Mistracking Free SHS Calendar, an Incurable Malady for the GES- KwamI Alorvi

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free ACADEMIC WORK: GES PRO Cassandra Twum-Ampofo
Cassandra Twum-Ampofo

EducationGhana, APRIL 9, 2021: A former National President of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) Mr Kwame Alorvi has described the recent changes in the Free SHS Calendar by the Ghana Education Service (GES) as an Incurable malady.

Kwami Alorvi in an article dated April 9, 2021, indicating the changes made in the Academic Calendar of the Senior High Schools said the changes could have been prevented did the GES take responsible decisi0ns.

READ HIS ARTICLE BELOW:

 

KWAMI ALORVI ASKS: MISTRACKING THE FREE SHS ACADEMIC CALENDAR, AN INCURABLE MALADY FOR THE GHANA EDUCATION SERVICE?

PART ONE

Background
Following the rushed implementation of the Free SHS Policy by the Akufo Addo Government in 2017, Senior High School enrollments have increased amidst inadequate infrastructure and poor funding arrangements.

This, coupled with the unfortunate politicisation of the fSHS programme by the ruling government, has brought in its way some teething problems. Government and its education management team seem not to have solutions to these challenges. Key among these challenges is the erratic academic calendar being run under the system.

The academic calendar has suffered dumsor just like its parent, the Double Track, and has become not only an incurable malady for the Ghana Education Service (GES), but also a worry to parents, students, school administrators and their staff.

This report examines the changes that have been effected in the academic calendar by the GES just within three months in the 2021 academic year.

PART ONE examines three changes that have already occurred in the SHS3 calendar, while PART TWO deals with changes in the SHS2 and SHS1 calendars. It also reveals a bizarre situation in the Single Track schools in the Eastern Region.

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CHANGES IN THE SHS3 ACADEMIC CALENDAR

Changes in the academic calendar are announced at short notices putting parents and their wards, as well as heads of school at their wit’s end, with this academic year being no exception.

It is pathetic watching SHS3 students from Schools like Nalerigu, Bimbila and Kedjebi Asato Senior High Schools on television expressing their utter disappointments about the GES for postponing their reopening date while they had already arrived in school or were on their way to school. I also witnessed some VIP buses alighting SHS3 students at the entrances of some schools in Central Region. All these students have to track their way back home.

Per the original academic calendar drawn by the GES for the 2021 academic year, the SHS3 students were to be in school from 15th January to 4th March 2021 for the first session, and from 2nd April to 26th May 2021 for the second session of the first semester. They were to be on break or vacation from 5th March to 1st April 2021 and from 29th May to 29th June 2021 after the first and second sessions of the first semester respectively. For the second semester, they were originally to report to school on 30th June 2021 and remain till they write their WASSCE in September/October 2021.

This calendar has been altered at short notices by the GES. A press release dated 31st March 2021 (Ref. GES/PR/RELEASE/64) and issued by Ms. Cassandra Twum Ampofo, Head of Public Relations Unit of the GES and titled “EASTER BREAK” informed the Ghanaian public that “all schools will break for the Easter Holidays on Thursday 1st April and resume on 6th April 2021.”

It is mind-boggling why a Release had to be issued just a day before its content was due to take effect. The same Release informed all Heads of School, parents and students that “Meanwhile, SHS3 students are also expected to resume for the second session of the first semester on Wednesday 7th April 2021.” This Press Release altered the reporting date after the first session break from the original 2nd April to 7th April 2021.

Less than one week after the above Press Release, the same Head of Public Relations Unit of the GES, Ms. Cassandra Twum Ampofo, issued another Press Release varying her earlier release. The Press Release dated 6th April 2021 (Ref GES:PR/RELEASE/65), and headed “POSTPONEMENT OF REOPENING DATE FOR SHS3 STUDENTS” again shifted the reporting date from 7th April 2021 to 5th May 2021.

So within seven days (31st March to 6th April 2021), GES issued three press releases that fundamentally altered the academic calendar twice for the SHS3 students. How? Why this state of indecision by the Managers of our education system? GES owes Ghanaians an explanation for this consistent disregard for its own calendars.

A report that was circulated on social media soon after the postponement and attributed to the Director General of the GES said that “Management of the GES has considered the proposal of CHASS Ashanti Region and has revised the academic calendar per the suggestions made.”

Really? CHASS Ashanti Region now directing affairs of the GES? Later an official press release by Cassandra Twum Ampofo, said the reason for the postponement was “to give the form 3 students an uninterrupted instructional period till they write their final examinations.”

So GES has no knowledge of how to plan its academic calendar and has to rely on Ashanti Regional CHASS for directives? And why CHASS Ashanti Region, one may ask? Where was the National CHASS headed by Alhaji Yakub and his team?

Are we being invited by the GES to believe that CHASS Ashanti Region has a better knowledge of challenges confronting the double track nationwide than the National CHASS Executive spread across all the sixteen Regions of Ghana?

So was it CHASS Ashanti Region that advised GES that the SHS3 students needed no time to revise on their own before their WASSCE but rather an uninterrupted period till their WASSCE?

Every well-meaning Ghana knows that the reasons given by the GES for the postponement of the reopening date were not true. Simply put, the real reason is the lack of space in the schools. With all the SHS1 students in school together with the SHS2 Gold track in the double-track schools and all SHS2 students in the single track ones, there is absolutely no classroom and dormitory space to accommodate the SHS3 students.

Dining hall space too is overstretched and with only the SHS2 Gold track and SHS1 students in school, some schools are running three or four batches in the dining halls.

A visit to the schools reveals that most of the infrastructural projects Government has started are largely uncompleted while those it came to meet have all been abandoned. The few classrooms and dormitories completed have no furniture in them to make them
functional.

These frequent and sudden changes in the academic calendar pose serious challenges to stakeholders in education. Effective School administration requires advanced planning for logistics, staff duties, food, educational materials and funds.

For the Heads of School, these frequent and abrupt changes in the calendar do not only disorganise them but equally puts unnecessary stress on them. Students arrive in school when adequate arrangements have not been put in place for them especially in terms of feeding.

Government funds to the schools have also always been in arrears. How do we expect our Heads of School to manage the schools effectively? When things go wrong in the schools due to the inefficiency of the GES, the blame is laid on the heads of School Administrators. Mind you, Heads are not magicians.

Teachers also need to plan their personal and family lives. Frequent and unplanned changes in the academic calendar disturb their plans. Vacation and rest have eluded many. The disturbance to parents and students is hard to quantify.

Despite the “free” nature of the fSHS, a lot of resources are put in by parents to provide pocket money for their day students, pay hostel fees etc, in addition to catering for education materials, transportation, provision of toiletries and food items to supplement food served in the dining hall which has been diminishing in both quality and quantity.

It is thus pertinent that GES, and for that matter Government, reorganises itself to streamline the academic calendar to enable School Heads, teachers, parents, as well as students to plan for effective academic as well as domestic work.

Look out for PART TWO

Dated: Friday 9th April 2021

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