Suspend SHS double intake - Education Coalition

BY: Dominic Moses Awiah
Mr Bright Appiah (middle) addressing the media in Accra. With him are two officials of the coalition
Mr Bright Appiah (middle) addressing the media in Accra. With him are two officials of the coalition

The Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC) has called on the government to suspend its decision to implement the double intake system for senior high schools (SHSs).

Rather, the coalition, made up of 360 institutions, has asked the government to pilot the system for at least a year before rolling it en masse.

At a press conference in Accra Tuesday addressed by the Executive Council Chair of the GNECC, Mr Bright Appiah, the coalition said the fact that a similar system worked in the United States of America (USA), Japan and Germany, which were all advanced countries, could not mean that the initiative would automatically become successful in Ghana.

“This is why we want to remind the government that no country has ever implemented a free SHS policy where 70 per cent of students were boarders. In fact, the best practice worldwide is the day school approach to free secondary education.

“A 70 per cent day and 30 per cent boarding system will reduce the cost of financing secondary education by at least 50 per cent, while reducing the pressure on existing infrastructure,” it said.

The press conference was also meant to share the findings of a recent research conducted by the GNECC regarding the government’s free SHS policy, a year after its commencement.


The research revealed overcrowding in a number of SHSs and the unavailability of teaching and learning materials.

Background

The government is adopting a double intake system to deal with increased enrolment and address inadequate infrastructure under its free SHS programme.

About 96,403 mono desks, 33,171 pieces of dining hall furniture, 3,033 tables and chairs for teachers, 12,953 bunk beds, 4,335 student mattresses and 5,135 computer laboratory chairs have been provided by the government to address the infrastructural deficit over the year, but the effort has not been enough to address all issues of infrastructure.

For the 2018/19 academic year, which begins in September, 472,000 new students, an increase of 31 per cent, will be admitted to SHSs.

The new system is expected to cost GH¢323 million to fully implement.

The cost comprises GH¢267.2 million as teaching cost and GH¢55.8 million for academic interventions.

There have been mixed reactions to the proposed double intake system. While some individuals and groups have expressed support for it, others are very apprehensive of the initiative, saying it will affect the quality of education.

Inconsistencies

According to the coalition, although the double intake system “is an attempt to partly address the challenges with the implementation of the free SHS, the communication in relation to the rollout has been riddled with inconsistencies and political innuendo”.

“A policy that affects millions requires broad-based consultation with teachers, who will be the implementers, as well as parents and students, who are directly affected by such policies,” it said.

The coalition chided the government for its inability to hold broader consultations, adding that the consultations conducted were inadequate.

“Merely informing civil society through the media is not consultation and the government must be mindful of the history of failures associated with secretly packaged policies,” it said.

It said discussions on the double intake system should be devoid of politics, as it “relates to the fundamental rights of millions of children”.

“Rather, the discussions should be done with the aim of educating the public and galvanising to enhance the implementation of the free SHS policy, in line with the Sustainable Development Goal Four (SDG 4),” it said.

The SDG 4 ensures inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes life-long learning opportunities for all.

Suggestions

The coalition proposed a number of ways by which the government could address the challenges.

Regarding the placement of boarding students, it said the government must reserve the placement of free SHS boarding students to only students who lived in communities from where the nearest SHS was not easily accessible on a daily basis.

“This means the Ministry of Education must prioritise the use of the national addressing system in undertaking placements,” it said.

It also stressed the need for the government to convert 10 per cent of secondary schools into model schools which those willing to access boarding secondary education could pay in full and access accordingly.

The coalition proposed that instead of the government using the GETFund to expand boarding schools, it would rather be strategic for it to complete the about 60 per cent community day SHSs which were commenced under the previous administration.

“This will provide useful alternatives in access at a far cheaper cost than encouraging more boarding students,” it said.