The current Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Education has within three years been introducing many reforms in its quest to improve the current state of education. Let me indicate that, as an education industry player, I am for any reform that seeks to improve the quality of education in the country. Notwithstanding, a challenge I have with some of the policies/programmes is their knee-jerk implementation.
It is obvious some of the policies have not gone through the right process of education policy formulation. Anyone with an understanding of analyzing education policy will not hesitate to agree with me. A cursory look at some of them reveals a consistent shortfall. Thus, most of them have only the policy document (that state just the goals and priorities), but lack the strategy and the plan (which are essential components of education policy formulation).
So while the majority of the government’s reforms, so far, are steps in the right direction in reforming education, they have encountered many limitations (which, otherwise, most could have been prevented if the right approach to policy formulation has been followed). My intention here is not to educate the ministry on how policies are formulated (they know best), but to draw their attention to the fact that the knee-jerk approach (the undue process they follow) is visible and leaves some of the policy’s implementation with many challenges. That is a piece of advice; I hope they find wisdom in it.
That said; let me turn my attention to the recent news about the government’s attempt to privatize basic education – another programme that begs for many answers. Let me first indicate that I have initially declined giving media interviews on this because of the government’s inconsistencies on the issue. In one breath, the PRO of the Ministry of Education on Joy FM’s Pulse sought to suggest that the program will not lead to privatization of basic schools. That, however, was contradicted when the Deputy Education Minister, Dr. Osei Adutwum on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show justified the privatization with the reason that there is a lack of public confidence in government schools. Why am I, therefore, writing after declining to comment on it in some media interviews? One thing we are sure of is when the programme starts, the management of education in those selected schools won’t be under the care of government, whether the government decides to call it privatization or partnership or by whatever name. The schools being under private care alone leaves many questions to be clarified and, hence, it is time to break my silence and ask these questions that I believe will help us all make an informed decision as to whether we want the Ghana Partnership Schools project or not.
And here are my six questions that the Minister of Education, Hon. Matthew Opoku Prempeh should answer;
- We understand the programme will be piloted in 50 schools and if it produces the desired results, it will be fully implemented across the country. If it achieves the result and the time comes for the project to be extended to all basic public schools nationwide, will the cost of implementation still be funded by the World Bank?
- If the answer to #1 is YES, is the World Bank going to do the funding forever?
- If YES to #2, under what arrangements will the World Bank be doing so?
- If NO to #2, does the government have the financial capacity to continue or sustain the programme if the World Bank finally exits?
- If the answer to #4 is NO, isn’t it likely the private management under which the schools will be, try finding their ways to sustain the program and by so doing begin to charge parents fees?
- Should that happen (parents being charged fees), what happens to the right of every Ghanaian child to have access to free compulsory universal basic education as enshrined in the Constitution and other international conventions that guarantee education as a right (many of which Ghana ratified)?
If we don’t have satisfactory answers to these questions, then I humbly request from the government to relent on its decision — whether they call it privatization or not.
As a nation, we have come a long way in achieving the significant increase in school enrollment at the basic level and still have a long way to go in ensuring that every Ghanaian child is in school. We must not take any action that will undo our progress.
Let me conclude by stating that I admire the Minister’s energy and resolve to ensure quality education in Ghana. But again, I have this piece of advice for him; he shouldn’t put too much in his mouth at a time. He should take the policies/programmes gradually to ensure their proper formulation, implementation, and evaluation. Enough of the knee-jerk approach.