“He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.” John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
Introduction to Gutter Football
Young and aspiring footballers in Ghana often play an interesting version of the game called “Gutter-to-Gutter”. The ‘goal posts’ are literally two gutters (often wet, slimy, smelly and filthy) on either side of a road, potholed or otherwise. The aim is to play the ball into the gutter goals. Once in a while when a car approaches, the game gets suspended only to resume when the car has driven past, sometimes leaving a mixture of dust and smoke behind it. The most important item in this game is the ball, the “sock ball”. To the unlearned and untutored in matters concerning gutter-to-gutter football, the sock ball is made from a disused sock. It is filled with pieces of cloth and plastic, carefully and tightly rolled into a globe. As you might have guessed, in the course of the game, and depending on how many times the socks ball enters the gutter goal, it becomes wet, dirty, smelly and soggy. But the game continues nonetheless. At the end of the game, usually at nightfall, the players go to take a shower, argue the score (who scored most), have dinner and retire to bed. Everyone forgets about the sock ball that they have been kicking. It is left in the gutter and to the vagaries of the night time gutter tide or the night weather, or it is left on the road for passing cars to flatten out. Tomorrow, there will be another game, and a new sock ball for that game. Sock balls are a dime a dozen. No one really cares about what happened to yesterday’s sock ball. Discarded and unwanted.
This imagery is strong in my mind as I consider the way our politicians are treating the Ghanaian school pupil or student, just as the disused sock balls in a never-ending gutter-to-gutter game. Politicians are actually kicking our pupils and students around as they tinker with our education system on the basis of empty political grandstanding and party manifestos. That is truly sad. We the people of this nation should not allow this to happen.
The purpose of this piece is to call for an end to this silly game, particularly in the face of the vow by the NDC government to revert to the previous 3-year system, based in part on the fact that it had pledged to do this in its manifesto. This piece is also to question the rationale behind the 4-year system, and to advocate new thinking that is based on the peculiar needs of each child.
2008 NDC Manifesto: Card Stacking on Professor Anamuah-Mensah
The 2008 manifesto of the ruling NDC provides as follows:
Before the NDC assumed office in 1992 there was a total of 210 public sector Senior Secondary Schools. Under the NDC administration, public sector Senior Secondary Schools rose to an unprecedented high of 474 in 2001, an impressive increase and all within a period of 8 years. The NPP has been able to establish only nineteen (19) Senior Secondary Schools between 2001 and 2008. This shortfall is creating intense pressure on existing SSS facilities.
An NDC government shall address the deficiencies and weaknesses in a bold and comprehensive manner. In this regard an NDC government shall:
Revert the current SHS duration of four (4) years to three (3) years consistent with the recommendation of the Report of the Anamuah-Mensah Committee...
The first thing you might ask yourself when you read the above quote is: “where is the link between the number of SSS’ built by the parties and reverting to a 3-year programme?” Further, you might note that the NDC pledge was to revert the duration to three years was expressed to be “consistent” with recommendations of the Anamuah-Mensah Committee. But what did that committee say and under what circumstances did the committee make the alleged recommendation?
A Daily Graphic news item which was also carried by Myjoyonline.com on 27th May 2009, said as follows:
“Prof Anamuah-Mensah said the committee, after looking at the two options of a three-year and a four-year duration for the SHS, settled on the three-year duration, with a caveat that infrastructure and resources would be devoted to the educational sector, particularly from the kindergarten, the primary to the junior high school (JHS) levels.
These levels formed the foundation for the secondary and tertiary levels of education and the committee thought that a "good foundation would ensure the sterling performance of students at those higher levels of education," he noted.
He said for him when the government accepted the report but made the duration four years, he thought that was because the infrastructural development and resources needed for the-effective implementation of the three-year programme were not available.
However, he said currently figures showed that a criterion reference test, that is, the test to rate the literacy and numeracy of pupils in primary school, showed that only 10 per cent of them gained mastery over those skills.
Moreover, a large number of people who should have been absorbed into primary schools could not, while a large majority of pupils completed the basic level of education with no requisite skills for higher education or professional training, he noted.
