Years ago, authorities in-charges of secondary school, told their students of when vacations were to be over and when students had to report to school, but this is not the case anymore, as it is obvious that the much-trumpeted better Free Senior High School (Free SHS) policy is in a mess, but neither the government nor the Ghana Education Service (GES) is willing to admit it and open up a debate on it.
The three to four months that students spent in school, learning, going through extra-curricular activities before their examinations and vacations have also been messed up with some of the students these days spending just four to five weeks in school.
Indeed, some students although in the same school, same class and reading the same subjects do not know each other as classmates because they belong to various tracks which do not allow them the luxury of meeting, socializing and networking.
While a track is entering the school, the other track is on his way out.
An indication of how messy the senior secondary education has become can be glimpsed from an announcement by GES of a new reopening and vacation dates for all senior high schools.
In the press release, the Service stated that it has adjusted the academic calendar for the 2021 academic year while urging school authorities to communicate the new dates to staff, students and parents to plan accordingly.
This is after an earlier reopening date fixed in April, was postponed at the last minute by GES after some students and their parents were either on their way or had reported to their respective schools to start the new academic year.
Per the new date, Form 3 students are expected to return to school on May 5, 2021.
The GES said that for schools still running the double-track system, form two batches on the green track will reopen on June 1, 2021 while those on the gold track will vacate on May 29, 2021.
The Form One students on the green track will vacate on June 15, 2021, while those on the gold track will vacate on May 4, 2021.
Meanwhile, the Form 1 students in these schools who have been placed on the single track will also vacate on June 15, 2021.
For schools running the single-track system, Form 2 students will reopen on June 1, 2021, while Form 1 students will vacate on July 16, 2021.
"Additionally, Heads of SHSs running Double Track for Form 1s are to, as a matter of urgency, communicate to all parents about the designated tracks for their wards to enable them to plan accordingly," GES wrote in a statement.
Earlier this month, the GES announced that it has changed the reopening date for final year students in senior high schools from Tuesday, April 6, 2021, to Wednesday, May 5, 2021.
The decision, the Service explained, came after considering a proposal from the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS).
To critics, the move was due to the fact that schools in the country are not adequately furnished with the new curriculum logistics in food and others but, GES in the statement, assured parents and students that "the new academic calendar will be published in due course."
The messy situation has gotten the outspoken University of Ghana lecturer Professor Ransford Gyampo says teachers in the country are scared to publicly speak about challenges confronting the Free SHS program out of fear of victimization.
According to him, concerned teachers will rather speak to parents privately about the challenges of the program.
The comments come in the wake of the national conversation over the perceived culture of silence following the public address by statesman and business magnate Sam Jonah.
Speaking to Francis Abban on Morning Starr yesterday, Professor Gyampo said even though he sometimes receives threatening text messages he does not believe they are enough to gag.
"The free SHS has been saddled with so many challenges and you hear teachers talking. If you're a parent and you're close to them, they'll talk to you about it. But when you ask them to voice it out, they'll tell you that when they do, they'll be transferred".
He however argued the 'culture of silence claim' should be viewed holistically.
"I don't know if there's any vociferously political critic who has been asked to shut up. Even me, I'm still talking. You might receive threatening texts here and there. I believe on this issue we must try and present a holistic picture. Generally, I think a few Ghanaians who have spoken their minds haven't been gagged just that they receive text messages from cowards".
Dr. Jonah has in a recent address sparked conversations over what he termed the creeping culture of silence in the country.
"What is baffling is that those who used to have voices on these things seem to have lost their voices. People speak on issues based on who is in power. Is our deafening silence suggesting that we are no longer concerned about issues that we complained about not too long ago, particularly when those issues persist….. The molestation of and in some cases assassination of journalists, murder of MPs, corruption, the harassment of anti-corruption agents".
Former Member of Parliament Buem, Daniel Kwasi Ashiamah, says the implementation of the Free Senior High School is facing a serious crisis because the government is broke.
Speaking on Rainbow Radio 87.5Fm, the former legislator was worried the education sector is being destroyed by the current administration. He wants the government to admit to the challenges than to lie to Ghanaians.
He said the NPP led administration has mismanaged the resources, depleted our coffers to fill their pockets at the expense of deprived persons in the country.
Mr. Ashiamah stated without mincing words that the policing is looming into crisis because of funding issues.
He alleged that heads of schools are also being intimidated by the government making it difficult for them to talk about the challenges facing the policy. The policy he stated is also faced with inadequate infrastructure, and it remains the greatest challenge that the Free SHS policy has faced since its introduction.
"They don't have the money for free SHS, and that is their problem today," he added.