Opinion: Government Cannot Provide Everything for SHS Academies – By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

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Otiko Afisa Djaba, Ghana’s Minister of Gender, Women and Social Protection

During a recent visit to the Accra Girls’ Senior High School, Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister, Otiko Afisa Djaba, was met, yet again, with the usual prosaic demand for a school bus for this 2,000-strong academy. The demand, as usual, came from the Headmistress of the school, Ms. Joyce Acolatse (See “Free SHS Must End Teenage Pregnancy, Child Marriage – Gender Minister” MyJoyOnline.com / Ghanaweb.com 9/14/17). I am not hereby suggesting that the Central Government, or the Ghana Education Service (GES), should get out of the crucial business of supplying vehicles to schools, particularly Senior High Schools that have traditionally operated as boarding institutions.

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Rather, what I would like to suggest here is that the heads of these institutions ought to be equipped with good public relations and managerial skills to enable them to successfully cultivate the alumni of their institutions to step in on occasion to provide such practical essentials as school buses. This would then free the GES to concentrate on completing the two-story dormitory block that, we are told, was abandoned by the previous National Democratic Congress’ regime. This can also be done through the building of a strong and responsive Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).

What this means is that public and business administration know-how must be required by the GES as integral to the qualifications that prospective school heads may need to possess for the job. But what piqued my interest the most was the Gender Minister’s rather too optimistic observation that the salutary introduction of a fee-free Senior High School system in the country was apt to remarkably cause a reduction in teen pregnancy and the school dropout rate. That may very well be the case in theory; but in practice, far more needs to be done, including the modification of the curriculum to provide such crucial support services as sex education and courses on progressive social behavior. But much, of course, will also depend on the familial and social backgrounds of these young female students.

Which means that the Gender and Social Protection Ministry must be working hand-in-glove, literally speaking, with the Ghana Education Service, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, to name only a handful, to pull their resources together by regularly sponsoring community education programs around the country. And, oh, I forgot to add that just because a fee-free Senior High School system has been unfurled does not mean that the robust and progressive era of Parent-Teacher Associations have, perforce, become relics of the past.

Actually, this is the time for these traditionally benevolent associations and organizations to become even more actively engaged in the provision of complementary social services, such as the provision of school supplies in the form of state-of-the-art teaching tools and even to the supply of what used to be called “essential commodities” in years gone by, and the supply of toiletries. The establishment of both urban and rural gardens and farms must be strongly encouraged, as also the establishment and management of horticultural spaces on most of these SHS campuses, with the active involvement of students, as a means of foresightedly setting them up to be able to create their own private enterprises in the near future.

This means that practice-oriented business management courses need to be made an integral part of the curricula of these Senior High Schools. To be certain, such courses could even be taught at the Junior High School level.

*Visit my blog at: Kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com  Ghanaffairs

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