Prof Anamuah-Mensah said education was the most important structure of any governance system, the basis for all other structures and so if it was toyed with, the results would affect the whole structure of the country.”
This is very interesting. The Anamuah-Mensah Committee did not recommend the blanket, wholesale, unmitigated and unqualified reversal to 3 years, as the NDC manifesto claims. In the words of the learned professor, his committee’s recommendation that the nation maintains a 3-year SHS system was based on a “caveat” (i.e. a warning, caution, qualification or stipulation) that adequate infrastructure and resources would be devoted to kindergarten, primary and JHS levels, which would provide sufficient grounding for a 3-year programme at the SHS. In other words, unless the conditions precedent existed, there was no justification for the 3-year program. The learned professor then said that he believes that the NPP opted for the 4-year programme because the infrastructure and resources required to justify the 3-year programme did not exist. Then he makes reference to a ‘criterion reference test’ that showed that only 10% of pupils gained mastery over literacy and numeracy skills in primary schools. That showed that the conditions precedent for the 3-year programme were non-existent.
What flows from the above is that anyone who is arguing for ‘reverting’ to the 3-year programme should first be required to satisfy Ghanaians that the conditions laid down by the Anamuah-Mensah Committee as prerequisites for the 3-year programme, exist. If those conditions do not exist, which I think is obvious, then we have no basis to revert to the 3-year programme. Clearly the provision in the NDC manifesto was card-stacking, i.e. presenting just part of the story; we probably should not trust or believe in party manifestoes. But as this interview with Professor Anamuah-Mensah shows, he himself did not believe (as at May 2009) that we were ready for the three-year programme. Indeed from his analysis, we probably can conclude that only 10% of pupils are ready for the 3-year programme.
Be that as it may, the current cabinet decision to revert to the 3-year programme can at best be described as a recommendation or proposal. It is not a fait accompli or done deal. This is because the current 4-year system is backed by law. Section 1(3) of the Education Act, 2008 (Act 778), provides as follows:
The second cycle level of education shall consist of four years of senior high school education, vocational, business and agricultural education, or appropriate apprenticeship training of not less than one year. [Emphasis added]
The current Minister for Education has admitted, and rightly in my view, that it is only an amendment of this provision that will provide a legal basis for the reverting to the 3-year programme. This means that an amendment bill will have to be drawn up by the Attorney-General’s Department, and submitted to cabinet. Then the draft bill has to be sent to Parliament for its consideration. As we all know, Parliament is currently in recess and will only resume in October 2009. The effect is that unless Parliament is recalled from recess to consider a draft amendment bill, the decision to revert to the 3-year programme cannot take effect before the 2009 academic calendar begins to run, unless Parliament is going to pass a retroactive amendment of Act 778. Then that will open a can of worms.
That is why I am concerned about news reports that although Parliament has not convened to consider a possible amendment of the Act, steps are already being taken to implement a change back to 3 years. If that is true, then it has to be pointed out to the government that this is an illegality which will not stand up in court. No one, not even the government, should take it for granted that Parliament will do as the government pleases, and so once the government decides, that decision can be implemented, in the hope that Parliament will pliantly rubber stamp the government’s decision. Parliament has come under severe and brutal attack in recent months over the circumstances surrounding the approval or determination of what is now popularly known as “Ex Gratia”. I have confidence that MPs require no reminder that they owe us a duty to inquire and debate this matter thoroughly.
In other words, absent the required amendment of Act 778, any implementation of, or preparatory steps to, the 3-year programme amounts to a blatant breach of the law.
In Parliament and Outside Parliament: Enter Mr. Tettey-Enyo
But what is Act 778, and what were the circumstances surrounding its passage into law?
The draft education bill which became Act 778, came up for First Reading in Parliament on 10th November 2008. It was presented by the then Honourable Majority Leader, NPP’s Mr. Osei-Aidooh, on behalf of the then Honourable Minister for Education, Youth and Sports, Professor Dominic Fobih. The Bill was then referred to the Committees on Finance and Education, which were to “look at the document and advise whether it [was] one of an urgent nature.”
