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Opinions of Friday, 24 July 2015

Columnist: Aboagye Addo Frank

Chalk Controversy: Ignorance, Arrogance or Wickedness?

“The government shall within two years after Parliament first meet after coming into force of this Constitution, draw up a programme for implementation within the following ten years for the provision of free, compulsory and universal basic education (Article 38 Clause 2)”.

All over the world, education is generally accepted as the process by which individuals acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes which enable them to develop their faculties in full.

It is universally accepted that one of the benefits of good education is that it enables individuals to contribute to development and improvement in the quality of life for themselves, their communities and the nation as a whole.

It is on account of the belief in the benefits of good education that successive governments of Ghana have sought to use education as the vehicle for accelerating the implementation of their development programmes and policies.

That is also why page 48 of the FCUBE Document mandates government to provide the essentials like chalk, pens, log books, registers and others for schools, while parents are to provide school uniforms and shoes.

The Government introduced the concept of free and compulsory basic education for every school-age child to be realised through the introduction of a Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education programme (FCUBE), which was launched in 1996.

It is being implemented in fulfilment of the educational objectives under the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Fourth Republican Constitution.

The main policy goal of the FCUBE programme was to provide opportunity for every school-age child in Ghana to receive quality basic education by the year 2005.

The Ghana Education Service (GES) developed the following three broad implementation objectives to achieve the FCUBE goal:
To enhance the quality of teaching and learning;
To improve the efficiency in the management of the education sector;
To provide full access to educational services by empowering all partners to participate in the provision of education to all children;

Structures set-up to sustain the FCUBE programme include: Maintenance of schools by the District Assemblies. By law, the District Assemblies are expected to build, equip and maintain schools. Cost sharing/recovery scheme under the FCUBE programme centres on tuition, textbooks, equipment and tools, stationery, meals, transportation and levies.

The Government of Ghana is solely responsible for funding the FCUBE using a number of instruments including the Capitation Grants, District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) and the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND). Resources for funding the programme are mainly from the traditional revenue sources including taxes and special levies.

The GETFUND, which is used to support infrastructural development in the education sector, is obtained from 2.5% of the prevailing rate of the Value Added Tax or such percentage not being less than 2.5% of the value added tax rate, as determined by Parliament.

On the other hand, 5% of the national revenue is set aside in a DACF to be shared among all District Assemblies (i.e. Local Governments) in Ghana with a formula approved by Parliament. Nearly 17% of the funds are spent by the District Assemblies on educational infrastructure, teacher education, equipments, and textbooks.

Also part of the mitigation levy imposed on petroleum was set aside to supposedly provide free ride for school children. These sources of funding are additional to the traditional budgetary allocation from central government to provide education, as well as sector budgetary support from development partners.

It is because of these documented facts that it became an issue when the wife of the Vice President Mrs. Matilda Amissah - Arthur made a very unfortunate statement directed at the Headmistress of Kukurantumi Presby Primary School for requesting for chalk. “I think we have over pampered you people.

Because we have provided free school uniforms so parents don’t even want to buy basic things for their children…….I will not give you chalk today, neither will I give it to you tomorrow. You have teachers; you have the PTA, go and buy chalk for the school”.

Madam Second Lady, you goofed big time. Interesting, can you tell a Medical Doctor who asks for string and needle to buy them himself because they are cheap or tell a Policeman to buy his own bullets? If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

It is better to keep quiet when you have nothing to say in other not to exhibit gross incompetence, disrespect and ignorance.

Perhaps Mrs. Matilda Amissah-Arthur is unaware of the teething problems facing the education sector in relation to teaching and learning. Kudos Madam Headmistress, you spoke the minds of thousands of teachers because “Usually when people are sad, they do not do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry and frustrated, they speak their minds to bring about a change”.

There is a chronic lack of resources; the government has been unable to ensure the supply of basic education materials (chalk, exercise books and textbooks) for many schools, teachers’ guides and syllabuses are inadequate to meet the needs teachers and pupils alike and delay and prompt disbursement of Capitation grant (paid up to third term of 2013/2014 academic year).Most of the problems are as a result of poor decisions emanating to from poor leadership.

Anyone who pays attention to human events at home and abroad knows that global society is in upheaval of unprecedented proportions thanks to education. “Most a times you find politicians who have no serious work to do going round from school to school with shoes in car booths distributing to pupils, which is a total waste of national resources.

This distribution of shoes is a misplaced priority. The government must focus on its core mandate under the FCUBE”.

Even though Ghana’s educational system has come far, the increasing problems in the twenty-first century demand that it be re-engineered if it is to provide quality professionals in future. “Without education, you are not going anywhere in this world.

You can’t legislate good will that comes through education. Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” (Malcolm X).

Send comments, critiques and suggestions to hartmann207@yahoo.co.uk/hartmann207@gmail.com
Aboagye Addo Frank