Education, a key issue in the 2012 Elections
By I. K. Gyasi
Last week, between Monday, October 1, 2012 and Friday, October 5, 2012, the Otumfuo Education Fund (OEF) organised a forum on Guidance and Counselling for over three thousand final year (SS 3 and SS 4) Senior High School students at the Centre for National Culture in Kumasi.
Leading the seminar were Mr. J. O. Adjei, a Guidance and Counselling expert, and two senior staff members of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Mr. Festus Nyame and Mr. Kwame Yeboah.
The seminar dealt with a wide range of subjects, such as time management, choice of programmes for the senior high school course, and for the tertiary institutions, the admission requirements, what should guide students to determine the career of their choice, etc.
If I heard right from the two university administrators, then it is good that the political parties, especially the New Patriotic Party (NPP) the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), intend to make education a key issue in the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.
For the 2012/2013 Academic Year, more than five hundred (500) applicants opted for the Medicine course at the KNUST. Of this number, 207 (two hundred and seven) had Grade 1 in all the eight subjects in which they wrote the West African Senior Certificate Examination.
The subjects were the four core ones of English, Mathematics, Integrated Science and Social Studies, and the Elective ones of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. The 207 candidates achieved the impressive results at one sitting.
The university faced a difficult and cruel dilemma as to which of the students could be selected to make up the total of 152 tuition-free students it could admit. In the long run, the university had to resort to an aptitude test in order to make a selection. Fifty five equally good candidates fell by the wayside as far as the pursuit of a Medicine course at the KNUST was concerned. I will return to the matter shortly.
As far as I can tell, it was the PPP and the NPP that made clear their intention to take another look at what constitutes ‘basic education’.
At the moment, basic education is seen as beginning from nursery to the final year of the Junior High School, at which point, the leavers may continue their formal education at the senior high school level, or go into self as well as paid employment or further apprenticeship.
Both the PPP and NPP have indicated clearly that basic education should end at the current Senior High School level, and that a new scheme should be substituted for the current Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) to assess the students.
The NPP has gone further to state that it intends to make education all the way to the Senior High School level free. The party says, “By free SHS, we mean free tuition, admission, textbook, library, science centre, computer, examination, utilities, boarding and meals.” (Page 23 of NPP Manifesto for 2012)
At first, the NDC spoke as if the party was opposed to the idea of the NPP-style free SHS. In fact, the current Minister of Education, Mr. Lee Ocran, was heard saying that free SHS education was not immediately possible, that it would take 20 years, and that in any case, if it was possible, Kwame Nkrumah would have implemented it.
If the newly-launched NDC Manifesto (Thursday, October 4, 2012), and the speech of President John Mahama are anything to go by, then it would appear as if the NDC has been rattled somewhat by the interest generated by the NPP’s plan to implement a free education policy that covers the senior high school.
Whatever it is, while the NPP hopes to provide free education up to the Senior High School level, the NDC hopes to provide easy access to education through the building of more educational institutions.
Both the NPP and the NDC should stop turning education into a political football for electoral advantages. It is a fact that if the government of the day relieves parents of their financial burden, in whole or in part, it will still be useless if there is no school for the pupils to go to.
But, it is equally a fact that if the government of the day provides all the facilities and the human resources (teachers and non teaching staff), it will still be useless if parents cannot pay to gain access to the facilities for their wards.
If you listen carefully to both sides, you will hear them talk, not only of shouldering part of parents’ financial burden, but also of providing facilities. It sounds like the old argument of whether it should be “Self-Government Now” or “Self-Government as soon as possible,” or whether the cup is half-full or half-empty.
In the final analysis, none of the two parties (the NPP and the NDC) is saying that education is not a priority, or that Ghana has had all the trained human resources it needs.
While both parties are playing political and electoral football with our education, they should consider very serious matters regarding our education.
After all, the fees have been paid up to the senior high school level, and after pupils, able and willing, are given full access to education through the provision of the requisite human resources, as well as all the teaching and learning facilities, what happens to the large number that will knock on the doors of state universities and other tertiary institutions run by the state?
A full, qualified 55 applicants could not gain admission to study Medicine at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
The story of Medicine at the KNUST will be repeated at the other Sstate universities. By extension, when the admission exercise is over for all the state universities in the matter of all the courses or programmes, the story, as usual, will be that though thousands qualified for admission, all the universities could not admit everyone who qualified. What happens to the “disqualified” qualified applicants?
Whether it is free SHS education, or easy access to SHS education, it all boils down to the availability of money. Even as you read this piece, dear reader, the government has not paid subsidies to the Senior High schools and the Capitation Grant to the basic schools. Ask Vice President Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, if you don’t believe me. It is the same story for the Boarding Grant for the three ‘Northern’ schools and parts of the Volta and Brong Ahafo regions.
It has always been so since the Kufuor government re-introduced the payment of the across-the-country subsidies. Who is assuring us of the easy availability of funds to provide free education, or access to education for our children?
We are talking not only about the future of our children, but also the future of our country. No political party has the right to play political football with it.
PS: – Is it going to be three years or four years for the SHS?
Short URL: http://thechronicle.com.gh/?p=48172