Ghana's robotic President, Nana Akufo-Addo, has grabbed an honorary doctorate degree from Cape Coast University for rolling out the Free SHS Policy, but there's no gain saying that the country's second cycle educational system is getting messy by the day.
The Herald has picked up reports that Form 2 Gold track students, spent 79 working days in School and are going home to do 93 days as holidays, and will be reporting back on August 30, 2021, meaning their vacation is longer than their hours in school.
Reports are that many parents who are well into education are sending their wards to private schools in the country, while others are planning to withdraw theirs.
Private schools in Kumasi, Accra and Tema, are cashing in on the messy situation, albeit silently.
Currently, many Senior High Schools, have had their dormitories reminiscent of Ghana's prisons, although the citizens are daily told that, the Free SHS in Ghana is the best managed in the world.
Interestingly, the respected educationist, Kwami Lorvi, has alleged that the Minister of Education, himself has ran away from the Free SHS mess by taking his ward to a private school, despite singing its praises daily.
Mr Alorvi, formerly a NAGRAT President, with some pictures, took to his Facebook page and wrote "This is International Community School that Ghana's Minister of Education Hon. Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum has reportedly enrolled his child for 2nd Cycle education, yet telling us that the Senior High Schools in Ghana he is in charge of are the best managed in the world. If the SHS is well managed and could offer quality education, why hasn't the Minister enrolled his child in any of the public Senior High Schools? Whom are they deceiving?"
Mr Alorvi, aside his post has been leading a crusade for some corrective measures to be taken on the programme.
Recently in an article entitled; Ghana's suffocating Senior High School: when cometh the redeemer?
Below is the article, saying the political affiliation of those implementing the programme is negatively affecting the policy.
Since my last article of Sunday 9th May 2021 titled "KWAMI ALORVI ON THE DEEPENING CHAOTIC MESS IN GHANA'S SENIOR HIGH SCHOOLS", I have become aware of more suffocating conditions in our Senior High Schools. In fact the Schools are actually at a point where urgent governmental intervention is needed to avert a catastrophe. The lack of funds for feeding students and for the purchase of other basic materials, as well as avoidable congestion in dormitories and classrooms, have become headaches not only for School Heads but also for their teachers and students alike.
LACK OF FUNDS
Lack of funds especially for student feeding, is the greatest challenge now facing the Heads of Senior High Schools. Five months into the academic year, Government has not released funds for the feeding of SHS1 students. They have to parasite on the limited funds released for continuing students.
For the continuing SHS3 & SHS2 students, only about 20% of the feeding grants meant for perishable items have reportedly been released to the schools. Boarding Schools have reportedly received between Ghc8,000.00 and Ghc20,000.00 depending on student enrolment. This is not withstanding the fact that there are outstanding arrears owed the schools from the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2020. As a result, the quality of food served students in the dining halls are the poorest ever. Most students therefore, don't go to dining but rather depend on food in their chop boxes for survival according to our sources. Some Heads who need money to buy perishable items have resorted to negotiating for their nonperishable food items from Buffer Stock suppliers to be converted into cash instead of adding on to their stock of rice, maize beans, etc, which they don't immediately need. This is to enable them get money to buy the perishable items.
It has been alleged that some of the schools in the above category of "adequate" nonperishable food items are the ones who have compromised and connived with suppliers to cheat the system. They do so by accepting for example, a 45kg bag of rice or maize for a 50kg bag. Heads of Schools who insist on the right quantities and weights from these suppliers are reportedly punished by being denied supplies. Such schools don't only have problems of funds for the purchase of perishable items, but also shortage of non perishable food items from the Buffer Stock Suppliers as well.
Regional Science & Maths Quiz Competitions have just ended. Yet, schools have not had their Science & Maths subscription fees released to them to organise these competitions. The schools will definitely proceed to the National Championship in Accra without their funds. In previous years, the amounts due the schools were drastically slashed down.
CONGESTION IN DORMITORIES AND CLASSROOMS
Another challenge facing school Administrators is the unprecedented lack of classroom and dormitory spaces for students since the SHS3 students reported to school on May 5th, 2021. As a result, most students are reportedly sleeping on the floor, a scene reminiscent of conditions in our prisons. COVID-19 protocols relating to social distancing have been abandoned in the dormitories, classrooms and dining halls.
In some schools, classes are reportedly being held under trees. Schools that have the means bought and erected make- shift canopies under which classes are taking place. Those that don't have the canopy or under-tree space have lumped up between 70 and 80 students in one class making teaching and class management a daunting task for teachers.
In all, our Research team received 25 videos of congested dormitories where students are sleeping on the floor, 11 images of classes under canopies, 15 photos of classes under trees and uncountable images of congested classrooms.
I would have attached these videos and photos to this write-up for readers to see. But this will only put my colleague Heads of School in trouble since these images have school emblems and recognizable environments that could identify the schools involved. I have, however, attached one video which is without any visible school emblem, of students sleeping on the floor for readers to see the deplorable conditions in the dormitories.
