The Minister for Education, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum, has managed to calm nerves, following the confusion surrounding the reporting date for Form One Senior High School (SHS) students. He was in Parliament on Monday, December 4, 2023 on the invitation of the House, to brief it on the situation surrounding the reporting date, which was yesterday.
In his brief, the Minister for Education, who doubles as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bosomtwe, told the Speaker that he “deeply” appreciated his “wise counsel.”
He further noted that the Ministry did not intend to put burden on parents; instead, it wanted to lessen it, by putting measures in place, like the Harmonised Prospectus.
He informed the House that, by November 27, 2023 – over 477,700 students, representing over 81%, had automatically been placed in various SHSs across the country, with 19% left to do self-placement.
He said that last year, about 60% had automatically been placed at the time of the announcement of the reporting date, showing that there had been improvement this year.
According to the Minister, it was prudent to begin the 2023–2024 academic year on December 4, as it offers the nation the opportunity to return to the pre-COVID-19 calendar.
“When these timelines are strictly followed, the contact hours will be duly achieved and our quest to get back to the pre-COVID academic calendar will be on track.
“Last year, schools opened in February for first-year students. This year we are opening in December, which gives us the opportunity to then open in October or September and, therefore, go back to pre-COVID calendar, as we are all envisaging,” he informed Parliament.
Per the calendar, which was released in October, the schools were expected to begin registration and orientation for students from December 4, 2023.
There will be a Christmas break on December 21, 2023 and academic work resumes on January 3, 2024 until March 5, 2024 for the first semester of the 2023–2024 academic year.
However, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum assured Parliament that using this timeline, Ghana will go back to the pre-COVID calendar, and this will not throw off the academic year out of gear.
The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, having listened to the Minister’s brief and comments from Members, said “The Minister has complied with our directives by appearing before the House to brief us.”
He commended the Minister for honouring the invitation, but said that nothing could be done with the reporting date, as information had it that several of the students had reported to school and could not be sent back home.
Meanwhile, he urged the Ghana Education Service to give parents ample time in the future to prepare adequately to send their children to school.
He noted that Parliament did not “direct” the Minister to change the date but rather “consider” extending it to January.
“So, we cannot have any issue with the Minister again,” he said, adding that the other matters members discussed were “assumptions and creations of members’ own.”
The Minority Leader, Cassiel Ato Forson, disagreed with the Deputy Majority Leader, Afenyo-Markin, that the issue had been politicised.
According to the Minority Leader, who is the MP for Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam, some students, after writing the BECE, might have travelled to relatives and would return only when results were released.
He claimed further that some may not have returned, and considering the date results were released and the reporting date, it was not feasible for such people to report on December 4.
He then argued about the fact that some students are yet to be placed in schools.
Though the Minister had informed the House that 81% had been automatically placed, forming a huge majority to be able to start the academic calendar, Ato Forson insisted that the 19% must also be placed.
He argued that the reporting date (Monday) was not right, as some parents who work during the week and may want to accompany their wards cannot do so. He would prefer the reporting date be on a Friday, or a weekend.
Peter Nortsu-Kotoe, Akatsi North
Ranking Member on the Education Select Committee, Peter Nortsu-Kotoe, MP for Akatsi North, said his statement was not made out of malice, but rather concerns raised by people. He expected the Minister to brief the House on his failure to consult Parliament after the House had raised concerns about the reporting date.
Clement Apaak, Builsa South
Deputy Ranking Member, Clement Apaak, MP for Builsa South, regardless of the Minister’s explanation that the country had to go back to the pre-COVID period, intimated that the ministry could not do that at the detriment of the students.
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, North Tongu
The MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, claimed the Minister did not address why the Ministry of Education “blatantly defied this House.”
He opined that the Ministry flexed its muscles when the Ghana Education Service issued a statement after that of Parliament, depicting a state of collision between the two institutions.
He threatened that if the Minister did not rescind his decision, he would be compelled to push for him to “slug it out at the Privileges Committee.”
On his part, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, was not able to identify the position of some of his colleagues who agreed with the Minister for Education that the academic calendar had to return to the pre-COVID era, but disagreed with the start of the academic year to achieve that.
He stated that in 2023, new students had five days to report to their schools, but had six days this time, though he argued that it could be improved and suggested ten days.
He informed the House that, as at the reporting date of December 4, 92.65% of the students had been placed, leaving a mere 8%, who were going through the process.
According to him, the ministry ought to be commended for harmonising prospectus, which he said had “brought down the cost”, compared to when it was not uniformed.
Alexander Afenyo-Markin, Effutu
The MP for Effutu, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, urged his colleagues to prioritise the interests of the nation over their political gains.
He said, “We as a political class must know what to play politics with and what to consider a national issue. We should deal with national issues the way they should be dealt with. If we make it political, it becomes a problem.”
He noted that the concerns raised were not out of place, but the angle the maker chose, makes it difficult for his side to fully support it, “because I need to defend my government.”
He noted that the member who raised the issue could engage the chairman of his committee to see how well to have the Minister for Education solve the problem.
However, he told the Minister for Education that engaging the House ahead of time was “very important going forward,” to avert what was being witnessed.
Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi, Asante Akim Central
The MP for Asante Akim Central, Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi, argued that the Ministry of Education was working to catch up with the calendar before COVID-19 struck. He spoke against Parliament seeking to direct the Ministry of Education, arguing that the House should then be directing other ministries, including health. He stated that once the Ministry of Education had not breached any law, they should be supported.
Carlos Ahenkorah, MP for Tema West
Carlos Ahenkorah, MP for Tema West, argued that the House was being harsh on the Minister, considering that he works under the President and a Cabinet Minister as well, whose decisions are approved before being executed.
According to him, the argument about financial constraints on parents might not hold because parents whose wards took part in the BECE would probably begin preparing before the results and school placements are out.