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Opinions of Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Columnist: Seshie-Vanderpuije, Alex

NDC Invests In Quality Education at Basic Level

Quality education leads to quality of life. The NDC Government under the able leadership of his Excellency Prof John Evans Atta Mills believes that it is the right of every child and young persons to have access to quality basic education for personal development and also to contribute to building a prosperous Ghana for a better life for all.

In my previous article - "NDC raises quality of Education to new Heights", I highlighted the fundamental changes that the NDC government have put in place to improve access to quality education in the country. I also discussed the standards government has set for improving the quality of our educational system that is, focusing on the building of new schools and dormitories and investing in teachers.

In part two of this series, I will concentrate my discussions on three specific policy interventions initiatives that the NDC government has implemented over the last three years with the aim to improve access to quality education at the Basic Level.

Basic Education challenges NDC Government inherited
Before I proceed further, I will like to share with the reader the background to the challenges inherited by the NDC government in January 2009. Under the NPP administration, parents of children entering primary schools in urban centres on average public had to spend about GH¢17 ( 170,000 old Ghana Cedis) to buy stationery and other school materials for their children. This expenditure alone was six times more than the GH¢3 capitation grant the NPP provided to support access, participation and quality in basic schools.

Whilst the cost of living was sky rocketing amidst the affluent and lavish lifestyle of those in government, the condition and quality of education at the basic level was nothing to write home about. The NPP boasts of having achieved unprecedented levels of enrolment in our schools, the shocking reality was that the overwhelming majority of those pupils had no access to decent classrooms, support materials, water and sanitation.

If we are going to ensure that all our young children have the chance to achieve their potential, we must ensure that from early age, children and parents can access the support they need. It is profoundly dispiriting to know that the poorest pupils in our schools are those pupils eligible for free school meals. From the beginning to the end of primary school the achievement gap widens and from eleven to fourteen the gap widen further still

But where the NPP only offer more of the same, the NDC under the able leadership of His Excellency, Prof John Evans Atta Mills, offers a fundamentally different approach. A radical action desperately needed to improve our schools.

Free Uniforms and Free Exercise Books

Unlike the NPP, NDC will not under estimate the scale of the challenge, or the role of the government, in helping to build a strong educational system that will stand the test of time; a strong educational system that will not fail our children.

In keeping with the NDC government's Manifesto promise to provide free school uniforms for children in basics schools, the government took immediate action to make this available by the beginning of the 2009/2010 academic year. Government provided an amount of GH¢17.2 million for the implementation of the free uniform and the provision of free exercise books as promised in the NDC Manifesto. 1.6 million pupils in the public basic school in deprived communities throughout the country were expected to benefit from this initiative. The free school uniforms were of the standard type prescribed for public schools.

In 2010, the provision of free school uniform and exercise books to enhance participation and quality of teaching and learning went on as promised. About 23 million exercise books were distributed to school pupils while uniforms were provided for 526,263 needy children. In 2011, in fulfilment of Government's promise of providing free school uniforms and exercise books to increase enrolment and retention, 1,258,690 uniforms were distributed to children in deprived areas across the country and 39,536,119 exercise books were provided for every pupil in all basic public schools at a total cost of GH¢28.2million.
Capitation Grants
In line with the NDC government's commitment to support access, participation and quality basic schools, the government in 2009 increased the capitation by 50 % from GH¢3 to GH¢4.50. The 50 per cent increase in the capitation grant enabled schools to provide additional services for improving teaching and learning. A total of GH¢23.53million was released as Capitation Grant and for the first time, all Capitation Grant arrears were paid to schools.

In 2010, the Ministry of Education collaborated with District Assemblies, Religious Bodies and Non-Governmental Organizations to provide classrooms for pre-schools as a way of mainstreaming pre-schools into the basic education system. Government released a total amount of GH¢23.8 million during the year as payment of Capitation Grant for pupils in all public basic schools.
In 2011, the NDC Government continued efforts to help alleviate poverty and also to reduce the burden on parents, government continued with the implementation of the various Social Intervention Programs. An amount of GH¢15.3 million was released during the year as payment of Capitation Grant for 5,252,683 pupils in all public basic schools for the second and third terms of the 2010/2011 academic year.

BECE Subsidy

Following on from the above, the NDC Government in 2010 subsidised Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) fees by 50%. The aim of this initiative is to help alleviate the financial burden on parents. An amount of GH¢4.68 million was made available as the annual subsidy for the conduct of the BECE for the year. In 2010, Government continued to subsidize the conduct of BECE fees to the tune of GH¢4,911,494. In 2011, an amount of GH¢6.34million was released as subsidy to help alleviate the plight of parents in the registration of their wards for April 2011 Basic Education Certificate Examinations. The subsidy covered a total of 372,826 registered candidates nationwide.
As a result of the above NDC Government's social interventions policies, the Ministry of Education recorded the following achievements in key enrolment targets as shown on the table below:

Education Enrolment Targets:

Core Outcome Measure /indicators 2008-2009 2009-2010 2010-2011
GER (Pre-School Level) 93.0 % 97.3% 98.40%
GER (Primary Level) 95.0% 95.0% 96.40%
GER (JHS Level) 79.55 79.6%
Gender Parity Index (GPI)
KG 0.98 0.98
Primary 0.96 0.97
JHS 0.92 0.93

Source: Budget Statement and Economic Policy of Ghana 2009- 2011

As the table shows, Ghana has made considerable progress in the attainment of education targets under the MDGs. Primary school enrolment has remained above 90%. Gender parity in primary enrolment between boys and girls is 0.96.
NDC Government Commitment to improving Basic education in Ghana
Creating a world class education system where every child goes to a good school, is taught well, achieve good qualifications and has the chance to fulfil their ambitions is no small goal but the NDC makes no apology for the bold visions highlighted in this discussion.

The NDC government is developing Education Strategic Plan for the implementation of the Free Compulsory and Universal Basic Education Policy (FCUBE). This will ensure Basic Education will be free for all children of school going age, as guaranteed under the 1992 Constitution of Ghana - National Poverty Reduction Strategies and the Millennium Development Goals. (MDGs).

The NDC government under the able leadership of His Excellency, Prof John Evans Atta Mills do not believe in creating chances for the few lucky children as we saw under the NPP Administration. We believe in driving standards for good quality basic education irrespective of pupils' parents’ background or income. NDC cares about the future of our children, our schools, and our society. These are the reasons why the National Democratic Congress continue to make a difference when it comes to the provision of basic education in Ghana.
In the next series, I will be looking at the utilisation of social intervention programmes funds for the school feeding programme.
Please ... stay tuned.............

Alex Seshie-Vanderpuije
Public Relations Officer
NDC UK & Ireland Chapter
4 December 2011