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Opinions of Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Columnist: Ali, Justice

Let’s have paradigm shift in the way we handle education

Education has become the corner stone of our nation building in the twenty first century and the quest for quality education has become a necessity in this era. Today ones capability in almost every sphere of life is determined by his or her level of education and particularly the formal level the person has been able to attain in the educational ladder. Former South African President Nelson Mandela once said education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. It was therefore not surprising that in the running up to the 2012 general elections education became the most vibrant issue of all the political campaigns that went on for the two major political parties in the country.
Whilst the New Patriotic Party (NPP) pledged a free Senior High School, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) rather said they were going to place much emphasis on access to education and so they will build more schools.
The heated debate that generated from the promises of these political parties was interesting to the extent that school children who were not even eligible to vote were seen sharing their views in the media.
Whilst I commend the politicians for using education to make the campaign an issue based one I also think that education must be left in the hands of technocrats in that sector.
How brilliant and knowledgeable our politicians are but why would they wait till election year before they come out with such ideas. I must confess that as write this article I am still struggling to comprehend the rationale behind Politicians who use education as a tool for campaign just to win power. Many Ghanaians will agree with me that part of the many challenges we face today especially with our youth is as a results of the kind of education we run in this country. The current educational system is being run by the NDC administration with some decisions being implemented from their party manifesto. Assuming the NPP had won the elections in 2012 and was in power, they would have been doing things differently since their manifesto was different from the NDC.
When we are in a country where incumbent governments decide how education should be run based on the philosophy of their political parties then what kind of future are we giving to our young ones.
The technocrats in the educational sector in this country are aware that the solution to our problem is not building more Senior High Schools and Teacher training colleges. In fact with the training colleges’ government can just make some students day students and admit more students but as it stands now government has put some ceiling on the number of students to be admitted by each college.
Therefore if government needs more teachers, the ceiling on the intake per college should be removed because some colleges can even admit double of what they are doing now.
In addition the solution doesn’t lie in free SHS because if you have high school graduates who are not skilful and can’t get any decent job with their qualification then what have you done.
For me the major problem is with the content of our education which has failed to produce skilful graduates who are not able to contribute to the development aspirations of Ghana.
We must leave the issue of education to the people who know how to run so that we can have a national educational policy where no government can interfere. Governments must draw their agenda from the national plan and not what their political parties believe in.
It is my fervent believe that millions of Ghanaians support this idea but this can only come to a reality when such people remove their political lens and do objective argument on the realities on the ground.
The Anglican Bishop of Koforidua Right Revered Francis Benjamin Quarshie is reported to have called for a national consensus on our educational Policy at the launch of the 30th anniversary celebration of Kwabeng Anglican Senior High School. According to a myjoyonline report on 14th March, 2013 the Bishop said our educational policy should aim at national objectives that would produce students with desired qualities needed for the Ghanaian and global markets whilst at the same time preventing the periodic governmental interference and changes in nation’s education process.
In a similar development the Emeritus Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Kumasi, Peter Kwasi Sarpong also recently called on the political leadership of the nation to stop making arbitrary decisions that slow the progress of the nation’s education.
This is what he has to say “We have to think of the child, think of Ghana and end the politics, the situation where changes were made to the educational system just because you have made promises on the political campaign platform must not be allowed to continue”
The major problem we have had as a country is the interference and manipulations of educational policies by various governments to meet their political whims and caprices whilst we all sit and fold our arms watching them. A typical example is the increase in duration of Senior High Schools to four years by the Kuffour administration and the sudden shift to three years by the Mills administration back to three years. Today, we have two batches of students writing WASSCE and the future of the candidates is in jeopardy. The question is when we did those changes at the second cycle level, what plan was drawn at the tertiary level to accommodate the students when they complete? Are the Universities, Polytechnic, and Training colleges (teacher and nursing) going to double their intake next academic year? What plans do we have as a country for those who qualify but can’t gain admission through no fault of theirs? I leave these questions for all of us to answer.
I recommend a national untouchable educational policy on for long period of time which must not be tempered with by anybody and managed by non partisan specialists.
I call on civil society organisations in the educational sector to begin a national consultation on this issue as being done for the Social Pact by ISODEC.
The change should start today and it must start from you and me.
BY ALI TANTI ROBERT
YOUTH MEDIA GROUP
YES GHANA

The writer is also the Executive Director of Youth Alliance for Development(YAD) with its head office in Obuasi.