EducationGhana, APRIL 10, 2021: A former National President of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) Mr Kwame Alorvi has criticised the decision by the Ghana Education Service(GES) to continuously change the Academic Calendar of the SHS 1 and 2 Students without taken consideration of other alternative decisions.
Kwami Alorvi in an earlier article known as PART ONE of his critique described the decision of the GES to continuously alter the SHS 3 Calendar as an incurable ailment.
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KWAMI ALORVI ASKS: MISTRACKING THE FREE SHS ACADEMIC CALENDAR, AN INCURABLE MALADY FOR THE GHANA EDUCATION SERVICE?
Part one of this piece dealt with how the GES, within one week, altered the academic calendar of the SHS3 students and the difficulties these abrupt changes pose to effective planning by Heads of School and parents. PART TWO examines the changes in the calendars of the SHS2 and SHS1 students. It also reveals a bizarre occurrence in the Eastern Region Schools and seeks answers from the GES. This part finally suggests some measures that could deal with this perennial malady of changes in the academic calendar.
CHANGES IN SHS2 ACADEMIC CALENDAR
Originally the SHS2 Green track students were to be in school from 15th March to 31st March 2021 for the first session of the first semester and break from 1st April to 31st May 2021. They were to resume for the second session from 1st June to 30th June 2021.
They would then continue their second semester from 1st July to August 27th 2021 to end the academic year. However, changes were made to shorten their first session from the original end date of 31st March to 23rd March 2021.
For the Gold track, the first-semester vacation which was from 26th June – 31st August was rather extended to end on 16th September 2021, an addition of about two weeks. The duration of their second semester which originally was from 1st September to 18th December was shortened to now extend from 17th September 2021 to 18th December 2021.
The single-track calendar for the first session of the first semester which was originally from 15th January – 4th March 2021 was also altered to now end on 22nd March 2021.
But that was not all.
There is a very bizarre situation I have chanced upon in the Eastern Region. In the single-track schools (schools not running the double track), the SHS2 students are in school in most regions- Central, Volta, Oti, Upper West, Western, Ashanti and Northern- but Eastern Region schools have their students at home as at 8th April 2021 that this report was being finalized.
In fact, it is only Apegusu SHS and Klo Agogo SHS in the Eastern Region that reportedly has their single track SHS2 students in school. So Eastern Region is running a different calendar from the other regions for the SHS2 single track students.
Much more mind-boggling is how it is that even in the same Eastern Region, different calendars are being run by different schools. Imagine this situation. If I have two wards in SHS2 on singletrack, one in Eastern Region and the other in Volta. Schools have reopened and the one in Eastern is at home while the second in Central Region is in school. What kind of system is this? Does GES claim to be unaware of this?
We have also discovered one odd school in Ashanti Region. Kumasi Anglican Secondary School, KASS which is a double-track school is reported to have decided to run a single track for the SHS2 students. My information is that their SHS2 students are also at home now just like most single-track schools in Eastern Region. Is the GES aware of these differences in tracking the academic calendar?
How come that different academic calendars are being run by schools even in the same region?
CHANGES IN POLICY AND CALENDAR OF THE SHS1 STUDENTS
In a response to the 2020 People’s Manifesto of the NDC which promised to abolish double track within one year in an NDC administration in 2021, then Deputy Minister for Education and now the Minister, Hon. Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum said President John Dramani Mahama could not do fSHS without a double track. However, before the commencement of the academic year, the Minister announced that SHS1 students would not run double track.
I thought the double track was introduced as a stop-gap measure? Anyway, thank God the Minister confirmed John Mahama’s conviction that we can do fSHS without double track.
Accordingly, all the SHS1 students were pushed to school. They were to run the same calendar as the SHS2 Gold track students. Both were to be in school from 10th March (later changed to 18th March) to 25th June 2021, be on vacation from 26th June to 31st August 2021. They were to return to school to complete the academic year from 1st September to 18th December 2021.
This policy means that only the SHS2 students would double-track; the SHS3 and SHS1 would run single track.
However faced with infrastructure inadequacy to accommodate the SHS3, SHS2 Gold and the SHS1 students all at the same time, GES backtracked and informed the Heads of School behind the scene to double-track the SHS1 students into Green and Gold.
A letter was thus issued to that effect by the Head of the Public Relations Unit of the GES, Cassandra Twum Ampofo on 18th March 2021, the new date on which SHS1 students were to report to school.
