Ghana: Access To Secondary Education, A Challenge

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Apr 4 13:11:12 UTC 2007

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

 Access To Secondary Education, A Challenge

President J.A. Kufuor has noted that access to quality junior and senior
secondary school education remains a major challenge to many sub-Saharan
African countries. He said expanding access to quality secondary education
and training was, however, indispensable in creating a strong foundation
for sustained economic and social development. President Kufuor said this
when he delivered the keynote address at the opening of the third Regional
Conference on Secondary Education Training in Africa (SEIA) in Accra
yesterday. The three-day conference, which is being attended by 38 African
Ministers of Education and more than 200 other stakeholders, will discuss
the challenges facing secondary education in order to chart the way

President Kufuor said without an efficient, credible and sustainable
educational system which gave due cognisance to secondary education, the
objective of human resource development to make sub-Saharan Africa
competitive in todays globalised economy would remain an illusion. Under
Ghanas educational reforms, he said, the junior high school (JHS)  system
would lay emphasis on general education where students would be exposed to
a wide range of subjects and skills to move into a diversified system of
senior high school (SHS) system offering training options in vocational,
technical, agriculture and general education. President Kufuor said in
spite of constraints, through the regular budgetary allocations,
disbursement from the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) and other
sources, it was the governments policy to relieve parents of the
responsibility of fee payment for their childrens education from age four
or kindergarten through to age 15 when they were expected to complete JHS.

Owing to constraints of the economy, the government is unable to extend
the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) to SHS. But district
assemblies are being encouraged to partner parental support by providing
bursaries for deserving students, the President said. The Minister of
Education, Science and Sports, Papa Owusu-Ankomah, said under the
educational reforms, the teacher was central to the countrys education.
Without the commitment, dedication and skills of teachers, he said, no
educational measure can succeed, saying that the government was keenly
aware of that and had taken measures in the reforms to address their
concerns by making provisions to upgrade teachers education.

He said there was no doubt that social and economic development in Africa
depended mostly on the continents ability to mobilise, educate and train
the youth for the challenges of the 21st century, adding that technical
and vocational education was critical to the reforms. Papa Owusu-Ankomah
said technical institutions would be built in all the regions and that
school-based syllabi would be restructured to provide the proper
foundation for entry into such institutions. Technical and Vocational
Education Training will liaise with industry, both to design the
curriculum and produce the skilled personnel needed to fuel our economy,
as it has done for the Asian Tigers such as Singapore, South Korea and
Malaysia, he said.

A director at UNESCO, Ms Ann-Theresa Jetta, called on African governments
not to focus on only the number of students who would access secondary
education but also the curriculum and delivery of quality education which
would lead to the total development of the continent. That, she said, was
to ensure that the continents educational system did not produce students
for other markets but those who would develop the African continent. Ms
Jetta noted that African countries continued to measure their achievements
against models which did not necessarily solve their problems, adding that
UNESCO was poised to help African countries to take a holistic approach to
respond to the needs of the continent.

She said one of the greatest difficulties facing the African continent was
to make students study in a language which was foreign. We are made to
study in a language that is foreign, a language which seems to imprison
our young kids and from there they begin to drop out, they begin to
under-achieve and, therefore, drop out of a system which seems not to be
so responsive, she said. According to her, the language policy was an
issue, adding that it was not sufficient to import models without looking
at the African context.

Ms Jetta urged African countries to deal with the language issue. By
helping the children to study in their mother language, they begin to feel
more comfortable in school. Once they can study and read in their own
mother language, the transition to other languages will be very fast, she

Story by Nehemia Owusu Achiaw
& Emmanuel Bonney

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