Time to Rethink Our Residential High-School System

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
It ought to have by now become clear to the government and the administrators of our traditional boarding high-school system that the old regime is no longer economically sustainable. I am here, of course, referring to the threat by the Conference of Heads of Assisted High Schools (CHASS) to shut down our partially public-sponsored high schools, because the central government has repeatedly failed to promptly meet its share of financial obligations necessary for the efficient running of these existentially critical junior academies (See “GES Pleads: Don’t Close Schools Yet” Citifmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 7/23/14).

The problem is systemic – or system-wide – and has remained so for at least some four decades now. Even at the elementary level, the government has been struggling with the supply of basic teaching and learning materials as well as such infrastructural facilities as school buildings and toilet facilities. And so, really, it is not a simple matter of Director-General Charles Aheto-Tsegah having to earnestly plead periodically for the principals and headmasters of these institutions to literally hold out on a diet of thin air while an increasingly cynical central government got its proverbial act together.

Indeed, mine may well be the umpteenth call for the government to promptly offload, or relieve itself, from this increasingly unbearable obligation. I am, of course, painfully mindful of the fact that it was the parochial politics of bi-partisan loot-and-share that got us this abjectly and abysmally low. At any rate, what needs to happen in order for the system to become perennially solvent and efficiently operational, is for the government to negotiate with the major Christian missionary churches, such as the Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, Roman Catholic and Seventh-Day Adventist churches to take back their schools and manage them as they efficiently used to in the past.

This, of course, would necessitate the operation of their respective schools as private parochial institutions, with school fees, faculty salaries and funding sources being independently determined by the prevailing market forces, without any interference, whatsoever, from the government. The government could then concentrate its meager resources on managing those high schools that have no traditional affiliation with any of the major religious establishments.

I have deliberately focused my attention on the Christian establishment churches, because the latter are responsible for the creation of the overwhelming majority of the most significant secondary academies in the country. Part of the current educational crisis, it is worth pointing out, was created by the socialist and dictatorial policies of the Nkrumah-led Convention People’s Party (CPP) regime. At the time, however, nationalizing private and parochial (or religious) institutions, in the name of free and equitable access, seemed to be the right thing to do.

Then also, a progressive formula may have to be devised whereby such seminal secondary institutions as Prempeh College, St. Peter’s (PERSCO), Wesley Girls’ and Legon PRESEC (for a handful of ready examples) would be able to run a fairly equal balance between residential and non-residential regime, in much the same way as some of our flagship tertiary academies, such as the University of Ghana, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and the University of Cape Coast. This new process may not be as easily implementable as this writing, but it is decidedly the surest bet to maintaining and sustaining a qualitative educational system.

The central government would still have the choice of financially supporting these institutions, but such assistance would be largely peripheral to the administration of these institutions. The administrators of these re-privatized institutions would logically have to invent new and more reliable sources of funding for their respective establishments. This would, for instance, imply that some of these giant missionary church establishments would have to periodically organize fund raisers for the upkeep of their affiliated junior academies. I am quite certain that some of the churches may already be doing this.

It is about time Ghanaians themselves took direct charge and control of our elementary and secondary academies and, in effect, our own destiny.

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