Just 4 days later, the Bill came up for Second Reading. This time the Honourable Minister for Education, Youth and Sports, Professor Dominic Fobih was present in Parliament. In moving the motion for the Second Reading of the Bill, he stated that since 1961 when the original Education Act was passed, there had been no other law enforcing all the changes and transformation that had taken place in education. He said that although the 1987 education reforms had effected significant changes to the structure and content of education, it was not backed by law. He conceded that the 2007 reforms introduced by his government did not also have legal support and said that “there is therefore a need for legal backing to support all these changes.”
When the Honourable Minister had moved the motion and the question was proposed, MPP’s Mr Balado Manu (Honourable MP and Chairman of the Committee that took only 3 days to consider the Bill) supported the motion and indeed became the chief shepherd of the Bill as it went through Parliament through Second Reading, Third Reading, Consideration, Second Consideration and Passage, within 4 hours! In his speech in support of the motion, he highlighted the then proposed change of the 3-year secondary education to 4 years. He said that “the second cycle education consists of four years of senior high school education, technical, vocational and business and agricultural programmes of education.” In concluding, Mr Manu stated that the Committee had recommended that Parliament passes the Education Bill subject only to additional clauses and amendments that the Committee had proposed. It is instructive to note that none of the proposed amendments related to the proposed 4-year term for secondary education.
When Mr Manu was done, Mr Tettey-Enyo, the ranking member of the then opposition NDC (and now Minister of Education) rose, in his words, “to contribute to the motion on the floor and to say that the Education Bill is long overdue.” He revealed that the drafting of the Bill had taken almost 10 years to complete and “so it is very necessary that hon. Members of this august House to realise the importance of this Bill.” Mr. Tettey-Enyo then dwelt on what he called “the merits of the Bill as the hon. Chairman of your Committee has already enumerated.” Mr. Tettey-Enyo was effusive in his praise for the Bill and concluded his contribution as follows:
We want to make the system creditable and well planned and well managed to be able to attract the support that we require to bring up our educational system to the levels that we are desiring for the country. With these few words, Mr. Speaker, I call upon hon. Members of his House to support the passage of this important Bill into law.
Dear reader, let us get this right. As noted above, the said Mr. Tettey-Enyo is the current Minister of Education. On 14th November 2008, as the minority’s ranking member of the Education Committee, he had every opportunity to voice his opposition and that of his party to the then proposed increase in the duration of senior secondary education from 3 years to 4 years. That fact of the 4-year duration had been highlighted in the contribution of NPP’s Mr. Manu, the chairman of the Committee. But all Mr Tettey-Enyo did was to praise the Bill, saying that it was “long overdue”, and then encouraging MPs to “support the passage of this important Bill into law.”
However, in a little over two months later, the same Mr. Tettey-Enyo, this time as minister-designate for education, was reported in a Daily Graphic story that was posted on Myjoyonline.com on 26th January 2009 to have “dropped the hint” that one of the first things that the NDC government would do in the educational sector is to abolish the 4-year term of the SHS and revert to the 3-year programme, in fulfilment of a promise in its manifesto. According to him, the 4-year programme had been announced by the NPP administration when it had not put in place the needed infrastructure, syllabi and textbooks to make it work. Although he conceded that the change would require an amendment to the existing law and he is quoted to have said that “what is important is the duration of the system and the new government will go strictly by its manifesto and reverse the decision of the NPP government."
He is further reported to have said the change in the duration from three years to four years was a political decision taken by the NPP, since the Anamoah-Mensah Committee which the NPP had put in place endorsed the three-year duration. "It was, therefore, surprising that the NPP government came out with a White Paper to introduce the four-year secondary system," he is reported to have said.
