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Feature Article of Tuesday, 16 September 2003

Columnist: Eyiah, Joe Kingsley

Back To School, Please!

Returning students and fresh students are now back to school to begin the new academic year. The time finally arrives for both teachers and students to be back in class. As one professor in Toronto puts it: “This is a time of promise when students are full of great intentions. Everyone hopes to get the top marks, never to miss classes, and to make sure all assignments are done and on time.” Hope that all the students I teach in Grade 8 this year have the same HOPE! And save me from the teacher’s nightmare of “chasing” students to complete all assignments.

However, parents will also again face the struggle with their children over homework. It isn’t easy. The battle over homework can be particularly tough -for parent and students alike- just after the summer vacation. Well, this challenge will be eventually overcome by the determination and hard work of those students willingly going back to school. Bravo! Ours is a good battle. Fight the fight of good faith in your academic pursuit. What about those who have dropped out of school for various reasons? Is there any hope too for them to get back to school? What could be done to help them get back to school and stay in school?

Encouraging Drop-Outs to Go Back to School:

I turn my focus now on the youth, school dropouts, roaming the streets of Accra, Kumasi, Toronto and other urban areas of Ghana and Ontario. Perhaps, to them “back to school is an order from above.” This brings me to a recent story carried on Ghanaweb attributed to the Ghana News Agency in which Mrs. Gladys Asmah, Minister for Women and Children’s Affairs in Ghana was reported as calling on school drop-outs in the country to “make it their aim to go back to school since education is the key to life.” How true! If every government and individual would recognize, accept and act to give meaning to that fact.

Education has no end! I am therefore encouraged by the news on one Ms. Elizabeth Boakye, a 52 year-old lady who has gone back to school in Ghana to continue her education. It is reported that Ms. Boakye, a mother of three, is now a form one student at the Seventh-day Adventist Senior Secondary School in Akyim Sekyere in the Eastern Region of Ghana. And that it is her ambition to become a teacher of the orphan. Her decision to go back to school is a wise one and an encouragement to all school drop-outs to go back to school.

Going back to school after a long break is not a big issue in the western world, but in Ghana it is. So let’s encourage our youth roaming the streets or working as shoe-shine boys, and as prostitutes in Ghana as well as factory hands in Toronto and elsewhere to go back to school as Mrs. Gladys Asmah has pleaded.

I would like to urge governments, parents and teachers to help keep our children in school. For, the economy or the price of staying in school is far better for our children and the society than the price of dropping out of school.

Governments and Educational Funding:

To governments I say, spend more money on education than on arms. Education is the best investment you can make for the protection of your people. The best against under-development and even against coups as we fear in Ghana! You see, spending more money on arms and bigger armed forces than on education eventually undermines our national security that we seek as a government to protect. We spend less money on education and thus allow our education system to deteriorate producing more school drop-outs than would have been. These drop-outs resort to dubious and criminal ways of living. Many become security problem for our nation. They become lawless, uneducable and politically difficult to deal with as citizens. I think what we need in our country security wise is a better education system that can produce the finest of intelligence which large armed forces and stock piles of the most sophisticated arms would not bring about. Better education leads to development, which in turn alleviates poverty-a fertile ground for dissatisfaction, backwardness, coups and terrorism!

Classes are becoming unduly large in Ontario as in Ghana. Beware of the dangers this phenomenon presents to our educational system.

Also, struggles between teachers’ unions in both Ontario and Ghana leading to teachers’ strike action as we saw with the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) at the beginning of this school years are not healthy developments and must be prevented by the government from happening.

Parental Role:

To parents, interest yourselves in your child’s education. Save some few dollars on bottles and on fashion for your child’s education. Use those dollars and cedis to buy education insurance for your child’s future. It is very disheartening to see parents, especially Ghanaian parents who receive child support from governments of the western world spending such money on fashion and parties instead of investing such monies in their child’s future. I know diapers and children’s food could be expensive, more often than not, monies received for child support are not wisely used by parents. Some parents even fail to supply their child with basic back to school materials such as pencils, pens, erasers and exercise books and still expect their child to do well at school! Parents who can must help their children to do their homework from school. Set aside a common study time at home for studying, reading and quiet activities. The experts would say, “Do your best to avoid arguments during that time, and encourage your children not to cram in homework just before bedtime.” As parents we must show concern for our children’s education as they are back to school and help keep them in school till a successful completion. Just play your part!

What Teachers Can Do to Help:

To my fellow teachers, I encourage all to embark on practical action research, a reflective inquiry to study their own practices in the classroom. They should seek answers to the question: What is going on in this place called school and what role do they play as instructors? This phenomenon emerges from being curious about teachers’ role in the classroom. Thus, we must as part of our work record our students’ “living curriculum” as seen through the “lens” of experience instead of the “metaphor of angels”. Ethnographic approach goes beyond interviewing the respondents and chronicling their experiences to “living and becoming” part of such experiences (see Short, 1991)

So to all, let’s play our parts well in getting students as well as school drop-outs back to school and help keep them in school till they successfully complete their schooling. Have a nice school year!

Eyiah, Joe Kingsley
Teacher of Brookview Middle School, Toronto-Canada

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.


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