Nelson Mandela once said: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. It seems this reality, with which many western and Asian countries are living in, is yet to be realized in our part of the world.
Consequently, politics has become the weapon which gradually depreciates our educational system. The many reforms in our education system continue to be about merging subjects and removing others as well as extending and reducing the years of stay rather than equipping the student with requisite skills. In short our education system is based on knowledge acquisition rather than it being skill oriented.
The basic level education is becoming bewitched with bad education like a bad bullet banished from the barrels of guns berating books bought by barristers. Many of the primary and junior high schools still lack basic essential materials like chalk, exercise books and text books to facilitate learning. The computer is still an imagination of the student in the rural areas of Ghana when it is drawn by the teacher on blackboard that needs some plastering. Aside these challenges, there are still schools under trees that are being taught by teachers who never get nominated for National Best Teacher Award. With most, if not all, primary and junior schools not having science laboratories to enhance the understanding of the student, how do we expect the school pupils to appreciate the subject being taught them? No wonder majority of junior high school leavers fail in Integrated Science during the BECE. It is time we grade the student according to what he or she can do rather than what they can remember. Aside these nemeses, there is also the crippling school feeding program which focuses on getting students fed rather than providing essential nutrients that will enhance the intellectual growth of students. The quality of teachers in this arena supposed to provide a firm foundation in education for students can also be an article on its own.
Furthermore, in the past two political seasons, politicians have succeeded in drumming into the ears of Ghanaians the need for free SHS education. The current government has decided to pilot this idea to make it a reality. I am not against free education. Rather the timing and also looking at the current state of our Senior High schools makes it a bad priority by government. In some regions, you have about ten schools, if not more, sharing the same biology, chemistry, and physics labs. Other schools do not even get to know these laboratories until it is time for WASSCE. Government subsidies for food served to students during breakfast, lunch and supper never comes in time. Headmasters still worry about the electricity and water tariffs that are supposed to be paid by government and are never get paid in time. With all these glaring challenges in the senior high schools, if there is any form of funds that government can allocate in making it free, wouldn’t it be better if they first strengthen these institutions to provide quality education for the people of Ghana? Imagine every senior high school with state-of-the-art science and computer laboratories with well-nourished students who get proper food at their dining halls. Certainly students will be able to put in their best in becoming the best they can be. Also the structure of the SHS system must be put up in order to at least make the student address the basic problems in Ghana and suggesting appropriate solutions to them upon completion.
Regarding the tertiary sector of our education system, the Vice Chancellors of the various universities are pushing for students to pay for utility bills or else ‘shutdown’ the universities as government seems not to be upholding their responsibility of paying for it. Obviously if students are to pay for utilities it is likely close to about half of the people who gain admission to the universities wouldn’t be able to come. Of what use then will be free SHS if there is an expensive cost for going to the university? Obviously education will be for the privileged in society. However, a solution could be that government can constitute renewable energy systems in universities, like solar power, to cater for the increasing electricity demand. It is truth that the cost of installation is high but also providing this will be a life time solution to the power demand of the universities. Also, due to the large numbers in the universities, there could be a biogas plant set up to produce gas by linking all the lavatories within a particular university. Students can then use the gas in cooking to prevent them from using electricity hence saving power. This biogas plant when set up could also serve other communities which the universities can sell to generate funds to run their day–to-day activities.
Nonetheless, I agree government cannot provide the need of every Ghanaian to the fullest. That is why the role of the government must be established as well as the parent. However, a government which wants a future for its people will invest in education, quality education for that matter. Chapter 25 (1)(c) of the 1992 constitution of Ghana states that higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular, by progressive introduction of free education. I guess this is yet to be realized.
In Japan, the country with the second best education system in the world, their education reforms included investing in early childhood education by integrating childcare and kindergarten to upgrade the quality of education and create universities that promote innovation and foster human relation. South Korea, the world’s number one country with the best educational system, invests 7.6% of its GDP i.e. $7652 per student, in education. They have the best childhood education system in the world as a result of the reforms they undertake.
If Ghana wants to develop to meet up with the rest of the world, it will depend on the kind of investment our governments put in the sector.
But I believe in Ghana and rise we can, but when?!