Tamale, Oct. 5, GNA – Education, the means of inculcating moral values, norms and means of knowledge acquisition probably started with humans from the beginning of our existence, since our biological make up demands that we have to learn to interact with our environment. Formal methods of knowledge acquisition with time dominated informal socialization and, as such, development was experienced in stages by every nation.
Archival records indicate that formal education started in Ghana in the early 1800s from Cape Coast in the Central Region and later spread to other coastal areas in the tropics but finally reached the Northern Territories, the present day Northern regions, after about 100 years. Historical antecedents have in one way or the other denied the northern part of the country earlier education unlike the southern half of the country where it probably reached a century earlier due to their proximity to the colonial masters. Notwithstanding the historical factor that created a developmental gap, successive governments had also done very little to remedy the situation.
According to a renowned sociologist, Kwaku Nukunya, it was not the intention of the colonial administration to educate the West Africans but rather a plan by the colonial master to obtain clerical staff to administer its system of governance. It was to ensure that indirect rule and the native courts set up by them was effectively operated through the locals. Education was therefore not modeled to equip the natives with skill to overcome the existing challenges and turn them into opportunities. Be it as it may, their plans back fired as the few educated West Africans mobilized forces and revolted against colonial rule.
A systematic analysis of the Ghanaian educational system and its reforms would reveal that much has not changed from the system of education that was introduced by the colonial masters. This is because the numerous educational reforms that tried to introduce innovations and skill acquisition in the formal educational system had failed to materialize as different governments tried to introduce their own system to suit their convenience. The CPP Government of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of blessed memory was the first to make a positive impact. As the first post-independence government, it introduced several reforms including the free, compulsory basic education and the northern scholarship schemes to ensure that more Ghanaians were educated enough to contribute to his Africanization dream. Many Ghanaians equally gained scholarships to pursue professional courses abroad.
There was little done under the Progress Party, Supreme Military Council I and II and People's National Party governments but significant changes were made by the PNDC/NDC with the introduction of Junior Secondary and Senior Secondary School systems which phased out the Advanced and Ordinary Level certificate system. Not too long afterwards, the New Patriotic Party which came to power in 2000, subsequently introduced some modalities that changed secondary education from three years to four years but shortly after the NDC returned to power in 2008, it reversed the system back to the initial three years. The foregoing analysis indicates that most of the reforms that were introduced had suffered political interference, thus rendering them ineffective. The educational reforms and their distortions had on most occasions left the learners more confused, and created a huge disparity in rural Ghana, in addition to aggravating the woes of the rural folks.
The major concern of the unequal access to quality education or disparity between the rural areas and the urban centres has brought about the marginalization of the rural child who wants to have access to the same system and standard of education as that obtained in the urban setting. The advantages of the city or urban education far outweigh those of the rural poor. The student in the city is exposed to many social and environmental happenings that makes his life far better than the rural student because the interaction he is exposed to contributes to the depth of his knowledge and academic performance. The rural schools are often characterised by inadequate teachers, poor classroom structures and in some cases schools under trees. At times it becomes impossible to have lessons during rainy seasons and bad weather. Even though Ghana's constitution states equal access to education, it is a mere rhetoric than reality.
Notwithstanding the challenges and difficulties the rural pupils have to undergo, they still have to sit for the same exams with the urban child who already is miles ahead. It is about time educational facilities and infrastructure were provided equitably across the length and breadth of the country to have desired impact. Imagine a student who travels miles to school on foot, some have to cross rivers and streams before they see the classroom. Yet again, some of these students struggle to get to school only to meet empty structures without teachers. In some of the instances, pupils turn into teachers in lower classes - a situation similar to that of the blind leading the blind. Your guess is as good as mine as to what the outcome is likely to be in such circumstances.
Recently, the Ghana News Agency reported a troubling phenomenon in the Bunkpurugu/Yunyoo District where about 32 school buildings in the area were ripped off by rainstorm. The authorities concerned such as the District Assembly, National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) and the Ghana Education Service could not help in the re-roofing of the schools, compelling pupils to sit in those dilapidated classrooms daily for academic work. Mr. Duut Saaganma, Headteacher of the DA JHS who spoke to this reporter said classes were suspended when the rain threatened to fall and also when the sun got too hot. This situation could not have happened in urban areas. Not only, most of the schools in the area were overpopulated and in the Salimbouku JHS, Mr. Gariba Bello, Headmaster of the school observed that even though the school came out as one of the best in the area, the pupil population had an average of 120 per class, noting that one of the classrooms even had 134 pupils, leading to excessive overcrowding and making teaching quite difficult and stressful . This far outstrips the acceptable standard in Ghana which is supposed to be 35 pupils per class.
The head teacher also complained that since the inception of the JHS system in 2007, “We have never seen a textbook on Religious and Moral Education, yet students are made to write it at their final exams”. Besides this challenging situation, mathematics, science and English textbooks have been in short supply in schools in that district. This phenomenon might not be an isolated one, it could be worse even in some schools in the rural areas. The Government and the policy makers are not only wasting the precious time of some of these pupils but are also putting their future in jeopardy in today’s competitive world. In most of the schools this writer visited, only one of them had computers and even those computers were not being used because of inadequate classroom blocks. How can a rural pupil pass well in ICT in this environment when the student has never seen a computer? Ghana has a long way to go in improving rural education.
Politicians and policy makers must be serious and address the problems facing the system holistically otherwise the future of the children will continue to be in great jeopardy. Such unequal distribution of educational infrastructure/facilities leading to significant disparity could only be addressed if politics was divorced from educational planning. There ought to be a national policy direction that would dictate to policy makers what they must do and not what they wish to do. Sufficient funds should be voted towards quality education with serious monitoring to make the pupils and the entire nation to benefit from the system.
Much as we all call for peaceful elections in December, the thumbs must also be utilised to tell the politicians the truth that enough is enough, by exercising the vote based on vital issues such educational delivery. Our attitude as a people has to change and the politicians, especially, should learn to serve rather than lord it over the people. The interest of the majority far outweighs the parochial interest of the individual. Ghanaians deserves to enjoy the riches of the nation and there is no better way to do so than for the government to provide the citizenry the best of education.
(A GNA Feature by Paul Achonga Kwode)