Clearly, when Mr. Tettey-Enyo was speaking in support of the Education Bill on 14th November 2008, after his Committee had had only 3 days to consider the provisions of the Bill, he presumably knew of the contents of the manifesto of his party, which had been launched just about a month before then. He also presumably knew what the Anamuah-Mensah Committee had recommended, and the conditions contained in those recommendations. He claimed in January 2009 that the NPP had opted for the 4-year scheme in a move that he found “surprising”. Yet he did not state or voice any opposition to the 4-year programme in Parliament. He actually supported the Bill in its entirety! Now he was saying that there was no infrastructure, syllabi and textbooks to support the 4-year programme. Why didn’t Mr. Tettey-Enyo bring these matters out in Parliament, and lead the minority caucus to vote against the Bill? If he was truly surprised that the NPP government introduced the 4-year system by a “white paper”, why was he so silent on this matter on the floor of Parliament?
These are questions that beg for answers from Mr. Tettey-Enyo. If he is going to be the one to steer the proposed amendment bill through Parliament, he is well advised to consider these questions and prepare answers. Right now, he sounds like the character that John Stuart Mill speaks about in the quotation that started this writing.
Mr. J. H. Mensah’s Timely Warnings
If any MP deserved the title “hero” in the deliberations in Parliament on 14th November, that would be NPP’s Mr J. H. Mensah, and to an extent, the harassed NDC’s Mr Inusah Fuseini. I will deal with Mr Fuseini’s unfolding drama and harassment later in this writing. But Mr Mensah did not mince words or pull any punches. He started by describing to Mr Tettey-Enyo’s assertions in support of the Bill, that it should be passed because it had taken 10 years to bring the Bill to Parliament, as “regrettable,” adding that “this is too important a matter to have been brought to this House at the tail end [and] in the middle of a parliamentary and presidential election.” Mr. Mensah was to get even more excoriating when he said as follows:
“I am afraid that the Parliament today cannot do justice to this matter as it deserves to be dealt with. I hope that our successors in the next Parliament – unfortunately I would not be here – would go back to this matter and consider it in great detail because we have said that the production of an efficient and well-educated human capital asset is at the basis of all our national development strategies, and a number of things have not been dealt with sufficiently.”
Mr Mensah was not done. In the face of some considerable heckling by NPP’s Mr Manu on the issue of adequately resourcing education, he said:
“Mr. Speaker, those words are ten for a penny that they should be resourced. Who is to decide? It is this Parliament. What have we decided? After being here for 12 years, I am making a confession mea culpa that we are guilty that is all. We have not addressed the matter. In this report that they have said they should be adequately resources, what does “They should be adequately resourced” mean?”
Mr Mensah was interrupted by NDC’s Mr. Twumasi-Appiah who was ruled out of order when he wanted Mr. Mensah to repeat his mea culpa confession.
When Mr Mensah was allowed to continue, he referred to a publication from GETFund which showed that in 2007, while the number enrolled in the JSS was approximately 255,000, only half of this number made it to the first senior secondary year. He said, “in other words, we are throwing unto the streets a half of all the graduates from our JSS, not knowing what we are doing with them.”
Mr Mensah was interrupted again by Mr Manu who was also ruled out of order. But his concluding words were biting:
Mr. Speaker, I am obeying your instruction to call a halt but I am just leaving this message to the House and to the nation that we have toyed around enough with this matter and that we should get serious, confront the serious facts, the difficult facts and make a real effort to make the educational reform a reality instead of a declaration.
He sat down to “Hear! Hear!”
Lee Ocran’s Contribution
The next significant contributor was NDC’s Mr. Lee Ocran. Let me point out that Mr. Ocran was also the chairman of the NDC’s manifesto committee and was also presumably as well-versed in its contents and declared intention to reverse the 4-year system as Mr. Tettey-Enyo. But hear him:
Mr. Speaker, the Bill is good, the intention is very good but I think we must have a serious look at it so that where there are deficiencies we fix them.
He then elaborated on how to correct what he considered as “deficiencies” thus:
Let us be able to provide the facilities that would make teaching and learning possible. Books, libraries, these days we have computer laboratories and so on, so that when the child comes out from school, he is not that kind of child who cannot pronounce or who cannot slip through one sentence. It is not good, then he better not have been to school.
