Nelson Mandela once said, “education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”
Based on the Worldometer elaboration of the latest United nations data as of March 12, 2022, Ghana has about 32,166,969 citizens. In 2018, the rate of adult literacy in the country was about 79 percent which is an increment of the literacy rate from 2000 and 2010 which stood at 57.9 and 71.5 percent respectively.
The educational system of Ghana has been a 6+3+3+4 years structure, 6 years of primary education, 3 years of junior high education, 3 years of secondary school education and 4 years of tertiary education.
In 2021, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, urged fresh graduates from the various tertiary institutions to find innovative ways of becoming entrepreneurs due to the full government payroll in the country, “That payroll is full because we are spending some 60% of our revenue on remunerating some 650,000 people. That is not sustainable.” With all these years spent, students are left to form associations as “unemployed students association of Ghana” at the end.
There are a lot of challenges facing this outrageous educational system of ours. There are quite a number of schools in the country but the issue of accomodation and poor quality rises to the top. Enough classrooms, tables and chairs for the students to enjoy teaching and learning is at its lowest. Some students in parts of Ghana currently sit on the bare floor under trees to be educated.
Most public schools in the country lack fully furnished libraries, science laboratories and most important aspect needed in this era of development; computer laboratories. Some students have to walk miles before getting to their various campuses.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF Ghana) points out that Ghana has made progress when it comes to education but is still faced with challenges which stops numerous children from being educated. About 623500 children of primary age are still not enrolled in primary school. One out of four children aged four to five years are not in preschool.
According to the 2010 national census, 20 percent of children with physical disabilities are not attending school.
Research states that adolescent girls are usually unable to get education due to factors such as poverty, gender inequality and long distances from school.
In 2017, the government implemented a free Senior High School (SHS) program which gives students free tuition, admission fee, textbooks, library fees, science center fees, fees for ICT, examination fees, utility fees together with boarding and meals. It was to reduce poverty by eliminating financial burdens parents face in paying their children’s fees. President Akufo-Addo in 2021 said about 1.6 million students benefited from the free SHS program.
This policy allows a lot of students into second cycle institutions without worrying about money and that doubles the average number of student intake. Teachers are not enough to tutor all those students. Classrooms are not able to take all the students leading to the double track system. The track system was created allowing one group to be in school and the other at home and after some months, the rotation takes place.
This has enhanced truancy amongst students and parents are spending a lot just to have private tutorials for the wards when they are home. About 1433 female teenagers got themselves pregnant due to the double track system.
The Covid-19 epidemic came and had a bad impact on every aspect of life including education. Students had to stay at home for about nine months due to lockdown which was meant to reduce the infection rate of the virus. This distorted the academic calendar.
The University Teachers Association of Ghana, UTAG, first began an indefinite strike on August 2, 2021 explaining in a communique dated July 30, that its members on all campuses were to withdraw teaching and other activities like examinations, invigilation, marking of examination scripts and the processing of examination results. The association took these steps asking the government to restore their conditions of service agreed upon in 2012. The 2012 conditions of service pegged the Basic plus Market Premium of a lecturer at $2,084.42. UTAG complained that the current arrangement has reduced its members’ basic premiums to $997.84.
This issue was not fully solved and the lecturers agreed to go back to the classrooms but students were faced with the worst when school resumed for the 2022/2023 academic year.
The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) embarked on an indefinite strike which began on January 10 2022. Their decision was to hinge upon the worsening Conditions of Service (CoS) of university teachers and the failure of their employer to address their issue “within agreed timelines.”
They cautioned the government to be mindful about the uneasiness among university teachers and to act with dispatch lest the already fragile academic calendar due to the covid 19 is exacerbated to the detriment of all stakeholders. They kept to their words and the strike lasted for over two months. Students were left stranded and confused.
UTAG finally decided to call off its strike in a statement issued on Wednesday March 9 after an emergency meeting by the national executives of the association. The statement said “The National Executive Committee of UTAG held an Emergency Meeting on Tuesday, 8th March 2022, to among others, consider the outcome of the referendum on its decision to temporarily suspend the industrial action commenced on 10th January 2022. You may recall that the NEC of UTAG voted to temporarily suspend the strike action on Monday, 21st February 2022 to pave the way for negotiations with the Employer to help meet some of the demands and address the concerns of UTAG.”
UTAG made this decision after a lot of people like former president Kuffor and parents appealed on behalf of the students. The demands of UTAG has not been met yet and this opens the way for a future strike which will have great negative impact on students.
UTAG is not the only teacher’s association to embark on strike, Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), Coalition of Concerned Teachers Ghana (CCT-GH) have all been on strike due to their poor conditions of service. The needs and concerns of our education must be paramount. Our future leaders are disturbed and in so much pain due to the type and form of education they are receiving. The quicker the attention needed is given, the better for the future of our country.