What Is Wrong With Our Public School System In Rural Ghana?
I have observed with great interest how our public schools are being treated and how pupils who find themselves in these schools are left to their fate. Our public school system has been left unattended to, and nobody seems to care. The government will always complain that it has fewer resources to provide for all, the schools administrators also care less because these are public schools and whether they deteriorate or not, they have no incentive to care. One fascinating thing is that many of the great men and women as well as prominent people we have in the society today went through the public school system, but what are we doing to salvage the situation? Our public schools accommodate the majority of the poor in our societies and if well managed, many poor people will be able to have access to a reasonable level of education leading to an increase in the literacy rate in the country. This will also lead to poverty reduction as these poor people will be developed enough to take up jobs and thereby earn income. Quality education is a right and not a privilege and must therefore be accessible to everyone irrespective of ethnicity, gender, social class, religion etc. PROBLEMS IDENTIFIED There has been a tremendous drop in the academic performance of our public schools year in year out, and the standard will continue to fall if our attitudes and perception do not change towards our public school system. According to a Ghanaweb report on 30th November, 2009, four schools within the Okere constituency recorded zero percent (0%) pass rate in the 2008 BECE results which means that none of the kids in these schools could further their education and the affected schools were all public schools. Also, another report by Ghanaweb on 6th November, 2010, had it that five (5) schools in the Jomoro District recorded zero percent (0%) pass in the 2010 Basic Education certificate Examination results. All five schools were public schools, and theyincluded Mangyia D/A JSS, Anlomatuape District Assembly JSS, Edobo-Atwebanso Catholic JSS, Amokwasuazo and Cocoa Town JSS. Another report on the GBC website indicated that 10 schools in the Agona West Municipality and Agona East District Assembly also scored zero percent (0%) pass rate in the 2010 BECE. Again the affected students were those in the public schools which included: Agona Duotu District Assembly (D/A) JHS, Mankrong D/A JHS, Akokuasa D/A JSS, Keyanko D/A JHS, Amanful Salvation Army D/A JHS and Fante Bawjiase D/A JHS. The rest are Agona Nyakrom Anglican D/A JHS, Nyakrom SDA JHS, Swedru Wawaase D/A and Otsenkorang D/A JHS according to the report. On 30th October, 2010 the Ghana business news reported fifteen (15) schools also scoring zero passes in the Hohoe Municipality which means, again, that no student from these schools was able to gain admission to Senior High School (SHS). These are just a few of the places and schools I have time to mention. There are more of such trends in the BECE every year and the schools that are seen affected are the public schools and the most affected are those in our rural communities. Even in areas where we say the trend is good, we cannot make any reasonable comparisons to the case in the private schools. The above figures mean that Ghana may note be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of universal education if the situation continues to follow this trend. There is a false perception within our society that pupils who attend public schools are dumb. This is blatantly false. There are a number of pupils in public schools who are very brilliant and can excel at any level. It is just that we are not just providing them with the right environment to perform. These kids lack even the most basic resources required to perform. . I am particularly of the view that no child is dumb but giving the child the right tools and guidance, he/she will perform to your satisfaction. I have been working with rural schools for a substantial length of time now and I am totally convinced that other NGOs should also shift their attention to public schools in the rural communities and stop focusing on those in the urban centres. CAUSES Several causes have been identified as hampering academic work in our public schools. Firstly, there is a lack of effective community participation in the running of our public schools. Communities are alienated from their schools and they have thus left it to the government alone to run the show. Everybody feels the government has to do everything once it is a public school. Teachers also feel that they are not accountable to communities but only the government. Teachers thus behave as if they owe no explanations to the communities about how they offer their services. This is because they see the communities as not having any pivotal role to play in upkeep of the schools. Communities in turn do not feel empowered enough to demand accountability and results from their teachers not even with regard to the capitation grant which is provided in the communities’ interest. The second problem is the lack of resources in our public schools. Most public schools lack adequate infrastructure and educational facilities. Reading and learning materials are most of the time a problem especially in rural areas. We have been talking about lack of inadequate facilities and resources in our public schools but little is being done to solve the situation. Little is being done to encourage “alumni” of these communities who may be in gainful employment in the towns and cities to contribute to the search for resources. It is becoming clear that Ghanaians are able to identify the problems but not solutions and even when we know the solutions we want someone else to implement it. The attitude of some of our public school teachers and other authorities leave much to be desired. It is common to find most classrooms empty even though the school has teachers on the government payroll. Teachers leave the classroom at will because they are teaching in a public school. There is insufficient supervision by the circuit supervisors which gives the teachers ample room to do what they like. One phenomenon in our rural schools is where you find