Mr Ocran concluded his contribution with the following words:
Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity and I hope that those who would be involved in the implementation of this Bill will try to fix things properly so that we have the best coming out of our educational system.
As noted above, one would have expected Mr. Ocran (now ambassador-designate), from his privileged position as chairman of NDC’s manifesto committee, to have at least voiced his party’s opposition to the 4-year programme in the bill. But he rose in Parliament, did nothing of the sort, but praise the bill as “good, the intention is very good.” Although he spoke of deficiencies, which he highlighted, he never mentioned the 4-year programme. Mr. Ocran therefore leaves us with a number of questions, including, whether he really had read the Bill or NDC’s manifesto?
It is worthy of note that NDC’s Mr. Twumasi-Appiah also spoke in support of the motion, which was eventually carried when the question was put. The Bill was then immediately taken to the Consideration Stage by Parliament waiving Standing Order 128(1) that required that at least 48 hours should lapse between the Second Reading and the Consideration Stage.
Inusah Fuseini, the Rookie MP
I think that NDC’s Mr Fuseini was a freshman/rookie/greenhorn MP in 2008. With the wisdom of hindsight, he deserves a hero’s mention because he was really the only MP who said anything that remotely sounded like an opposition to the Bill’s provisions on the duration of schooling. But I find that he allowed himself to be too easily pushed off his arguments by NPP’s Mr. Manu and others. His argument was only presented half-heartedly and, as is worthy of note, did not exactly reflect the NDC’s manifesto position on the matter.
Mr. Fuseini’s first bite was to say that the provision in clause 1 of the Bill (now section 1 of Act 778), which provided for 2 years of kindergarten was “too mandatory” and would prevent the people running kindergartens from promoting or ‘demoting’ children, as the case may be. He advocated a “flexible rendition that allows kindergarten education to be at least two years.” But Mr Fuseini had apparently bitten more than he could chew. The NPP’s Mrs. Akosua Osei-Opare called his suggestion “inappropriate for this purpose,” arguing that there was the need to set a standard, even if some people would be jumped. Prof. Fobih supported Mrs Osei-Opare saying that it was necessary to set indices for determining credentials and that whatever acceleration might occur “we still have the national structure clearly defined and this is what we mean in this Bill.”
But Mr. J. H. Mensah did not appear to be too convinced by the arguments of his colleagues from the NPP. He rose to say that if the word “year” was causing a problem, the words “grade” or “level” may be considered. The NDC’s Mr Twumasi-Appiah also spoke in support of Mr. Fuseini and merely sought to explain further, what Mr Fusieni had said.
However the NPP’s Mr. Manu countered that “That is the norm: out of the norm there can be special cases that cannot be taken into making a law.” When Mr Fuseini rose to speak again, the First Deputy Speaker, who was in the chair, said the freshman MP was “pushing us back” and that if the latter “felt strongly about it” he should consider bringing it up at the Second Consideration stage. The House (both sides) then spent considerable time debating other aspects of the Bill and approving other amendments.
Mr. Fuseini tried very hard to hold his ground. Just when the question had been put and the motion for the reading had been carried, he drew the First Deputy Speaker’s attention to his arguments. With this, Mr. Fuseini moved for the matter to be taken to a Second Consideration. He was seconded by Mr. Tettey-Enyo, who however remained loudly silent during this stage of the debate. Mr Fusieni’s first amendment proposal was to insert the words “not less than two years” into the provision of the Bill on the duration of kindergarten was roundly defeated. But he soldiered on and introduced his second amendment proposal, which was that the words “four years” should be deleted and replaced with the words “not less than three years.” He referred to the Anamuah-Mensah Report, and argued that adopting those words would “offer us an opportunity in future, without necessarily amending the provisions of clause 1(3) to revert to the three years when we are satisfied that the amenities and facilities exist that will allow the course to run in three years.”
Mr Fuseini added that this would reduce the time and expense that might be incurred in future if the matter had to be brought back to the floor of Parliament for an amendment. He urged Parliament to use “the opportunity to make it flexible enough to be able to adjust to the programme in future.”
