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Opinions of Saturday, 8 November 2014

Columnist: Kweitsu, Richard

Key challenges hindering the effective delivery of education

Ghana’s education sector- key challenges hindering the effective delivery of education and the way forward

Education is considered as one of the major tools for eradicating poverty and preventing ignorance among citizens. As a result, many governments across the world devote a lot of resources into the education sector. Indeed, Nelson Mandela rightly pointed the importance of education when he said “education is the most powerful tool that can be used to change the world”.

As a result of the importance of education, governments in Africa have initiated various policies aimed at increasing enrolment within the education sector. In Ghana various policies have been formulated since independence to help improve access and quality of education. Some recent policies being implemented in the education sector include the School Feeding Program, distribution of “Free school uniform and exercise books”, the FCUBE among many others.

While all these government initiatives continues to increase, evidence on the ground suggest that not much has been achieved in terms of the quality of pupils produced from the various educational institutions, more especially the public ones. For instance, records from the West African Examination Council (WAEC) indicate that 50% of BECE candidates who sat for the 2012 examinations failed and are therefore not eligible to be admitted into senior high schools. Also results obtained from the 2014 WASSCE show that about 70% of students who wrote the examination failed.

The concern here is that, what happens to all these pupils and what impact would it have on national socio-economic development? Also the increasing trend of teenage pregnancy among children of school going age and the reality that some schools are still operating under trees in certain parts of the country has become a cause of worry to many who have keenly followed activities within the education sector. Many have always complained that the once vibrant education sector in Ghana that has produced the finest of scholars and academics of all areas is on a path of all time deterioration in terms of quality. This article will seek to highlight the various challenges confronting the education sector.

ACCESSIBILITY OF EDUCATION IN GHANA

Since independence, various governments have implemented policies to make education accessible to almost every Ghanaian of school going age. Indeed, the 1992 Constitution explicitly stated “that basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all; secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education; higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular, by progressive introduction of free education”. Despite this constitutional provision, it is still very clear that not all communities in Ghana have access to education (well-furnished educational facility). In some situations, pupils have to walk several miles in order to attend school. This becomes even more difficult and virtually impossible during raining seasons as roads become inaccessible. These challenges have therefore hindered access to education in most communities and villages especially those located outside the major cities within the country.

Pupils in Dorkokope trying to cross the river to Borkorkope in order to attend school

FACILITIES

Perhaps the poor nature of facilities within the educational sector cannot be ignored when discussing the major challenges confronting education in Ghana. This problem exists in virtually every sector / level of Ghana’s educational sector from primary education to tertiary. Dilapidated buildings are sometimes used as classrooms in certain communities and instead of serving as medium to acquiring knowledge; these buildings rather become a death trap which scare pupils and the teachers away from school. Due to the safety threat of most of these buildings, some parents prefer to keep their wards at home rather than send them to school. Also, due to the various policies implemented which sought to increase school enrolment, some schools especially those located at the country side have more student population than the existing classrooms can accommodate and this results in overcrowding during class hours. At the tertiary level, It is not uncommon to come across crowded lecture theatre with thousands of students and some who don’t even have chairs to sit on.

REMUNERATION OF EDUCATION WORKERS

The education sector in Ghana has recorded a number of strikes in recent times with various unions within the sector such as GNAT, NAGRAT, UTAG, POTAG, and TEWU taking turns to agitate for better conditions of service. These workers normally cite poor conditions of service with particular focus on their low salaries as the reason for their strike actions. Despite the recent implementation of the Single Spine Salary Structure which formulators envisage will raise the basic pay of workers (especially those within the education sector) and improve their general condition of service, the opposite is what is felt as various labour unions take turns to embark on strikes actions. The teachers in most situations complain that although their salary might have gone up, the increasing cost of living has drastically reduced their purchasing power hence the constant agitation for salary increment. In most cases, these strike actions adversely affect the quality of education. For instance, the recent strike by POTAG has resulted in the closure of all Polytechnics across the country and therefore disrupted the academic calendar for the year and has put the students in despair. When strikes continue to occur, time that is supposed to be spent on serious academic exercise is wasted. Motivation is seen as one of the ways of getting the best out of workers. There is the need for accessible and quality education in the 21st century since it is the tool for driving economic and social development as well as consolidating a country’s democratic gains. In order for this objective to be achieved, there is the need for teachers and all those within the education sector to be kept motivated so as to enable them give off their best.

INADEQUATE SUPERVISION

In 1788, while writing on the need for proper checks and balances, James Madison indicated that “if men were angels, no government would be necessary”. This clearly means that people will try to do all things possible to bend down rules unless they are effectively supervised and punished. It is very common to observe that in certain parts of the country, teachers who are paid to teach students leave their jobs to attend to their own private businesses while the students are left to their own fate. Perhaps this could have been checked if there were a more effective way of monitoring the performance of teachers and whether they are present in school. Although most districts are assigned circuit supervisors, a lack of proper mode of communication meant that they could not effectively monitor the progress in the various areas they are assigned to. Most times, these supervisors walk several miles across the district in between schools in order to effectively supervise the performance of teachers. Because these supervisors are unable to visit every school, some teachers take advantage to use working periods for their personal businesses.

QUALITY OF TEACHERS

In 2011, while on attachment at the South Tongu district of the National Commission for Civic Education, I had an interesting encounter with one of the teachers in the district. It was on a normal afternoon and we went to one of the schools within the district to educate students on their constitutional rights. In the course of the program, I had an interaction with the Social Studies teacher at the JHS. To my dismay, he has never seen a copy of the constitution of Ghana and his English language skills were not up to standard. Ever since I met this gentleman, I kept wondering how he manages to teach the pupils. Interestingly, there are several teachers across the country who are not qualified to be teaching. The Ghana Education Service has in recent times uncovered a number of teachers who were employed based on forged certificates, one can only imagine the damage these teachers are causing to pupils who are supposed to be the future of this country.

THE WAY FORWARD

While the previous governments over the years have performed very well in bringing one reform or the other to the education sector, the reality is that much still need to be done. The government must as a matter of urgency ensure that virtually every community in the country has an education system at least to the basic level. This will ensure that almost every child of school going age will have to good quality education. The Ministry of Education must also institute enough incentive mechanisms to encourage people especially the youth into the education sector and reduce the incessant industrial action that has plagued the sector in recent times. Supervision of teachers must be intensified to ensure that teachers recruited to teach are rendering their service to the nation.

I don’t intend revisiting the debate about whether education at the Senior High School level should be free or not. I do however believe that enough work need to be done at the basic level to ensure that enough quality is delivered before it is extended to the top. As to when we will be ready to adopt a free education, it is matter for a different day.

BY RICHARD KWEITSU

kweitsurichard@gmail.com/ 0241034799