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Opinions of Saturday, 20 October 2012

Columnist: Alordey, Susu

The Botom-Up Approach To Solving Educational Challenges

– Ndc Leads The Way

There are myriad of developmental challenges that stir in face of Ghanaians craving for a better solutions, for a better life for the present and future generations. Talk of employment, roads, school infrastructure, health care, resilient economy, social infrastructure, etc are among the challenges that Ghana is washed with. Various governments of our almost 57 years old nation have in many respect attempts solving these problems with various measures that mostly end up as either inadequate or inappropriate. Most reason churned for these phenomenons is unavailability of resources to solve such challenges. A pulse for reflection will prove otherwise. Have we considered a module approach to solving these challenges? Yes we have done that but whether those modules were and are appropriate modules is what I seek to draw our hearts and reflection to with particular focus on education. Clearly, education has taken the centre stage as we gear towards the December 2012 election with various political parties promising to this and that in the sector of education. The NPP is very much concerned with the fact that only about 30% of Junior High School graduates are able to gain admission to Senior High School leaving the 70% in a limbo or to find other acquirable skills. They attribute this backlog to inability of parents to afford fees charged at the Senior High School level. It is their belief that not only is education key to development but also it opens opportunities for the individual progression in life. In other to avoid this unfortunate backward trend, and since affordability is the challenge, Nana Akuffo Addo led NPP is proposing a fees-free Senior High School education for all Ghanaian children qualified to enter SHS. Marvelous! This is, undoubtedly, a good thing especially so when our 1992 constitution stipulates that education must be “progressively free”. The cost projection was demanded and later provided, and there began a cogent punching and casting of doubt on this noble idea. May be we should ignore the cost argument, in spite of the inconsistency by the progenitors of this proposal, since it can be a deliberate policy. In all these, I asked myself what module is been proposed here and there I am alarmed to realize it’s the middle-up module. Clearly the bottom is at the mercy and lamenting on the blind side of NPP. On the other hand, the John Mahama led NDC is proposing the actualization of the constitutional demand of the Free and Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) by 2016 given the fact that currently many children of school going age either do not have access to schools or are having classes under trees and other makeshift structures. Worrying is the fact that in a situation where there exist a school in a community, children have to walk many miles to gain access. The video footages that we see on televisions on daily basis is evident enough to pulse in order not to provoke anger. For these reasons, it is pragmatically sound to create access, remove the 60% schools under trees, equip them with libraries and computer laboratories, teachers’ decent common room and offices, among others. In addition to these, ensure that teachers are given special training for an expanded kindergarten education. By so doing, you are not only creating access but also quality and equity as is not the case given the concentration of good schools currently in the city centres. The above is what is generally termed as the “bottom-up approach” to solving problems which historical evidence has abounds us as the tried-and-tested best approach. Many have posited that we must have vision and convert them to a do-ability given the fact that it was never thought that humans could got to the moon just by jumping there but by dreaming and actualizing it. I will humbly submit to them that a dream must be grounded on a concrete foundation. America did not just take a day of dreaming to go to the moon but an adequate preparation on solid foundation coupled with progressive determination factoring in available realistic options to galvanize their efforts. Needless to say that a house without a strong foundation risks breaking in times of storm.

If not from the western developed nations, perhaps, we could come home to draw some lesson from our own social developmental policies. Although having current solvable challenges, the National Health Insurance Scheme started with a mutual health schemes to District Mutual Health Schemes before progressing to its current national status. Same is with the FCUBE which is yet to be fully free had it not been truncated in 2006 which it should have gained its totally free colour. Writing this piece, the admonition kept ringing in my mind; seek yee first the kingdom of God and all other things shall be added. What is the kingdom here? Solid foundation that will stand the test of storm or the other way? Beyond the proposed foundation at the basic level, It will cost one a great deal of reading and compelling if I outline John Mahama’s promise of establishing a new university in the eastern region, upgrading polytechnic institutions to award various degrees - without neglecting their primary role of technical education - by upgrading their facilities, establishing 10 more training colleges to cater for teacher quality and shortage, among others. I view the major two proposals as good visions but the modules proposed in Nana Addos’s is defective at birth as against that of Mahama (bottom-up) which is not only realistic but also do-able and progressive. By : Susu Alordey