Pursuant to Article 67 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, His Excellency President John Dramani Mahama has delivered the State of the Nation address to the parliament of Ghana on 24th February, 2016.
On this all important occasion, Mr. President had in fewer than 500 words expressed what the National Democratic Congress government has achieved in furtherance of Basic Education in Ghana.
We at ZAD are gravely concerned about the substance of Mr. President’s speech, as contained under Basic Education. We are even more worried about the deafening silence and complete failure to have mentioned and given real assessment to the people of Ghana regarding Early Childhood Development.
School Uniform and Sandals
Admittedly, learning and development of a child has got nothing to do with wearing of school uniform and sandals. If we were so poor that parents could not afford school uniforms and sandals for their children, nothing, absolutely nothing prevented them from sending their children to school in ‘home’ uniform and sandals.
However, school essentials such as textbooks, chalk for teachers, writing books, access to the internet, fresh drinking water at school, enabling environment, are all vitally important to promoting and securing the best learning and development outcomes for every child in Ghana.
Given that what President Mahama has said is the State of the Nation, which is not good enough, as far as basic education is concerned, we at ZAD would like to encourage him, to as a matter of urgency, update the NDC’s Election 2016 Manifesto, on education, about abolishing the use of School Uniforms, to the extent that the inability of parents to purchase school uniform for their children, results in their non-attendance at school. The money that the government currently expends on supplying school uniforms must be re-directed to provision of textbooks and the enabling environment, conducive for effective learning and development by all children in Ghana, in the public sector.
Teachers Professional Development
Whilst we applaud the Teacher Professional Development initiative, to the extent that it ensures quality teacher education and an effective and relevant in-service training, to supporting greater outcomes for our children, we struggle to see any evidence regarding the provision of Teaching and Learning Materials, which schools desperately need. Stories abound in both the print and electronic media, about non-availability of chalks for teachers to write with; textbooks not being supplied to schools; children lying on the floor, on their bellies, in an appalling state, as they learn and develop.
It is against the background above that we can safely conclude that the State of Basic Education is nothing less than a disaster, as far as the public schools in Ghana are concerned.
Early Childhood Development
Conspicuously missing in the State of the Nation address is a very important issue of Early Childhood Education: Early Education and Care at Crèche, Nursery and Kindergarten levels.
We struggle to bring ourselves to understanding why the President has failed to acknowledge the vitally important role that Early Education plays in giving a head start to all children; promoting effective lifelong learning, by levelling the playing [starting] field for all children, irrespective of their parents’ economic background, thereby a powerful tool, in assisting to eradicating abject and extreme poverty in Ghana.
Instructively, Mr. President is unaware of Education for All: 2000-2015 and crucially, the UNESCO’s Post 2015 recommendations. If he were aware, he would have told the nation, in his address what his government’s achievements were for Ghana, under Education for All Goal: Early Childhood Care and Education. Indeed, he would have informed concerned parents about how his government plans to achieve UNESCO’s recommendation for Post 2015: [i] Better data on all types of Early Childhood Care and Education needed [ii] Pre-Primary Education must be expanded to include all children, especially the most marginalised.
Be it as it may, the President has presented what the State of the Nation truly is. In our considered opinion, this State in which Ghana finds itself is not good enough, as far as basic education is concerned. We therefore offer the following recommendations to the President, for inclusion in the NDC’s Election 2016 Manifesto, for implementation, in the event that his government retains political power.
Indeed, parents and would be parents in Ghana must be alarmed about the lack of quality pre-primary provision for their children, which will give them the head start for lifelong learning. And appropriately so! Parents therefore, ought to avoid voting at the elections for any political parties which fails to have far reaching programmes and initiatives for Early Childhood Development in Ghana.[i] Early Years Curriculum
There is an urgent need to have the National Teaching Curriculum for Kindergartens, 2004, scrapped and replaced with one which truly empowers early years’ teachers in the classroom, to supporting greater outcomes for all children in their care. This curriculum must be expanded to bring on board crèches and nurseries. That way, we would be supporting all our children, to reach good levels of knowledge, understanding and skills, prior to starting Primary 1.[ii] Teacher Training Allowance
We urge you to restore teacher training allowances for Early Childhood Development teacher trainees immediately, to attract brilliant and qualified persons, who would be dedicated to their work, in supporting all children in their care and education, at the Crèche, Nursery and Kindergartens levels. Your wholesale withdrawal of teacher training allowances, which was haphazardly done, is inimical to the provision of quality education in Ghana.[iii] Language Policy
We recommend you initiate a debate on the language of instruction at the basic level and importantly at the Crèche, Nursery and Kindergartens levels. It is international best practice for children to begin [at the least] to picture read at Kindergarten I [Reception] and being able to read text at Primary 1.
Our children are endowed with all the potentials to be able to read, be it in English or a Ghanaian Language. But, they must be effectively supported to do so! The ability to read does not come naturally. It must be taught and supported by a qualified adult. If a child in Ghana is unable to read [in either English or a Ghanaian Language] at completing Primary 1, we must put in place an intervention to supporting them immediately.
All children in Ghana deserve our best efforts and currently, your government’s efforts are not good enough.
God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong!
Komla Zafa Dartey
[Founding President @ ZAD International Academy]
ZAD is a niche Early Education and Care services provider, dedicated to supporting greater learning and development outcomes for all children in Ghana and Africa.