Opinion

TALKING DRUM: Exams on chalkboard, new school uniform; ‘Awurade b3 gye steer no!’

I completed Ghana Institute of Journalism in 2016, receiving an award of Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. Three solid years after my completion, I have seen a number of my classmates and schoolmates getting their masters done. That’s impressive, I tell myself.

At times, I feel I should get my masters done, too. So, I have since applied to a number of foreign universities, got admissions but could not take them up because of lack of funds/scholarship. A very close friend of mine, Edward Balami, on ‘academic asylum’ in the UK, keeps sending me links to schools to apply, too. My desire sometimes to climb high the academic ladder, however, takes a downward turn like a pregnant woman’s breasts.

Frankly, it is not the lack of scholarship that kills my interest. After all, if I mean to even study here in Ghana, by hustling through the system, I can foot my bills. The reason rather stems from the thought pattern and attitude of some of our so-called leaders.

These supposed leaders, who have attended all the big universities in the world, end up with attitudes that wreck our nation. You ask yourself if those of us with a mere first degree will be able to offer constructive inputs if these leaders with ‘big’ certificates barely make any sense. Probably, these certificates are only to fatten their salaries.

Education must better the lives of the masses; anything short of this is robbery.

The other day, we heard that some basic schools across the country had their end of term examination questions written on chalkboards. Then, pictures went viral on social media in which teachers wrote questions to even cover the bare walls. I was shocked. “Are we serious!?” I quizzed.

Again to my surprise, I read a story on Starrfm.com.gh that almost quenched the flickering hope I have for our country.

“Why the dramatization? Is it because teachers were getting some money from what was being paid earlier and now they don’t get? So they are angry? Writing on the board is not a new phenomenon, how did they write their class test. If that is the only way the poor can get education, then so be it,” the Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Education, Ekow Vincent Assafuah, was reported to have said.

Clearly, when you have such people at the helm of affairs, you realize that Chinua Achebe couldn’t have said it better? things are, indeed, falling apart! So, Vincent Assafuah vested with power as that of a tethered he-goat could speak this trash to teachers? He could ask teachers ‘how they wrote their class test’ when he knows that the world has moved on? Lord, have mercy!

As a trained teacher myself, we were taught at the teacher training college to ‘improvise’ when the need be. Nonetheless, it is totally balderdash to improvise in the classroom when there is a clear means of adequately getting the teacher resourced. Vincent Assafuah had told Starrfm.com.gh that it was the capitation grant that delayed? a stupid answer he gave.

If government knew the capitation grant would delay, why did it give an order to some heads of our basic schools not to take money from parents?

“It [not to take printing fee from parents] was a warning so we went according to what they said and we started examinations yesterday and we wrote on the chalkboard, according to their directive,” a teacher told Citinewsroom.com.

Now, the question is, why do you deliberately reject parents’ money as payment for printing fees when you know you cannot foot the bill of printing for the pupils? Our wobbling government does not think parents must be able to assist her give their children better education? Who does that?

When we thought that, perhaps, the national shame – justified by the Ministry of Education – would eventually find a resting place so we cool down our tempers, another ‘wahala’ popped up. They say it was the revision of the basic school curriculum. That’s fine, but what is contained in it?

When President Akufo Addo said at the State of the Nation Address to Parliament in February 2019 that the new curriculum will focus on making the “Ghanaian child confident, innovative, creative-thinking, digitally-literate, well-rounded and a patriotic citizen”, I said that will be marvelous. Today, however, if what we know as the key features of the new curriculum remain the same, then I would humbly withdraw my word.

I read the key features would be to reduce the number of learning areas from seven (7) to four (4) at the kindergarten, greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy at the Lower and Upper Primary and history of Ghana which was going to be compulsory for each child from Primary one to Primary six among others.

So, basically, nothing substantial was introduced. We used to learn history in school, they took it away and now it is back. As for literacy and numeracy, we have learnt them since Adam! Touting this so-called new curriculum, I expected we would be teaching our kids something that will make them smart, independent and forward-thinking so they could compete with the outside world.

I, personally, would have wished we introduced intensive ICT training, agriculture, financial intelligence and life skills [as we had in the days of old]. This, then, we could add the history of Ghana to.

You travel to Eastern, Bono, Ahafo, Bono East and Northern Regions and probably the whole of Ghana and there are vast lands. But, who is farming such? The school trains us to cap files under our armpits in search of jobs while we import even tomatoes from Burkina Faso. Did you ever have a school garden? Did that not inspire you to see farming as a decent occupation? If we had state farms in every region, would we not have had all the youth loitering about aimlessly at Kwame Nkrumah Circle accepting to be farmhands? Do we forget that he who feeds you controls you?

A week or so ago, I listened to a powerful documentary on BBC Radio. Journalist Mariko Oi went to both Singapore and Japan where robots serve as teachers in the classroom and caretaker-assistants of the elderly, respectively.

Again in Singapore, Ms Oi spoke to the Chief Executive Officer of Duck Learning, Hozefa Aziz, who teaches children as young as six and seven years old coding in school.

“We are in an era now where children do not know the kind of job they will be working in 10 years from now. So, we want to equip them with the skills that are necessary for them in the future,” said Aziz to Oi.

Do we sincerely believe that 25 years from now our students of the new curriculum could match their counterparts in Singapore and elsewhere ‘boot-for-boot’? Why are we letting our children behind in the era of technology? I only thought we would learn from China as it has set 32 years ahead to vigorously train to win the World Cup in 2050. What is Ghana’s biggest goal to achieve?

All these rants aside, the last straw that broke the camel’s back was the introduction of the new school uniform? a highly bogus and misplaced priority of an intoxicated government. When I told you that teachers recently wrote on the chalkboard the end of term examinations questions, Ghana Education Service [GES] ordered head teachers not to take printing fees from parents. In a sharp contrast, however, the same GES foolishly says parents will be paying for the new school uniform for their wards. This can only happen in Africa, precisely Ghana!

And, the reason for the new school uniform is just crazy. That: “The idea is for them [JHS pupils, wearing the new uniform] to start seeing themselves as secondary school students; they are in lower secondary [now],” said the Director-General of GES, Prof Kwasi Opoku Amankwa.

I never knew the people referred to in Galatians 3, who were asked ‘who hath bewitched you,’ were Ghanaians until I started paying attention to the happenings at the Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service.

As 2pac once said, ‘I see no changes!’ Some educated folks in our country implementing unpalatable policies deserve to have their certificates taken from them. They are more dangerous than armed robbers.

The writer is a broadcast journalist with Media General [TV3/3FM]. Views expressed herein are solely his, and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organisation whatsoever.
Email: nehusthan@yahoo.com
Twitter: @aniwaba

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