But this was met with a forceful rebuttal by NPP’s Mr. Manu who wondered what calculations Mr. Fuseini had done “to arrive at the three years that he is talking about? Has he foreseen or does he foresee a situation where conditions in this country would be so much improved, that secondary education can be done in two years? Why is he settling on three years?” Mr Manu added that what existed was three years but that there was research showed that this was not helping student “to progress in the educational ladder.” Mr. Manu found Mr Fuseini’s proposed amendment “unacceptable and... should be treated with the contempt that it deserves.”
NDC’s Mr Ocran rose only to offer a weak defence of Mr. Fuseini. He claimed that “’not less than three years’ means it can be four, five, six and seven depending on the situation.” But this was significant. The chairman of NDC’s Manifesto Committee, which considered the 4-year duration as a near abomination, was willing to consider an amendment, which in his view, could extend the duration to seven years! Mr Ocran ended by saying that “I do not see the need for long English and talk about it.”
NPP’s Mr. Felix Owusu-Adjapong then rose and forcefully argued that there was no need to gamble with “certain things” and that when it comes to education, “we need to be very certain as to what we are trying to do... If in fact, at a certain level of the development of this country, there will be need for us to amend this clause, we will go through the proper procedure. This is not a clause we want to leave with administrators who may be operating this at their whims and caprices; it is a thing we need to be sure of.” He added that MPs “should not abdicate [their] rights to look at things which really are fundamental to the development of this country.” He then asked Mr. Fuseini to “possibly withdraw and we make progress.”
The Hansard does not record whether Mr. Fuseini withdrew his proposed amendment. The document strangely claims that the “question [was] put and amendment agreed to.” However MPs who were present on that day have confirmed to me that the amendment was actually defeated. Then, after a few comments by Mr. Mensah and Prof. Fobih, the Bill was read the third time and passed. President Kufuor only assented to it on 6th January 2009.
I have taken the trouble to walk us through the parliamentary debates because it shows, graphically, what happened in Parliament, leading to the passage of Act 778. Parliament passed this Act with much speed, a situation that Mr. J. H. Mensah was clearly unhappy with. It was as if the Act had to be passed anyway because soon after that, Parliament adjourned to 16th December 2008. It is also critical to note that none of the NDC MPs who spoke on the matter directly opposed the 4-year programme. What Mr. Fuseini tried to do was not in consonance with the NDC Manifesto. All he wanted was “flexibility” that would allow a reversion to the 3-year programme without resorting to parliament. But as explained by Mr. Ocran, Mr. Fuseini’s defeated amendment would have meant that the duration could actually go up to seven years!
From the foregoing, it is obvious that the NDC Manifesto contains an inaccurate representation of the Anamuah-Mensah recommendations. It is obvious to everyone who wants to assess this matter that the conditions that the Anamuah-Mensah Committee said should exist to ground the 3-year programme do not exist. The result is that many Ghanaians, worried by the gutter-to-gutter mentality that is being exhibited by our politicians on the matter of education, are seeking to protect their children in many ways. As I write, many who can afford it, are sending their children to high school in South Africa, the latest education Mecca for the well-to-do in Ghana. Others have simply removed their children off the national JHS/SHS programme and are paying ‘an arm and a leg’ for their wards to write the International O’Level and A’Level, that are being offered by many private schools in Ghana. Others, whose children have remained on the national programme, ensure that the children go to the best primary schools and JHS’, which is a near-certain guarantee that the wards will end up in the Mfantsipims and Wesley Girs’, and subsequently the Universities.
Dear reader, the gutter-to-gutter that the politicians are playing with the future of our children means that we are creating or deepening the concept of a class society, where those who have will use their resources to protect their children from the gutter-to-gutter, and those who do not have (and who constitute the vast majority of us), are left at the mercy of the politicians, just like the sock ball I described earlier in this writing.
I have heard parents whose children are wring the IGSCE say that even if their wards have to do university education in Ghana, the A’Level guarantees that they will enter the University of Ghana at Level 200 and not waste a year at Level 100. That is sad. And from Professor Anamuah-Mensah’s Daily Graphic interview, we are not ready for the 3-year programme.
