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Opinions of Sunday, 8 January 2017

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

NPP Education policy must focus on dropouts

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One of the issues that convinced me that the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) government stood to have achieved next to nothing by the end of its 4-year tenure, had to do with the regime’s excessive focus on physical plants or school buildings, as opposed to creating facilities and avenues for the teeming number of the nation’s poverty-stricken children of the underclass communities to escape the vicious cycle of their extremely painful existence.

In a country with an unemployment rate of 49-percent, a full-half of its youthful and young-adult population, the sort of rote-learning educational system bequeathed us by the erstwhile British colonial regime has decidedly no meaningful use or purpose.

This pretty much explains why I was not the least bit surprised to read about some 14,000-plus young school dropouts, ages between 8 and 14, who were being provided with accelerated academic skills in order to get them mainstreamed into the regular public school system within a year.

The program, we are told, is being run by a non-governmental organization called Plan International Ghana (PIG) in collaboration with the Ghana Education Service (GES).

The pupils being catered to by the program are largely resident in some three districts in the Northern Region, namely Chereponi, Tatali/Sangule; Bunkpurugu/Yunyoo, and Savelugu-Nanton Municipality.

What is equally significant to highlight here is the fact that the perennial problem of child-dropout is not unique to the aforementioned communities.

Neither is it peculiar to the northern-half of the country. Rather, it pervades the entire country, however more pronounced in the northern-half of the country it may be.

Needless to say, it may be worthwhile for the incoming Akufo-Addo Administration to create an office or department within the larger setting of the Ministry of Education to specifically deal with the education and/or re-education of public school dropouts.

I stand to be corrected, but I am aware of the fact that the current Constitution of Ghana mandates a certain minimum level of education for all school-age children. It appears to be the JSS level, which means that it is much lower than the 12 years of schooling required in many advanced democracies. The new government may need to examine the present mandate, with an eye to raising it to synch with the highest standards or best practices around the globe.

The unacceptably high level of unemployment in the country also necessitates the focus of our public-school system on technical and vocational skills, without compromising opportunities for those of our youths who may be intellectually and artistically inclined.

The old system of public education, as I personally experienced it in my time, was inordinately skewed in favor of liberal arts-oriented students. The sciences were also inordinately theoretically oriented in those days.

And so the need to teach the sciences in a hands-on orientation cannot be overemphasized. We shall be examining other aspects and alternatives geared towards the remarkable improvement of our current public-school system in due course.