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Opinions of Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Columnist: Agyepong, Benjamin Opoku

Towards Achieving The Education For All (EFA)

..By Year 2015 Education provision in Ghana has been nothing but confusing, from the persistent changes in the structure and curriculum of the basic level of the schooling system that seems to characterize every change in government, to the implementation of a JSS/SSS concept that emphasized skills acquisition without proper training of those who were meant to impart those skills to students, and the present system of encouraging private participation in the tertiary education delivery and the basic level education. With less or no private participation in secondary education delivery. There seems to be no proper focus and policy direction in education delivery in Ghana. However, it worth also mentioning that, in the midst of the perceived confusion, some progress have been chalked in gender equity and student teacher ratio which is the best in west Africa by year 2000 measurement that pegged Ghana at 28 students per teacher.
Given the progress made in efforts to eliminate gender disparities in education and the challenges that still confront us, there is much that Ghana can do to ensure success in line with the Millennium Development Goals. A few broad suggestions are outlined here.
Stakeholders need to be well informed at all times about the reality of gender and other disparities in education. This calls for a strategy to map out all aspects of education to shed light on the plight of disadvantaged groups such as girls, rural poor, and the street children population in our urban centers. Specific measures are needed to promote equitable distribution of national resources available for education. While securing more resources for a particular constituency has its advantage in the short-term, this is not in the long-term interest of promoting quality education for all children. Also, local small-scale interventions are not the most efficient way of using resources for quality education systems: successful interventions need to have a long-term focus and resource allocation and must emphasize the production of results to justify the expenditure. This is why I often question the success of the long standing free education in the northern Ghana whiles some parents in the south and the middle belt struggle to fund their children?s education in the face of increasing poverty.
The question that we need to ask ourselves as Ghanaians is this; why do we continue to provide free education to the people in the north from primary to secondary school whiles other children drop out of school because of school fees and other related school expenses to become street children in our cities? Don?t they also have equal right to education? Aren?t such children equally citizens of Ghana? How can we justify watching other children?s future jeopardized whiles we encourage others to study for a better future? Is it out of political expediency or outright tribalism or social ineptitude?
We need to enhance investments in education. Yes we need more investments, but we require better investments targeted more strategically to address points of leverage and equity through which education systems can be changed in significant ways to benefit all equally. System-wide strategies are essential for overall expansion and improvement of education, but targeted interventions are still useful for addressing specific obstacles and barriers that affect disadvantaged groups such as girls, street children and the rural poor.
However, there must be some time frame to evaluate the target intervention to ascertain its success or failure for better policy direction and judicious use of scarce resources that have alternative uses to quote Adam Smith.
We need to be smart as the Americans will say, and invest in every child?s future and to provide equal opportunity for all children whether from north, south, east or west of Ghana, After all, we do not know where the next president would come from. And if education is indeed a right, then it must remain so for all children in Ghana. Let us remember that the Jomtien- Thailand conference in 1990, which Ghana endorsed, emphasized education for all (EFA) not for some of them.

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