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Opinions of Saturday, 25 September 2010

Columnist: Awuni, Manasseh Azure

Who The SHS Mess: NDC, NPP or NUGS?

Anytime the Ghana Armed Forces are asked to stand by and provide relief shelter, then it means there is an emergency. But in any civilized country, one does not expect any government to make policies and when it comes to their implementation we treat them like a national disaster. But, unfortunately, that is the stark reality that has dawned on us like day.
Some of our siblings in the senior high schools do not have the faintest idea whether they are pursuing the SHS programme for three years or four years. Those who know how long they are staying do not know where to lay their heads as the 2010/2011 academic year begins, God knows when. The first year students do not know when they are going to school.
Accusing fingers are pointing at the two main directions that have conspired to ensure this wretched state of affairs of our dear nation in recent years – the NDC and the NPP. But it seems the government of the day is receiving much of the “dishing” and this, to me, is unfair. The NDC might have created their own woes, but the Atta Mills government must not be blamed for the lack of accommodation for the senior high school students.
And my reason is simple.
In 2004 when I was the senior prefect of Krachi Senior High School, I was one day asked to assemble students for an important announcement. It was indeed the greatest news ever since the establishment of the school. We had heard rumours that the school was selected among the thirty (30) senior high schools to benefit from the first phase of the noble Model School Project initiated by the NPP government. But we had heard similar stories in the past so we remained skeptical until that afternoon the headmaster, Mr. Thomas Fordjour Ababio, broke the really good news to us amid wild jubilations.
Contractors were coming to start work in our school and Mother Krasec would be given a facelift within a year. We were to have classes under trees and I wrote my mock exams under trees, stretching from the empty science lab area to Agaja Man’s house. Each day, we had to battle with clouds of dust, but we endured it joyfully. We were told that latest by one year, everything would be over and Mother Krasec would compete with the giants down south.
After six (6) years that project is yet to be completed. It is for this reason that I think when the NPP government first conceived the idea of extending the SHS programme to four years, the very first thing the Kufuor administration should have done was to build new infrastructure. If projects in only 30 selected senior high schools can be last up to 6 years, then I think it is malicious and unreasonable to blame the Mills administration for the current mess.
It is true that the current administration gave its word and promised to provide infrastructure and the contracts have been awarded. But except someone who has just landed from Jupiter, every Ghanaian knows the problem with our contractors – the rigorous procurement procedures and the difficulty for such contractors to get loans. If anything at all, the blame should be shared, 70%:30%. The creator of the mess must take more than the one who has failed in trying to clean it.
Increasing the years of SHS from three to four years is one of the most thoughtless decisions ever to be implemented in our educational sector.
When the system was three years, the first class senior high schools such as Mfantsipim, Prempeh, Presec, Wesley Girls and the rest were making the excellent aggregates and taking up the best programmes in the universities. The rest, such as my own Krachi Senior High School, could only produce very few [usually less than 10 candidates] for the university, another few for the polytechnics and teacher training colleges and while the majority were forced to join their parents to trade or scratch the land to feed the products of the first class senior high schools, who, sooner or later, rise to become “big” men and women of the nation.
The reason for the vast difference in performance is not hard to find. Whereas the first class schools have all the necessary infrastructure and adequate teachers, their deprived counterparts have to survive and struggle with almost no infrastructure and depend mainly on national service personnel as teachers. They take the same exams at the end and it is only natural that they fail woefully.
The reason has never been inadequate time but it has been as a result of lack of infrastructure and teachers. So why not provide the missing elements instead of increasing the number of years? Were the Prempehs and Mfantsipims, who performed so well, doing ten years of SHS education? What is the use of spending four years in school when I don’t have teachers, books and other facilities that will aid my success? Increasing the duration of programme to four years means additional classes will be created. And what this means is that the already inadequate teachers will be stretched further because the same number of teachers have to be spread to cover the fourth year classes.
We’re now crying about classrooms but have we thought about the shortage of teachers?
But I blame the carelessly dangerous politicization of our educational system on the uselessness of National Union of National Students (NUGS.)
It is unfortunate that the NDC and NPP have succeeded in making NUGS an unmixable mixture of TEIN and TESCON, and so the NDC and NPP factions always emerge to make rank nonsense of the students struggle. Some were not happy when I wrote in the NUGS Congress magazine that NUGS is useless. But that is the fact. Who remembers the last time NUGS said anything sensible concerning the toying of our education by politicians?
In his brilliant acceptance speech, the newly elected in NUGS President, Mr. Anthony Abotsi Afriyie promised to collaborate with other pressure groups such as the CJA and AFAG to advance the national course. But I don’t think NUGS needs any collaboration to be able to make an impact. NUGS is one of the strongest forces and does not support from the pro-NDC and pro-NPP AFAG.
What NUGS needs is a truthful and credible leadership. And if Abotsi and his crop of executive will be at least 50% committed to the cause of Ghanaian students, then will we will be on our way to those days when the balls of politicians shrunk anytime NUGS barked.
I don’t foresee that happening, but it is said that if everything is lost, hope still remains.

Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni [www.maxighana.com] Email: azureachebe2@yahoo.com The writer is a freelance journalist based in Accra. To read more of his writing, visit www.maxighana.com