The struggle for a better world will surely be won or lost in the public schools; the reason being that that is where we find the bulk of every nation’s children and youth every school day.
For that reason, the National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (NCPTAs) in Ghana needs to be commended for the commitment to support the senior high schools in the country.
The theme for their two-day deliberations - “Free Senior High School: The Role of Parents in the Sustainable Implementation of the Policy” (at Presec Boys Senior High School, Accra, October 24 to 25, 2018) - was most appropriate for the occasion.
If we cannot heed the glorious call to all stakeholders to save the children, what in God’s firmament will one ever respond to?
In my keynote address, I recalled when I was in class three, in 1957 after Ghana’s independence, the fruitless attempts of teachers at St Peter’s Primary (Roman Hill, Kumasi) to persuade parents to put shoes on their children’s feet.
Some parents refused, reacting that they themselves never had shoes on their feet growing up, and that the children must suffer that same depravity in order to learn sense. Unfortunately in a vicious loop, those now deprived inflicted the same ordeal on their own kids.
In a way, many parents have become so accustomed to their aloofness that the sight of their children being raised in avoidable depravity and many dropping out of school in large numbers have produced no effect whatsoever on them though a good number glorify themselves in churches and mosques every single week.
Apathy and blessings do not mix; they are strange bedfellows indeed!
In the attempt to help all schools and the children, all stakeholders need to collaborate and synchronise energies.
In the words of Ken Robinson, “The world is changing faster than ever … Our best hope for the future is to develop [our] human capacity to meet a new era of human existence … We need to create environments in our schools [where] every person is inspired to grow creatively.”
Hygienic and safety concerns
We tend to allude to the plight of schools in the rural areas, but visit the public schools in the urban capitals (Accra, Takoradi, Kumasi, Tamale, etc.) and they will make any sensitive adult weep.
In a public school that I visited recently in Kumasi, the toilet had been shut down and abandoned completely from lack of maintenance and cleaning. It’s anyone’s unholy guess how the children fared in response to nature’s call.
And to think parents habitually deposit their children there every school day!
And imagine the frustration, especially of a schoolgirl in her menstrual period who has to attend to her hygienic needs, where on earth will she go to sort herself out?
Once, a curious parent in Accra sought my view about which school to enrol a child from a list of choices.
My recommendation was a simple one. I said, “Go to each of the schools you’ve listed: observe the playing grounds, the classrooms, toilet facilities and then make an informed choice.
Ask yourself, will this environment foster the impressionable years in my child’s psychological and physical growth? Is this the place a discerning parent will place a child for the days on end”?
I cautioned, “If the children play in dust, consider the danger on the child’s lungs and overall respiratory system over the number of years they’d inhale the dust.
“Why dump the child there if the environment will not protect the child from physical harm and injuries?
“Next, go to the toilets. If they are non-existent or available but unclean, smelly, infested with worms, with no toilet paper or water to wash hands, consider the dreadful diseases the child is likely to contract and bring home to you yourself and the rest of the family.”
Digital literacy across the board
In my speech, I noted the irony of analogue teachers in the digital age. I’m often reminded of the importance of being digitally literate in the 21st century, as confirmed by Jemila Abdulai.
She posted the benefits on her Facebook page as follows:“I started using computers at four years, thanks to early exposure and access to technology through my dad who is an IT specialist.
Since then, I have learned to navigate and understand the Internet and digital tools, and I’ve gone to create Circumspecte – an 11-year blog turned digital platform and company.
“My life has literally changed due to technology.
But the fact remains that without education, hardware and software, internet access, curiosity and confidence, technology wouldn’t have become a tool for empowerment, business and social change for me.
If my first digital experience hadn’t been positive – I might have not made it this far.
I like to call the first experience “first time digital”- and it’s what we are focused on at Circumspecte with our digital skills and social media training.
“About 50 per cent of our women are less likely than men to be online, and 30 to -50 per cent are less likely to use the internet for economic and political empowerment.
As a woman with internet access, you have an opportunity many others do not.”
The mind is a terrible thing to waste and the nation must rise up as one to help every kid in this nation succeed, and in the process elevate the whole country through a productive human capital.
— The author is a trainer of teachers, leadership coach and quality education advocate