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Thursday, June 20, 2024

How We Can Do Without The Annual Headache of School Computer Placement

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…With Our Publisher

Every year, around this time, Ghana is plagued with news of harrassed parents and students desperately seeking places of admission for their wards. We are forced to listen to news and discussions on the topic, and it would seem that creating a situation where parents can seamlessly get their children admitted into secondary education, is beyond us.

Make no mistake, I am not here to knock the Computer School Placement System. That is not my objective. I believe that it is a definite improvement on what used to pertain, where admission was in the hands of headmasters and headmistresses. At that time, headmasters and headmistresses had a field day; what could be termed as the ‘cocoa season’ for these officials. To put it bluntly, they cashed in with abandon, and parents were even more harrassed that they are today. The computer placement system created a more facile process for the majority of parents.

It would seem, however, that we have taken the ‘cocoa season’ out of the hands of headmasters and headmistresses, and placed the power firmly in the hands of a few officials at the Computer Placement Centre. I believe that whilst this is an improvement of what used to be, it can definitely be improved upon.

So, how do we improve on the Computer School Placement System? To begin with, I believe that the place to start, is with the philosophical basis of the system that we are dealing with. Philosophically, Ghana, since 1992, has sought to create a free society propelled by choice. If I want my child to attend the best possible schools and have the best possible education, and I can afford it, I do not see any justification for a system to be created where that choice would be taken away from me, and my child. Such a scenario, the Computer School Placement System, which is what we have created and entrenched in Ghana, is manifestly unfair, and unnecessarily so. I am saying that we should be able to create a situation where people who want their children to attend certain schools, and can afford it, should be able to do so. I should not be compelled to send my child to a school I do not approve, which may not deliver the best results I seek. My child is a victim.

Secondly, beyond the philosophical basis of free choice underpinning life in Ghana, is the matter of the 1992 Constitution and its aspirations for the people when it comes to education. Under Chapter 6 of the 1992 Constitution, we have what we call the Directive Principles of State Policy. This chapter sets out the guidelines expected of leadership in Ghana and Ghanaians generally when it comes to our national aspirations. These aspirations include the social, economic and political aspirations. Among the social aspirations are educational aspirations.

One of the educational aspirations is Article 38. (1) of the 1992 Constitutoion, which states;

“The State shall provide educational facilities at all levels and in all the Regions of Ghana, and shall, to the greatest extent feasible, make those facilities available to all citizens.”

Article 38. (3) (a) of the same constitution states;

“The State shall, subject to the availability of resources, provide equal and balanced access to secondary and other appropriate pre-university education, equal access to university or equivalent education, with emphasis on science and technology.”

So that, apart from the philosophical basis of choice, the State of Ghana has a constitutional obligation to ensure to provide equal and balanced access to secondary and other appropriate pre-university education for all Ghanaians. One of the key words here is ‘access’. Note that the word ‘free’ is not used, but rather ‘access’. So, government is to create the access, or the conditions for the access to be created. The Computer School Placement System tends to block access and choice, and even though an improvement on what used to pertain, still falls short of creating complete access for as many Ghanaians are resources would allow.

So what is government to do, against the background of choice and Article 38 of the 1992 Constitution?

My suggestion is that we be guided by the philosophical underpinnings of choice in our democracy, and by Article 38.

First, by way of choice, I believe that we should review the ‘free senior high school’ concept and concentrate the revenue being poured into this concept into creating greater access, which would improve choice. By greater access, I mean more schools and better quality education. The real issue, for many parents, is the ability to get access to the type of education that they believe their children deserve. We should concentrate on creating as many high quality institutions in all the districts and towns of Ghana. I see no reason why every population centre of ten thousand souls should not have a secondary school. This is easily achieved if we consider that every town in Ghana has a junior high school. A significant number of these schools have enough land, so that we can easily upgrade them to senior high schools. We may not even need to build the cement-concentrated edifices we love to build in Ghana, which are prohibitively expensive. We can adopt wood, more open space planning, sheetrock, and other modern construction technology at much lower cost.

The next step, is to take pragmatic steps to remove or reduce the number of ‘boarding’ schools, which is wholly responsible for making secondary education so prohibitively expensive in Ghana. I believe that it is time Ghana wholly rethought the concept of ‘boarding’, particularly free ‘boarding’, where we keep and pay for the full keep of students. If these students are fed and kept at full cost by their parents, I do not see any legitimate reason why government should assume the cost. The parents should continue to pay, and the money saved should be employed in improving quality and access for many more.

The question that would arise, if we were to ‘review’ the free SHS by removing the ‘free’ and ‘boarding’, is what happens to the thousands who would not be able to pay. To begin with, tuition itself has been free since time immemorial, so that in that situation, we can enroll all comers.

If, in that situation, it still remains the situation that some students would still require support, then we can provide for these students by putting in place a mechanism to identify them, firstly, and channel support towards them.

The current system, in my belief, amounts to tampering with the fate of hundreds of thousands of human beings. Every human being has an unherent right to be able to develop themselves to the best that they can be, and the Computer School Placement System, which is necessitated by the determination of government to provide fre education, willy nilly, is tampering with this right.

I believe that if the desire is to provide education to all young people in Ghana, then we should start from the philosophical and constitutional basis, which would afford us sustainable solutions that would allow us to extend affordable and quality education to many more people than we are able to do today.

As it is, we are pushing people into a system that is hard to maintain, delivers unsatisfactory results, and would ultimately not be sustainable.

(This article was first published in the column PERISCOPE DEPTH of the Daily Searchlight of 06/04/2022. The Daily Searchlight appears on the newsstands of Ghana every working day and for sale online twenty-four hours a day all day throughout the world on www.ghananewsstand.com).

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