The letter Referenced GES: PR/RELEASE/65 and tilted “GES MANAGEMENT WELCOMES SHS1 STUDENTS” stated in part that “As per the new academic calendar, first-year students in some schools will run a double-track calendar even though they are all reopening on the same day.”
So all the SHS1 students have been admitted to school at the same time unlike previously. The letter gave a new double-track calendar to the schools.
With this new calendar, the SHS1 Single track students and SHS1 Green students of the double-track system will be in school from 18th March to 25th June 2021 for the first semester and from 1st September 2021 to 18th December 2021 for the second semester. Their vacation will be from 26th June to 31st August 2021.
The SHS1 Gold track calendar will run from 18th March to 28th May 2021 and from 30th June 2021 to 18th December 2021. Their vacation is from 29th May to 29th June 2021.
Doubts have been expressed by some school managers as to whether this new calendar will even be respected by the GES or it will suffer from the same incurable malady as the previous ones.
With the SHS1 (green and gold tracks prepared by Heads) in school together with the SHS2 green track until May 28th, will there be enough space to accommodate all SHS3 students due to report to school on 5th May 2021? Maybe either the SHS2 green track or one of the tracks of the SHS1 will have to be sent home earlier than their scheduled date for vacation. So whether the new calendar will survive or not, only Time will tell.
One thing is clear though. I pity the Head of the Public Relations Unit of the GES Ms Cassandra Twum Ampofo. She has to bear the burden of issuing hurriedly prepared Press Releases under instruction to address the inefficiency of her bosses in planning for durable academic calendars. Under this pressure, mistakes are unavoidable. And so it was that in her last Press Release dated 6th April 2021, she referred to that Tuesday 6th April as “today 7th April 2021” which she had to issue another release to correct.
SUGGESTIONS TO TACKLING THIS SEEMINGLY INCURABLE MALADY
- For effective planning of a durable academic calendar and programme, GES/MoE needs to engage stakeholders, with CHASS being the most unavoidable stakeholder. Heads of School are on the ground and they know the nitty-gritty of the situations in the schools. Academic calendars imposed on the schools without inputs and advice from CHASS will continue to suffer these frequent and hasty revisions.
GES and its supervisory Ministry need to carry along the Ministry of Finance for the timely and adequate release of funds needed to run the schools. Any calendar prepared without assurance by the Finance Ministry of releasing budgetary allocations to the MoE on time will be problematic.
Funds must be released to complete the projects started in the schools in order to create enough classroom and dormitory space for students.
Government must end the politicisation of the fSHS by allowing free and open discussions on challenges confronting the system. Victimization of Heads of School and Directors of Education who come out to offer suggestions for addressing the challenges must stop. By not branding critics of the policy as naysayers and anti-government, we will all be together in exhuming the buried skeletons of the fSHS and rebury them properly thus laying them to rest.
Recognition of contributions of parents to the success of the fSHS is key. As it is now, the situation can be likened to a benevolent benefactor offering a sick person free medication for an ailment. And because it is free, the sick person cannot complain when he notices side effects and complications arising out of the free medication.
“God gave feathers to the cock for purposes of beautification. But if the same feathers will expose the cock to be preyed upon by the hawk, then it is better the cock goes without feathers ” (Credit: Maxwell Addo, a colleague former staff of Mfantsipim School).
Aban (Government), we parents appreciate the free SHS policy. But we are telling you that the “free” is NOT entirely free. We bear some costs as well.
▪️We just spent over Ghc2,500.00 this January 2021 buying items on the school prospectus for our SHS1 wards admitted to boarding house. Your free SHS does not cover that cost.
▪️We always provide nine exercise books and four notebooks to our SHS1 students to enable them to start classes as they wait for your supplies which always delay due to poor funding arrangements. This January too, we supplied them.
Even when you supply them with such books they are inadequate for all subjects and for the three years, so we always supplement as parents. This cost does not come to you Aban
▪We buy textbooks in elective subjects for our wards because your free SHS does not cover that.
▪️When the two sets of school uniform you supply to our wards in SHS1 get worn out, or when they outgrow the uniforms as growing adolescents, we replace them. This cost does not go to free SHS.
▪️We provide breakfast and supper to our wards in Day Schools because you provide them with only lunch. This is in addition to the hostel fees, utilities and transportation to and from school each day.
So you see how we share the costs to make the free SHS work successfully. For all these, we parents deserve to have our voices heard in your policy formulations.
Until the above are done, mistracking the SHS academic calendar will continue to be an incurable malady for you.
Kpɔɖa lo! Nyegbe dze anyi.
Dated: Saturday 10th April 2021
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