But are we ready for the 4-year programme? Is that really the answer to the issue confronting senior secondary education in Ghana? If indeed some students can complete the SHS course and pass the relevant exams within 3 years, what is the justification for holding them back and compelling them to spend an extra year in the SHS?
I am of the firm belief that the progress of a student in school should depend on the student’s own ability and not the lack of ability of another student; this is what the mandatory 4-year programme appears to me to suggest. By passing law that requires a mandatory school duration, we are seeking to impose a kibbutz-like, one-size-fits-all education scheme that is bound to fail. Indeed, as the current wording of Act 778 stands, it would be illegal for a school to put a brilliant student on a fast track or even cause a student to be repeated in class on account of poor performance. Section 1(3) says “The second cycle level of education shall consist of four years of senior high school.” It does not permit any equivocation or change. It does not reserve any right in the schools to do otherwise. Thus a strict application of this provision would mean that a parent can head to court for an order that the decision by a school that that parent’s child should repeat a year (even on account of proven poor performance) is illegal. It is my respectful view that any statute that casts the duration of any educational system in stone, as section 1(2) & (3) of act 778 seeks to do, is at least retrogressive and at worst not in tune with modern educational methods.
A similar argument applies to the mandatory 3-year programme that the NDC is proposing now. If it is indeed the case that majority of the student cannot complete the syllabi successfully, so as to make them well-grounded for university education, why are we rushing to revert to this programme?
Dear reader, the answer to the current problem does not lie in a debate over three years as against four years. That is gutter-to-gutter politics! The answer should lie in determining what is in the best interest of each student, based on his/her ability. We aim at law that puts this up at the key matter for consideration. It should be possible for a school’s authorities, a student’s parents and the student himself/herself to sit, discuss and implement what is in the best interest of that student. It might be that the student will be able to complete the course in, say, two years. However, this tripartite group might be able to agree that with respect to the student’s social development, he/she may not be ready for life in the university, and might have to spend an extra year or more in school, just to “grow up”. This tripartite does not need the strictures and long-arm interventions of MPs and the law to determine and impose what is in the best interest of the child.
This is system is not new. It is in play in many of the private schools in Ghana. And it is working well. We do not need to re-invent the wheel. By all means let us provide the standard duration for every level of education in Ghana. But let the statute provide express wording that vests considerable discretion in the actual implementing parties so that they can adjust this as they deem fit, on a case-by-case basis. I foresee that majority of students will go through the normal duration. But the law must recognise special circumstances that will require change on the basis of either proven ability or the proven inability of the student.
That is why we should not rush to implement the 3-year system before Parliament has debated it. This is because I fully expect that in the upcoming debate, our MPs will note and remember that the issue is not one of political jousting over who has a better idea, or who is tinkering with whose original idea, or who needs to implement a campaign promise based on a misreading of the Anamuah-Mensah recommendation. That is pointless political arrogance and self-importance that we do not need. Our children do not need to be reduced to the level of the sock ball that is kicked around by one Parliament, and is discarded by the next Parliament because there is a new game up. This is not a Gutter-to-Gutter game. This involves the very lives of our children, our future. We require sober minds that are willing, prepared and able to work through this and to bring out what is best for our country and its future.
Maybe, just maybe, Mr. Fuseini was really up to something. He probably did not articulate his position very well and allowed himself to be bullied off his message. Maybe he needed more time to construct his thoughts and that the rather supersonic speed with which the Act was passed deprived him of this opportunity. We need to revisit and resolve this matter to the best of our abilities, at least for the time being. If sometime in the future, we need to address this again, we must and we will. But we surely do not need the partisan pallour that this is taking. This is something that requires serious multi-partisan and non-partisan effort. Let it not be said that the only times that we see multi-partisanship in our Parliament is when the matter at stake has to do with their terms and conditions of service. Sorry, I had to go there.
We have another chance to bite at this grape; not cherry. I pray that we take a good bite at a ripe grape, so that it cannot be said that “the fathers ate the sour grapes, and the children’s teeth were set on edge.”