POLITICS KILLING CHASS?
Headmasters are living with harsh conditions but have involuntarily opted to zip up their mouths. Our Research Team unearthed two reasons for the loud silence among CHASS members, and their inability to voice out their grievances:
1. Fear of harassment, intimidation and removal from office.
2. Political affiliation of some CHASS National Executives and other members.
At the outset of the free SHS in 2017, anybody that spoke about challenges of the policy was tagged anti government and anti free SHS. Some Heads of School lost their Headship for daring to air their grievances. Intimidation and harassment became the order of the day under the sector Minister Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh and Director General of the GES, Prof. Kwasi Opoku- Amankwa (although many believed the Deputy Director General Mr. Anthony Boateng was the one pulling the strings).
Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh has since left the Ministry after a reshuffle, but the ghost of fear, intimidation and harassment still lingers on and continue to haunt the Headmasters and Headmistresses. Some Heads of School that our Team engaged, however, added another dimension to the problem; which is their leadership has failed them. They have no doubt about the competence and good intentions of the Alhaji Yakub Abubakar's led administration.
However, they are not happy that the political affiliations of some National Executives and ordinary members of CHASS have clouded their sense of judgement thus making it difficult for the CHASS Leadership to confront their challenges in a united manner.
"Senior, even at meetings, or when you are talking to your colleague Head about the fSHS, you have to look over your shoulder to see if someone is not monitoring to report you to the powers that be. So we are all protecting our jobs," a CHASS member lamented.
That is the pathetic level our once revered CHASS under my Jasikan Training College mate, Mr. Samuel Ofori Adjei, as National President has now been reduced to.
In this morbid state, the worries of the generality of CHASS members have been bottled up within them, generating so much heat but with no vent to let off steam. This pent up feeling has reached a melting point waiting for only a spark to produce a conflagration.
One colleague Headmaster said to me, that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. So he argued that the silence of CHASS on the decay in the implementation of the fSHS policy is good in maintaining harmony in the already erratic double track system, for the sake of our children (the grass). But have those people thought of who suffers when the two elephants also make love? Is it not the same grass? In fact the grass suffers more as the two giant elephants, especially if one is destructive, enjoy their love and roll for long on the grass. So as CHASS members bottle up their sufferings, our Senior High Schools will continue to suffocate until they can no longer breathe.
CORRUPTION AT THE CSSPS AND FREE SHS SECRETARIATS
One argument advanced those days for replacing the School based admission of students to the Senior High Schools was to abolish the so called corruption by Heads of Schools. What is happening now under the CSSPS is a replacement of the corruption on the part of Heads of SHSs, if indeed it existed, with a higher level of corruption at the CSSPS and free SHS Secretariats.
The CSSPS Secretariat has become a conduit for corrupt politicians to place, or order to be placed, wards of family members and party affiliates in the most desired elite boarding schools through what has become known as PROTOCOL ADMISSIONS, while placing non politically connected persons in rural day schools. It has been reported that parents who want their wards in grade 'A' schools pay close to seven thousand Ghana Cedis (Ghc7,000.00) to officials of the fSHS or CSSPS Secretariats to secure such admissions.
Two related corrupt practices have been added to this. Many students are initially placed in the elite or Grade 'A' Senior High Schools as day students. Parents now go to pay between Ghc3,000.00 and Ghc7,000.000 for their wards to be converted from day to boarding status, depending on the school. Similar amounts of money are reportedly paid to such corrupt officials for students to transfer from a lower grade school to an elite school. So the corruption we sought to kill a couple of years back, has now been transferred from the SHSs to the free SHS Secretariat manned by politically connected persons (not by Regional Directors of Education anymore) and the CSSPS Secretariat with party activists in control.
The whole free Senior High School system is now in a chaotic mess. Morale among Heads and their teachers have reached an all time low. Quality of teaching and learning are in a reverse gear needing a Redeemer to save the system from total collapse. The multi dollar question however, is, WHEN COMETH THE REDEEMER?
I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW
1. Why is it that District Directorates of Education have been given only Ghc20,000.00 to run their offices since January 2021?
2. Why is it that Teacher Trainees have not been paid their allowances since January 2021? Parents are tired of receiving SOS messages from their wards in Colleges of Education asking for money because allowances that government claimed to have restored are not forthcoming.
3. Why is it that Feeding grants for students of Colleges of Education have not been paid to the Principals of the Colleges since January 2021? How do we expect them to feed their students when even food items they purchased in 2020 have not been paid for? Why is it that "Yɛ te sika so, enso ekɔm di yɛn?" We are sitting on money, yet we are starving! Na sika no wɔ hen? Where is the money?
4. Why have basic schools not been supplied with prescribed textbooks two years after a new curriculum has been introduced?
Attached is a 20-second video of students sleeping on the floor in one SHS.
Dated: Tuesday 18th May, 2021.