Ok, so I took quite a long time to deliver this blog regarding the new reform issued by the Ghana Education Service to all Senior Secondary, Vocational, and Technical education institutions. I did mention in the past that this new reform had been causing some commotion among the Catholic Community here in Ghana. These concerns were voiced by the Ghanaian Bishops many times over the months leading up to the commencement of the new reform.
So what was the big problem? Basically, the government attempting to control Catholic educational institutions. Catholic institutions around the world have all experienced the pressure from education ministries or government agencies at one point or another. So at one point or another all Catholic educational institutions have to stand up and say, “We are Catholic!”
At the Holy Cross Skills Training Centre, we teach a class called Religious and Moral Education(RME). Although, it is taught from a Christian perspective the class strives to explain the concepts of religion and morality in an objective way. As a Catholic institution we hold this class in high regard and stress the importance to our students on a daily basis. However, when the brand new and improved reform came out the RME class wasn’t anywhere to be found. What was there, however, were two new classes: Entrepreneurial skills and Information and Computer Technology. I found it quite interesting that all schools would be required to follow this reform even though they were given only 3 months notice and no financial assistance for the changeover.
Furthermore, since the new reform takes effect in January, and only for the First Year students, schools will be forced to be open all year round, not to mention they will have to function with two different class schedules. In fact, the oversights and issues created by this new reform have really showed me how detached the Ghana Education Service is from the actual condition of educational institutions in Ghana. Schools are overcrowded and understaffed. Schools don’t have the funds to obtain the technology needed to teach the ICT classes. Not to mention the fact that proper syllabi have not been made available in a great quantity or in a timely manner.
There was also a big row over GES appointing non-Catholic, and even non-Christian, headmasters at Catholic Schools. There have been many complaints from teachers that these headmasters are eradicating the Catholic identity of the schools. I wish I could give you a more detailed report about this issue, but this is all that I have for you right now.
Amidst all this conflict and confusion I will applaud the efforts of GES to reform Technical and Vocational schools. The greater emphasis on English, Math, Science, Entrepreneurial Skills, and Information and Communication Technology is an obvious effort to create a more holistic education for our technical students. I truly believe that this liberalization of technical education will create many opportunities in the lives of these young men. However, none of this will be able to happen unless technical and vocational institutions are able to equip themselves properly for this new reform. Meaning that all teachers need to take time to think about where this new reform will be taking students, all schools will somehow have to find funds to purchase computers and internet connection. Also, this kind of material might be over the heads of many young technical students some of whom can barely read, write, or speak English. In order for the reform to succeed schools are going to need to be staffed with highly devoted teachers who consider teaching their vocation not just a way to pay the bills.
We at the Skills Centre solved the RME problem quite easily. We just added it to the new reform. However, other schools have discontinued it entirely just because the “big” GES people removed it. GES also went as far as to say that Religion and Morals should only be taught in the home and in Church and that morality and religion are in no way academic subjects! WHAT?!
It is quite easy to see that there is a wide gap between what GES perceives the situation of technical and vocational education to be and what the reality of it is. Either that or they just don’t care. In the meantime, teachers and schools do the very best they can to provide students with the skills and knowledge to achieve something positive while education ministers drive around in luxury cars, paid for by the government, and sit in air conditioned offices.
It is important that you should remember that wonderful things happen in classrooms all over Ghana everyday! Good things are happening, however, improvements must be made.
(The opinions expressed in this article in no way reflect that of the Congregation of Holy Cross nor the Holy Cross Skills Training Centre.)