One of the key areas of the economy, the education sector, witnessed a number of activities during the past year (2014).
These activities, among other things, did not only relate to the improvement or provision of teaching and learning materials but also bordered on the welfare of teachers from the basic to the tertiary level. Indeed, the year was eventful for the sector as it became an attraction to not only stakeholders but the public as well.
Early in the year, the government announced plans to implement a free secondary education system in accordance with the 1992 constitution.
Delivering the 2014 State of the National Address, President John Mahama said the Ministry of Education had already drawn up a road map to that effect.
“The Ministry of Education, following consultations with stakeholders, has prepared a report on the road map for a progressive introduction of free secondary education in Ghana as required under the 1992 constitution,” he said.
“This road map will be presented to the cabinet for approval and subsequent implementation. Under the guidance of this road map, we can anticipate that fees for day students will be abolished at an estimated cost of GH¢71 million in the 2015/2016 academic year,” he added.
The introduction of free secondary education, popularly referred to as “Free SHS,” was a contentious issue in Ghana during the 2012 general election, with the population divided as to its implementation. While a section of the public believed that ‘Free SHS’ would enable many deprived Ghanaians to access secondary education, others expressed fears that it could cause the quality of education in secondary schools to drop.
During the year, many complaints were lodged against 300 heads of second cycle schools for allegedly charging unauthorised school fees.
The Deputy Minister in charge of Pre-Tertiary Education, Mr Alex Kyeremeh, who made this known to the Daily Graphic, said the necessary actions were going to be taken against the heads for flouting the ministry’s directive on the charging of fees.
The Ministry of Education set up a secretariat in November 2013 to receive complaints on illegal fees collection, grievances and criticisms from the public for redress.
Before the setting up of the secretariat, there was widespread collection of unapproved fees, especially from prospective first-year senior high school (SHS) students. Complaints from parents against such unapproved fees prompted the ministry to establish the secretariat.
Following the illegal actions by heads, the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) apologised to the public for the collection of unapproved fees from first-year students by some heads of SHSs.
In view of their regret over their actions, CHASS said, the heads had credited the accounts of the affected students with the unapproved fees.
The Mount Carmel Girls’ Senior High School in the Brong Ahafo Region topped the 2013 West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) by scoring 100 per cent in the examination.
The school was followed by Wesley Girls’ Senior High in Cape Coast which had 99.60 per cent and the Tepa Senior High School, with 99.55 per cent, placing third.
According to the rankings compiled by the Statistics, Research, Information, Management and Public Relations (SRIMPR) Division of the Ministry of Education, all the 56 candidates presented by the Mount Carmel SHS had between A1 and C6, giving the school a 100 per cent score.
However, in the case of the Wesley Girls’ SHS, 741 out of the 744 candidates presented for the exam had between A1 and C6, thereby scoring 99.60 per cent.
The rankings of the performance of the schools also indicated that the Koforidua Senior High Technical School, with 99.39 per cent, took the fourth place. Kade Day Senior High Technical School scored 99.34 per cent in fifth place and the St James Seminary had 99.29 per cent, placing sixth.
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in January released GH¢50.4 million for the payment of feeding grants for senior high schools in the three regions in the north and the northern parts of the Brong Ahafo and Volta regions.
The money covered the payment of arrears of feeding grants for the third term of the 2012/2013 academic year and the first term of the 2013/2014 academic year.
In addition, the Ministry of Finance released GH¢31 million to the Scholarship Secretariat for the payment of outstanding arrears of scholarships of Ghanaian students studying abroad.
The industrial strike on the education front started with members of the Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG) declaring an indefinite nationwide strike close to the middle of the year.
POTAG began protesting the unwillingness on the part of government to pay their Book and Research Allowance for the 2013/2014 academic year.
In a statement to its branches across the country, the association instructed its members to lay down their tools and withdraw all services with immediate effect.
The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) also embarked on a strike over the book and research allowance.
However, the Ministry of Education expressed shock at the action of the teachers, since it was addressing their concerns.
The lecturers announced an indefinite strike after negotiations with government about the allowance fell on the rocks.
A total of 422,220 candidates sat for the 2014 Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE). Out of the number, 421,270 were eligible for placement into senior high schools and technical schools under the Computerised School Selections and Placement System (CSSPS).
During the first batch of placement, the CSSPS successfully placed 272,330 candidates into SHSs and technical institutions (TIs).
An outstanding number of 149,890 candidates were to be placed under the second batch of the exercise.
The computerised system used the total processed raw scores of six subjects instead of grades of each candidate for the selection. Consequently, the raw scores were posted on the net.
A total of 419 candidates scored grade nine in all the subjects and, therefore, could not seek admission to any SHS or TI.
Students of the Bolgatanga Senior High School (BIGBOSS) in the Upper East Region went on the rampage following a riot by students over the death of a Form Three Business student at the Bolgatanga Government Hospital.
The student, identified as Emmanuel Bawa, passed out after falling and foaming. Unconfirmed reports had it that Bawa was suffering from epilepsy.
The police told the Daily Graphic that Bawa was with his mates in the boys’ dormitory while morning assembly was going on when they spotted the school senior housemaster passing by their dormitory.
They indicated that the students, sensing that they might be seen by the senior housemaster, started running away, but, unfortunately, Bawa tripped and fell.