a teacher dating a school child. This breaks the code of discipline and erodes respect. One fascinating observation I’ve made is that teachers and educational authorities who are responsible to ensure our public schools run effectively rather send their children to private schools. Why? This is a question that lies at the root of the public school crisis in rural Ghana. The attitude towards our public schools must change to help make the system better. Structures and systems within the public education system do not work as effectively as they are supposed to. Many people often talk about private schools doing better than the public schools. But have we found the time to look out for what the problem is with our public schools? And if we have, what actions have we been taking to deal with the problems so identified? There is a sharp contrast between our public schools and private schools in terms of academic performance and other factors as quality of teachers, remuneration, etc. Here is a little information I gathered after talking to some private school and public schools teachers in the Ashanti region, where I have been doing much of the work I refer to in this report. The private schools being referred to here are not the high profiles type like Akosombo International and the rest, but ordinary places of study in the rural townships around Mampong. Public School Private School Calibre of Teachers Trained Mostly Untrained (SSS Grads) School fees Very Low High Teachers Salaries Attractive (Average about GHC 300.00 a month) Very Unattractive (Average GHC 50.00 per month) Academic Performance Very Low High Looking at the above factors, nobody should wonder why the public schools are not performing as expected. In dealing with the above problems and thus ensuring that the public schools perform to standard, the government should ensure effective partnership with the local communities. This will make the communities feel more responsible towards their schools and also help provide some of the resources the schools need. This can be done by empowering the local communities to take up some of the tasks themselves in ensuring that their systems run better. As they are providing resources for the schools, they will also feel responsible to seek accountability from the teachers as well as carefully follow outcomes and results. This will also make the teachers feel accountable and responsible to the community in addition to the government. Effective participation of the communities will also reduce the burden of the government in the provision of resources and facilities for the schools. The issue of inadequate infrastructure and resources can all be dealt with if there is effective community participation in ensuring that the public schools get better attention. Hometown associations in the urban areas will also now see a clear conduit to contribute to improve the situation “back home”. It goes without saying that the Communities can monitor the system more effectively since they are closer to the schools. Program planning should be done with the communities to ensure their sustainability. To this end I think the School Management committee and the PTA system should be strengthened and there should be an effective collaboration with the Ghana Education Service. The Ghana Education Service should also strengthen its monitoring and supervision systems to ensure that problems are identified at early stages and dealt with, taking into account the peculiar issues in rural Ghana. WHAT THE YONSO PROJECT IS DOING ON A SMALL MANAGEABLE SCALE TO HELP The Yonso Project is a rural community development organization working to improve educational and economic opportunities. Our vision is to make quality education accessible to every Ghanaian child regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, social class etc. For the past three years since the Yonso Project was launched, we have seen great improvements in the communities we work in. The Yonso Project provides rural communities with library facilities with the goal to providing the school pupils with reading and learning materials. The aim is to improve the reading skills of pupils in our rural public schools. The Yonso Project has started a pilot programme to train community stakeholders in education to empower them to take more responsibilities in the schools. Thus we are training them to be able to help provide resources for the schools and to reduce the tendency to always look up to the government. By providing resources, they will also demand accountability from the schools and this will improve transparency and accountability in our school systems. The Yonso Project also renovates dilapidated rural public school facilities such as classrooms, equipment and other materials as and when necessary. Apart from this, we also provide need-based scholarships to pupils who would have otherwise not been able to go to school or further their education after the JHS. This is done to help the needy have an equal chance in life as the other school children. Currently, we have 97 scholars out of which 39 are in Senior High School. We have also launched a new program which seeks to provide teachers in rural communities with access to educational loans to further their education through distance learning. We hope this initiative will attract more teachers to the rural communities and help solve the rural teacher shortage. CONCLUSION The public school concept offers a solution for the poor to have access to education. That is to say the poor in our societies gain access to education through the public school system and hence it is the duty of the government to ensure there is a fair share of the resources for the development of every Ghanaian. But there should also be an effort on the part of communities to support public schools especially in their own areas. The Yonso Project alone cannot combat this problem affecting the public schools; the situation needs the efforts of many other organizations, the government, the Ghana Education Service, the District Assemblies and all other well meaning Ghanaians. Let us all help make our public schools a priority.
Source: Kwabena Danso
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