Schools Resume – The Demise of Quality Public Education?

The year is 2030. Ghana is at the 84th UN General Assembly and the discussion about quality education is underway. One delegate stands to address the delegation on the impact of COVID-19 in the past decade and how their country used the pandemic as an impetus to reinvent its educational system and built better structures for teaching and learning

Another delegate talks about how they have developed reforms that support all teachers, prioritize learners, and involve parents. I want to believe the Ghanaian delegate talks about how we have unearthed and fixed the inequalities in the foundation of our educational system. Or how we restructured our curriculum to train learners to be design thinkers. 

Inclusive, goodquality education is a foundation for dynamic and equitable societies.

Desmond Tutu

Ghana, like other 192 countries, has adopted the  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The fourth Sustainable Development Goal is quality education and Ghana is expected to achieve that by 2030. 2030? Really?

Public schools resumed on the 18th of January after about eleven months of its closure. The various stakeholders have carefully put in place measures to avert the spread of COVID- 19 and students have been advised to adhere to preventive directives strictly. So that takes care of protecting students and teachers theoretically.

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Let’s get pragmatic. With all due respect, a highfalutin speech doesn’t dismiss the questions about the quality of education expected to be delivered during this period. I can’t help but wonder what stakeholders have done during the past eleven months and the measures they have put in place to ensure effective learning. Well, besides fumigating schools.

In a recent television report about student’s adherence to preventive protocols, it also revealed the debilitating nature of infrastructure in public schools. I can’t help but wonder what stakeholders could have done in the past several months. I understand the pandemic brought about a nationwide cataclysm and the changes have been difficult for everyone.

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The abrupt shift to online learning rocked the Ghanaian educational sector. Private schools were able to manage the transition. However, public schools were left in disarray. The various stakeholders should have ensured the smooth transition to online learning but couldn’t because we lack the infrastructure to execute such a scalable change.

Ghana boasts of being a regional leader in the delivery of Education for All, reaching the education MDGs well ahead of time. In 2016, the net enrolment ratio reached 92% at the Primary level, and 50% at the JHS level. Gender parity has been achieved at the kindergarten, primary, and JHS levels. This milestone is impressive and I commend the government for its effort to eliminate illiteracy.

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Quality Education is imperative for the development of every nation. Education reduces inequalities, can break the cycle of poverty, foster tolerance, reach gender equality, and empower people to live more healthy lives and attain more productive livelihoods. Education is both a goal in itself and a means for attaining all the other SDGs. It is not only an integral part of sustainable development but also a key enabler for it.

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Are Ghanian stakeholders delivering quality education in public schools? Teachers are doing their best with what they have. What about the other stakeholders involved in the hierarchy? Many students in Ghana do not benefit from a quality education, and girls are disproportionately disadvantaged, especially during the transition to senior secondary education.

Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.

John F. Kennedy

We need to coordinate efforts and make stakeholders responsible. A decade would pass swiftly and we should have altered our minds about the quality of education we deliver. Ghana has a long way to go but it’s not too late to make the necessary, significant changes. In subsequent posts, I’d share some ways we should rethink our educational system.

COVID- 19 has brought a lot of challenges to our country and I believe the demise of the quality of our educational system shouldn’t be one.

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