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Opinions of Saturday, 31 August 2019

Columnist: Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa

Mahama e-blocks and the insincere poor sitting defence

The Education Ministry wants us to believe that the President Mahama era Community Senior High Schools which are currently wasting away is the result of students and parents refusing to select the said schools for placement due to poor siting.

The fundamental question we should all ask: who will choose to be placed in a school that has not been operationalized by the engagement of headteachers, teachers and other non-teaching staff?

If government wants Ghanaians to believe in their strange claim that these schools have not been abandoned and rather the case of students refusing to select them due to poor siting, the only convincing thing to do instead of all the unwarranted attacks on the former President is to show proof of having employed staff to work in these schools. Needless to add that so far not a single staff has been engaged. A fact which has been revealed from visits of many including the former president.

Per the Education Ministry's rebuttal, the Akufo-Addo administration is probably the only government in the world where students are firstly expected to select a school for enrollment before education policy makers can then move in to recruit teachers, librarians, administrators, computer instructors, lab attendants, drivers, security personnel etc. to set up the institution. If this frightening narrative is true, then it reflects the sordid state of education management in Ghana today.

In any case, it is trite knowledge that students and parents who are amongst the most rational segment of our society will not select a school that is not operational and indeed has never been operational; which has been overgrown by weeds and become a haven for squatters. The fact is, very few people would choose a school they have not physically inspected prior to the SHS selection window.

When we served at the Ministry of Education, all 46 (NOT 29, see Dr. Matthew Opoku-Prempeh’s earlier confirmation of same here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.graphic.com.gh/news/politics/ndc-built-only-46-community-day-shs-napo.amp.html) E-Blocks President Mahama commissioned were oversubscribed. The schools were fully operational and functional with each receiving a 66-seater bus and a pickup truck even before student enrolment and eventual commissioning by the President. It is the reason an entire complement of a typical Senior High School setting including teachers, non-teaching staff and a proud pioneering student population were present during each commissioning. Our chiefs, GES staff, District Assembly staff, journalists and others present at these formal commissionings can attest to this.

What is incontrovertible is that, well set up schools with great facilities (such as the well stocked libraries with each boasting of over 3,000 books; computer labs with full internet connectivity; well equipped Physics, Chemistry, Biology and General Science labs, new vehicles for each E-block; just to name a few) attract students from far and near. The other advantage of engaging staff apart from the confidence it offers parents and prospective students is that these foundation staff assist with admission drives to ensure that students and parents alike become aware of the status and facilities of their schools. An obviously basic and very common-sensical practice.

So how is it that these schools implemented under the same overarching policy which government claims were poorly sited managed to be oversubscribed only a few years ago and continue to operate at full capacity thereafter with some government officials even conceding that these E-blocks have helped with the implementation of President Akufo-Addo's Progressively Free SHS intervention.

Let's face it - those who conceived the lame defence of lack of selection due to poor siting have ended up doing even more damage to an already tottering education sector under President Akufo-Addo.

Now, how about the Akufo-Addo led government starting work on their own manifesto promise of 300 new Senior High Schools and perfectly siting them in East Legon, Airport Residential Area, Cantonments and other choice locations only a superior competent NPP administration can secure.

It is time to elevate the national discourse beyond petty partisan rivalry and sincerity deficit for Ghanaians are far discerning.

Everything our opponents did cannot possibly be entirely horrible especially in this period of an acute inadequacy of Senior High Schools leading to an adoption of the dreaded double track system.

May we in all our dealings put Ghana first.

Truth stands.

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