Year in Review: Education sector challenging
The education sector is one area that is critical to the development of every country. This is because it is the sector that produces the human resource that would steer the affairs of the development of the country.
Indeed, the failure of the sector to jell, can, therefore, have a negative impact on its human resources. It is in view of this that the citizenry pays critical attention to sector so it delivers and meets the expectations of the people.
In Ghana, the sector was quite eventful in the year 2022, as it witnessed a series of activities in and outside the classrooms.
The activities included the demands for better conditions of service by teachers, the performance of students, the placement of Basic Education Certificate Examination candidates into second cycle schools, the inclusion of technical vocational education and training (TVET) under the free senior high school programme, Ghana Accountability for Learning Outcomes Project (GALOP), feeding of students at the first and second cycle level, among other things.
The year 2022 started with the country beginning the academic year for all the educational levels for the second successive year in January.
This was because it is yet to recover fully from the nine-month closure of schools occasioned by the outbreak of the COVID-19 on the sector which compelled the government to announce a new schedule for reopening with the academic year beginning in January.
Under the previous arrangement, the academic year started in September/October and ended in June/July the following year.
However, following the release of the academic calendar, with basic schools resuming on January 18 and SHS opening their gates to students on February 7, 2022, the issue of the introduction of the semester system at both the first and second cycle level popped up.
This was received with public outcry and protests by stakeholders in education and they included the teachers, parents and civil society organisations.
For instance, they just could not imagine that kindergarten pupils would go to school from January 18, 2022 to June 9, 2022 with a midsemester break from April 12 to 18, as was stated, among other things on the calendar.
The stakeholders who thought that implementing such a calendar would be too much for pupils at the basic educational level, therefore, called for a reversal to the trimester system.
The Ministry of Education subsequently heeded to the protest of the stakeholders and reinstated the trimester educational calendar for basic schools (kindergarten, primary and junior high school JHS).
The ministry explained that the reversal from the proposed semester calendar was a result of further consultations on the issue, following teacher unions and public outcry over the decision to introduce the semester system at the basic level.
A statement signed by the Press Secretary to the Minister of Education, Felix Baidoo, stated that after further consultations on the issue, the Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, directed that the calendar for kindergarten to junior high school for the academic year be reverted to the trimester system.
On March 26, 2022, the Ghana Education Service released the computerised placement for persons who sat for the 2021 Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) after the results of the examination were released on February 28, 2022.
The Ministry of Education also announced that the free technical and vocational education and training (TVET) initiative introduced by the government had been operationalised for the 2022 academic year.
Consequently, it said all qualified BECE candidates who chose to pursue TVET at any government-approved senior high school (SHS), senior high technical school (SHTS) or any TVET institution were going to enjoy all the benefits of the free SHS initiative.
It said 186 TVET institutions, fairly and strategically located across the country, were ready to run the free TVET system up to the Certificate II level.
A total of 571,892 candidates wrote the 2021/2022 BECE, after which 555,353 candidates qualified to pursue further education at the second-cycle level.
The educational sector also saw a series of strike actions by the various unions. They included the three pre-tertiary teacher unions comprising the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Coalition of Concerned Teachers-Ghana (CCT-GH) and the Teachers and Educational Workers unions (TEWU).
The others at the tertiary level included the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG), Technical University Teachers' Association of Ghana (TUTAG) and Colleges of Education Teachers Association of Ghana (CETAG).
One of the longest strikes was by UTAG which directed its members to withdraw teaching and related activities with effect from Monday, January 10, 2022, until further notice.
According to UTAG, the strike action was in response to “the worsening Conditions of Service (CoS) of the university teacher and the failure of the employer in addressing the plight of UTAG members within the agreed timelines.”
Students of public universities later heaved a temporary sigh of relief as the nearly five-week strike by the UTAG was put on hold by an Accra High Court.
The Labour Division of the Accra High Court put an injunction on the strike after it upheld an interlocutory application by the National Labour Commission (NLC).
Per the decision of the court presided over by Justice Frank Aboadwe Rockson, UTAG was to suspend its strike immediately and go back to the lecture halls.
UTAG and the three other unions - declared a strike action from Monday, October 17, 2022, over what they said was a "unilateral" variation of their agreed conditions of service.
The others were the Tertiary Education Workers Union of Ghana (TEWU-GH), Senior Staff Association of the University of Ghana (SSA-UoG) and Ghana Association of University Administrators (GAUA).
The conditions of service being referred to are in relation to fuel, vehicle maintenance and off-campus allowances.
"As a result of this development, we write to communicate that the intended strike action of all Labour Unions in the public universities in Ghana is to commence from Monday, October 17, 2022, as the employer has, once again, failed to adhere to the directive of the NLC", a statement signed by leaders of the four unions released on October 16, 2022, said.