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Parents thronged the GES Solution Centre yesterday
Parents thronged the GES Solution Centre yesterday

Education Minister justifies SHS 1 reopening date in Parliament

Parliament on Monday failed to convince the Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, to reconsider rescheduling the reopening date for first-year students of senior high schools (SHSs) to January next year.

After a seven-minute speech and justification on the date by the minister, Parliament had no choice but to succumb.

The Speaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, said in his conclusion remarks after about an hour’s debate on the floor that more than 96 per cent of students had already reported to school, hence it would be unwise to ask them to return home.

Rather, he suggested that a seamless procedure would be adopted in subsequent years to address the issue.

The Speaker noted that until the minister's appearance, most of the submissions by MPs were based on assumptions.

Dr Adutwum said the decision was part of efforts by the Ghana Education Service (GES) to regain the Pre-COVID-19 academic calendar.

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The minister explained further that the first-year students were given more than a month’s notice to report on December 4.

He stressed that the decision to fix the reopening date on December 4 followed many months of stakeholder engagements, including those with teacher unions.

Giving details, the minister said the management of GES released the 2023/24 academic calendar on October 24 and subsequently published it in the Daily Graphic on November 1, 2024.

That publication, he said, stipulated the reporting date of the first-year students as December 4.

Dr Adutwum recalled that last year, placement was done on February 15, and within five days, students were asked to report.

However, this year’s placement was released on November 28, while students were asked to report on December 4, which is six days of preparation.

The minister said the new initiative had made it more convenient for students and parents to prepare for school.

Placement

As at the time of placement, 477,772 candidates, representing 81.56 per cent of students who qualified for placement were automatically placed.

That was an improvement on last year's 372,780 candidates, representing 69.24 per cent.

Per the figures, less than nine per cent have to go on the portal and look for schools.

"It cannot, therefore, be said that a lot of students are yet to be placed," the minister told Parliament.

He said for the first time, the ministry, with its relevant agencies and stakeholders, developed a national harmonised prospectus for SHS and TVET students and same was published in the Daily Graphic on November 15, 2023.

The purpose was to give parents ample time to buy the prospectus items and get their children ready for school by December 4.

Teacher fatigue

Responding to the alleged teacher fatigue as a result of the double-track system, the minister said since the introduction of the double-track, majority of teachers had been at post only when their track was in session.

"It cannot, therefore, be true that teachers have never had any rest since the double-track was introduced," he added.

Meanwhile, parents and their children stormed the Senior High School Placement National Resolution Centre at the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) Hall in Accra yesterday to seek immediate help in connection with this year’s SHS placement exercise, reports Emmanuel Bonney.

Their concerns included self-placement, change of school, change of status from day to boarding and vice-versa, and change of programme.

At the crowded centre, officers from the Free Senior High School (SHS) Secretariat were deployed to attend to parents and guardians and address their issues amicably.

There was also a heavy police presence to ensure peace and order during the exercise.

Personnel

As part of their itinerary, personnel from the Free SHS Secretariat took turns to instruct parents and their children as to what to do to get their issues resolved.

For instance, those who wanted change of school were asked to choose three schools and write down their telephone numbers, among other instructions.

During a visit to the centre yesterday, some parents, accompanied by their children, could be seen trooping in and out of the packed auditorium.

Others were also seen carrying brown envelopes containing their placement and Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) result slips or flipping through the pages of the register containing the list of SHS and TIs in the country.    

The documents were made available to the parents by officers at the secretariat to assist parents in the selection process.

Forster Dadson, who was seen busily writing the names of schools on an A4 sheet, told the Daily Graphic that he had come to the centre to change the school his brother had been placed in.

He said his brother lived in the Volta Region but had been placed at the Presbyterian Senior High School, Osu, adding that there was no way his brother could attend a day school other than his native region.

“At least, we want a school in the Volta Region.

My brother cannot come all the way from that region to Accra,” he said.

A mother, Millicent Abakah, who was seen in the company of her twins, said the two children had aggregates 15 and 17 respectively, but were placed in Komenda SHS. 

Change

She said she was at the centre to get their school changed to Swedru SHS or Ghana National SHS.

Roy Mends, a candidate who was with his father, said he had come to the centre for a change of school.

He said although he preferred Benkum SHS, he was placed in Presbyterian SHS, Teshie.

Another parent, Kwesi Jehu-Appiah, said he was seeking a change of school because his son was placed in Amasaman Senior High Technical School but he wanted Accra Technical Training Centre (ATTC).

The Deputy Coordinator of the Free SHS Secretariat, Nana Afrah Sika Mensah, urged parents and their children to be patient and calm since their issues would be addressed.

As of last Thursday, he said the centre had almost 3,500 issues that were taken to the solution centre for redress and that “we have sent them to the placement centre for the hardworking team over there to handle them.”

“So I would urge all parents that if you brought your issue to the solution centre and you have not been called, kindly go to the internet café, print your form out and see if the changes have been effected,” she said.

Calm down

She said if they checked and their issue had not been addressed, they should calm down since the issues were a lot and that the secretariat was working on them.

“We would make sure that all issues would be resolved for them,” she emphasised.

Ms Mensah said the issue was not about the self-placement since the portal was available for everyone to access and that there were a lot of schools to choose from.

That notwithstanding, she said they could go to the centre if they did not want to go to the internet café and all they needed to do was to write four schools that they wanted, provided that they had space in those institutions and “we would look at it and effect changes for you”.

“So far, the challenges that are coming in are those who have not got placement at all and those who want to change programmes, as well as change status from day to boarding.

These are the few challenges we’ve encountered here so far,” she said.

Reporting

Ms Mensah said although yesterday was the reporting day, it did not mean that serious academic work was going to start right away and that the whole week would be for registration and orientation after which the students would break for Christmas and return in January, 2014, when serious academic work would start.

In a related development, Shirley Asiedu-Addo and Francisca Eshun report that parents and their children trooped to schools in the Cape Coast Metropolis to register to begin their SHS education.

However, the day witnessed fewer numbers compared to previous years.

Some parents said that might be because of the clause from the GES that reporting on the first day was not compulsory.

The Headmaster of Ghana National College, Joseph Ato Sarpong, said school officials started the admission registration last Thursday to Sunday.

He added that out of about 1,000 students expected, about 185 students had been registered.

He said they included seven students who were registered for Business, 41 for Home Economics, 25 for Visual Arts, 44 for General Arts, and 69 for General Science.

He explained that the system had been slow because normally when students gained admission, they came to the school for early registration.

The registration process went on smoothly at Academy of Christ the King, Holy Child School, University Practice Senior High School, Edinaman Senior High and Mfantsipim School.

The heads of the schools visited said they expected more students to arrive by the close of the week.

One of the headmasters who pleaded anonymity complained that the school had not received funds for perishable foodstuff for feeding for the Form One students and urged the government to ensure they were released promptly.

A parent, Rebecca Williams from Kasoa, whose child was admitted to Adisadel College, told the Daily Graphic that she did not have any problem with the reporting date since she had already prepared for the school since the BECE results were released.

"So far, so good; the process has been smooth without any challenges, she added.

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