exercise books: As part of its propaganda the NDC keeps on churning out increasing numbers of exercise books which are annually freely distributed to school children. It asserts in its 2012 Manifesto as a great achievement that “over 40 million exercise books per year have been distributed to about 4.8 million pupils in Basic Schools nationwide as part of its commitment to investing in our people”. It is, however, interesting to note that almost all previous governments since Kwame Nkrumah have supplied free exercise books to school kids in Ghana. So what is actually unprecedented about this policy apart from the NDC government using it for propaganda purposes.
School Uniforms: As part of its achievements the NDC is always quick to assert loud halls to have distributed “three million school uniforms ... to children in needy and deprived communities across the country. With a total population of 5.2 million school children, this means that 3 out of every 5 school children have been supplied with school uniforms”. Does it mean that 3 out of every 5 school children attend school in needy and deprived communities in the country? Indeed many informed analysts do not trust the figures provided by the NDC government. To many analysts too much propaganda surrounds the allocation and distribution of key education inputs such as school uniforms. According to the results of a school uniform tracking exercise by the Ghana Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC) many schools/kids do not receive school uniforms from the government. Their research revealed that some NGOs rather may be providing the uniforms to school kids in many of the GES listed deprived districts but are attributed to Central Government supplies, because parents and school communities appear to be in the dark on this development.
Basic School Certificate Examination: This annual examination at the basic school level not only serves to monitor and evaluate the performance of nine years of school education of basic school leavers, but also the efficient and effective implementation of government basic school policy and investments in basic education as well as quality of education. Consequently BECE results have almost always been used to assess the performance of governments in the education sector and the NDC has gained notoriety in this respect. For this reason their propaganda spinners have not shied away from manipulating the BECE results to their advantage.
Of late the national BECE pass rate (i.e., candidates scoring an aggregate between 6 and 30 in the examination) has suffered declining trends after having experienced consistent upwards increases from 51.2% in 2005 to 62.4% in 2008. Between 2009-2011 the NDC propaganda politics contributed to successive declines in the BECE pass rate to below 50%. Instead of putting in place pragmatic measures to reverse the declining trends in the BECE pass rate, they decided to shift their propaganda vehicle to the “fourth gear” to widen the qualifying aggregate band from between 6 and 30 to between 6 and 42. In the process they were able to trumpet and celebrate an “unprecedented” achievement in the education sector for raising the BECE pass rate to over 90% in 2012. Indeed 2012 was also an election year and a BECE pass rate of over 90% was very fanciful to sell for votes. Ghanaians, gullible as they are, fell into their propaganda trap, and voted the NDC once again into power. In the ensuing year 2013, they reversed the pass aggregate band to the old grading system and scored about 54%, when they realised that the pass rate, using the new system, would reveal a decline.
Who is the NDC cheating? The NDC may gain political advantage with their propaganda in the short term. But do they know that, in the medium to long term, they are destroying the very social programmes , which they, as social democrats, are supposed to use to protect the most vulnerable citizens against extreme poverty and social exclusion, to prevent catastrophic risks to well-being and to promote the livelihood security of country’s poor citizens? They may fool a few people all the time. They may fool all of us at a few times. But they cannot fool all of us all the time.