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Opinions of Friday, 14 January 2011

Columnist: Asante-Yeboah, Joseph

Retain four-year term for senior high school

Ghana’s educational system has undergone frequent changes, and it is not good for the country. The latest was the reform done during the previous administration in which senior secondary school was changed to senior high school and the duration increased from three to four years.

There had been extensive consultation over a long period to gather suggestions, put proposals together and appoint a committee of experts to consider them and make recommendations to the government after a parliamentary scrutiny. Many people had hoped that, after this wide and thorough consultation, the new system would be given time to work.

Regrettably, it looked as if some people are bent on politicising the educational system, important as it is. As soon as his nomination as Minister of Education was announced early in 2009 after the elections in December 2009 and January 2010, one of the first things the former Minister, Alex Tettey-Enyo, said was that the senior high school would revert from four to three years under the new government. This was even before the President was sworn into office and Mr Tettey-Enyo vetted by Parliament. One of the reasons he gave was that parents had difficulty paying fees for four years. Maybe the ex-Minister was very excited about his nomination for that important Ministry and got carried away. Otherwise, where were the data or the results of survey done to show that parents were worried about the four years to the extent that they wanted the duration reverted to three years?

As Betty Mould-Iddrissu arrives in the Ministry of Education in the cabinet reshuffle announced by President John Evans Atta Mills, I would like to appeal to her to consider seriously that there is no need to cut the number of years required to complete the senior high school. Illiteracy is a serious problem in the country. Equally pressing is the question of fraud in our educational system, examination leakages, presenting falsified qualifications for admission to tertiary institutions, and bribery and corruption that permeate the entire public service.

The issue of inadequate resources for our educational institutions is another problem. For example, there was late start to the opening of the 2010/11 academic year in many schools because of unavailability of resources.
These are the problems that must be tackled. It would be a national disaster to try and take short cut or cut corners by reducing the number of years that a child spends in school. The best solution for the country by any government should, of course, be free secondary education for every child. This is achievable, and this is what Nana Akufo-Addo says he will do for Ghanaians if elected in 2012. We believe it can be done by any government if we are able to stop bribery and corruption, cut waste, stop awarding contracts to foreign companies when our own people can execute the projects and create jobs, thereby expand our internal revenue mobilisation.

We want our children and grand children to be able to stand up to the best scholar worldwide, demonstrating sharp brains and being mature and cultured. This cannot be done by reducing the number of school years. I wish you well, Betty Mould-Iddrissu, in this noble task in the Ministry of Education.

Joseph Asante-Yeboah