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SHS Reforms – The Missing Link: Schools’ Characters, Identities, Histories, Traditions and Heritage

BY: Magnus RexDanquah

ONE critical aspect of the educational reforms with regards to the Senior High Schools, which hasn’t received due attention primarily because it is taken for granted by policy-makers, has been the unique role of Schools’ histories, identities, traditions and heritage – key points to mold the characters of the students for life.

I have over the past so many years of my life been fascinated by the term “NO WONDER” for good reason, especially for our traditionalists, when one behaves in a certain way, they will ask which family house you come from and then they will pronounce the judgement – NO WONDER. This is because they do not expect any less from a descendent of such a family.

The reverse is also true for the terminology - ‘black sheep’, a person who causes shame or embarrassment because of deviation from the accepted standards of his or her group; or when we don’t meet the expectations of the standards, characterization of a people especially descendants or graduates of an institution. This is akin to when a person behaves outside the norms of a society or group of people defined by a school, such as old boys and girls.

When the duration of the senior high or secondary school education was five (5) years for Ordinary Level with two (2) more for the Advanced Level, making a total of seven (7) years before one entered the university, the 5 or 7 years provided the student the unique and full opportunity to imbibe, soak in, absorb, receive into the mind as knowledge or ideas, study or admire selected seniors as role models for life. These seniors / old boys and girls, who have entered various universities to pursue selected courses / professions visit regularly to tell tales of life on campuses to inspire the young ones to fill the void that parents or siblings would have played at homes.

The longer durations also provided students with an abundance of reading more books at the School libraries, join clubs, associations or societies like Drama / Chess / Reading / Creative Writers / Music / Debating / Boxing / GUNSA / Pen Pals / Be Kind To Animals / Voluntary Work Camp and Task Force to the extent that a lot of the things that have given me fame and international recognitions have all come from these pursuits. I was the Football Coach for my class as well as the Editor of class newspaper, ‘THE LIGHTNING’ with late mate, Fred Anie of blessed memory, the cartoonist.

All these clubs, societies and associations, aside of our participating in the normal sports and games on regular basis through Inter-Class and Inter-Dormitories – all these contributed towards molding the character and attitudes of the students of various dispensations.

On top of all these, were the regular visits by various past old students (MOBA) engaging the students to explain courses on offer at the various universities, including foreign institutions in the USA or UK primarily, teaching how students how to pass specifically the two most important tests then, the TOEFFL (Test Of English as Foreign Language) and the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test).

What we are faced with now, coupled with the new emerging challenges from the COVID – 19 pandemic, is a whole new CUL-DE-SAC in our educational system, lacking something that nobody seems to be able to place fingers on to address and yet it is continuing to take something of intrinsic value from everything.

It is not for nothing that old boys of SHS have continued to exercise or show emotions attachments to their former schools even far more than the tertiary institutions, except that we are yet as a people and a nation to design and institute or mainstream these to the supreme interests of the students, for as long as they continue to be the proponents of the brand of their schools.

I know that the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Ghana Education Service (GES) are still grappling with the issues of how to accommodate the Parents-Teacher Associations (PTA) as rightful partners in the development of their children as students of the SHSs, more towards motivating the teachers to perform over and above the normal.

I, definitely agree that there is still room for development in the PTA – SHS management systems but I am inclined to believe and think that the Old Students Associations should now also be invited to the table in order to streamline this aspect too. Sometimes, I don’t appreciate the disregard shown school administrations by powerful who go to the extreme of bullying heads of these institutions into what they perceive as solutions to problems at their alma mater in the provision of infrastructure.

No educational institutions belong to any old students associations, it is only courtesies that are extended to them as partners and why they are given seats on the schools’ board of governors. It is for this reason that as the MOE and the GES have given some concessions to the PTAs, same could be extended to them too into the future to enable them leverage their support appropriately.

Indeed, it is exploits of the old students that defines more the market value, character attributes, the definitions of the type of brand identities, the history, traditions and heritages of each SHS, especially set against the limitations of number of years now spent at the schools.

Without doubt, these are very important issues worthy of attention of all parties and I will urge the GES to take the initiative to call for a conference to consider this aspect of the educational reforms.

By Magnus RexDanquah, Former Member, Mfantsipim School Board of Governors / Mfantsipim Foundation, Land Economist, SportBusiness Consultant, Bid Architect & Manager for CAN 2008 and 13th African Games Ghana 2023 and an Author.