“THERE IS ENOUGH CHALK IN THE SYSTEM”, IS THERE?
By CAMERON DUODU
I was not going to comment on the issue of “school chalk” (as in: the
Vice-President’s wife said the headmistress of a school at Kukurantumi was wrong
to ask her to tell the Government to provide her school with chalk.)
But even though the Vice-President’s wife has done the right thing and apologised for making
the remark, the Ghana Educational Service (after silently watching the poor lady roasted by the
media without lifting a finger to defend her) has now found its voice, and just as the controversy was dying down, reignited it by publishing provocative facts and figures to demonstrate that the
headmistress should have had chalk in her school!
According to the Ghana Educational Service, there is enough chalk in the system to be supplied to schools across the country. “Thousands of boxes have been made available to all educational directorates as far back as March  to be supplied to all schools this year,” says the GES. “This includes the Eastern Region, which was allocated 82,391 boxes of chalk.
The [GES] response, according to one report, “comes after the huge uproar by a section of the public against the second lady Matilda Amissah Arthur’s reaction to the request of Head teacher of Kukurantumi Presbyterian Primary School in the Eastern Region, for chalk.
“Acting Public Relations officer of the GES, Rev. Jonathan Bettey, told Joy News schools that have run out of supplies must make the request to the appropriate authorities. He said it was the duty of the Kukurantumi headmistress to request for chalk and the other materials the school had run out of.
”It is the duty of the head teacher of that school to go to the District Education Office or the Director of Education, requesting for the chalk and the materials there. The District Director will ensure that more of these things are added. ‘If we refuse to ask and we say that we don’t
have some, [then it’s a problem]’”, he added. (The Minister of Education herself has reiterated this position, so the Rev Bettey was really giving us the official line.)
The GES statement is a perfect example of how the public service can construct a bubble around itself and reside in it, unaware of what goes on in the real world outside. First of all, has the GES taken the trouble to ascertain from its own officials, as a fact, that the headmistress had not requested a supply of chalk from the appropriate authorities but had not received it? To say that ”A” happened, and therefore, necessarily, “B” could – or should — not have happened, is fallacious thinking of the first order. It is theorising, at the very least.
For (it should be asked) does the GES provide transportation t to head-teachers to be travelling about to all manner of offices to requisition supplies for their schools? When last did the GES request anything from another branch of the Government and have its demand met on time?
Does the GES routinely check to see that all requisitions arrive safely at their intended destinations – if dispatched at all?
Is the GEC aware that if a head-teacher goes over the head of the district education officer to the Director of Education (as suggested in its statement) to request for such mundane items as blackboard chalk, the head-teacher might be marked down in the mysterious “blue book” as ”an insubordinate trouble-maker” and that he or she could be subjected to “punitive transfers”?
Does the GES still use Education Officers (formerly School Inspectors) to go round schools to obtain first-hand information about what actually happens on the ground – as against what is theoretically supposed to go on?
Does the GES realise that if all was going on well at Kukurantumi, the headmistress would not have had any reason to make a passionate request for chalk to the Vice-President’s wife?
Shouldn’t the GES in fact commend the headmistress for drawing the attention of the public – including the GES – to the supply problems in the GES system? Is the GES not aware that one of the most cherished qualities in a teacher is to be candid at all times, so that the children under his or her charge will emulate his or her good example and turn out to be honest citizens?
Conversely, is the GES not aware that if a headmistress is slapped down by her own bosses for speaking the truth, the attitude would be reinforced that ”in Ghana, they don’t like those who speak the truth. So if you see something going wrong, hold your peace. If you speak out about it, you will be punished for nothing!?” Is that education in apathy what the GES really wants to impart to the children of Ghana?
At the practical level, hasn’t the Kukurantumi headmistress afforded the GES an opportunity to impress upon the Central Government, the importance of being responsive to the requirements of the GES at all times, as Governmental neglect of the GIS can lead to unexpected consequences — such as occurred in a spectacular manner during the visit of the wife of the Vice-President to Kukurantumi?
Shouldn’t the GES welcome the attention it is getting, instead of rather being defensive about it? How often have the media not highlighted, say, the lack of toilets in some of our schools? Has the Government solved that problem? Does every school have running water? What are the hygienic effects of the lack of running water in schools?
Have the media also not written articles about the need to provide sanitary pads for adolescent school-girls?
Hasn’t the phenomenon of “schools under trees” been highlighted often enough? Has it gone away?
Indeed, shouldn’t the GES seize upon the publicity provided by the furore over the remarks of the Headmistress to the Vice-President’s wife to carry out a thorough review of the educational system and how it is perceived by the consumers it is supposed to serve? So far, most of the changes the GES has introduced appear to have been imposed. Do the results on the ground justify the apparent complacency on the part of the GES, regarding its “reforms”?
There is an urgent need to improve our educational system, for we shall be going nowhere fast in the direction towards achieving our developmental goals, if we fail to educate our children properly.
Some of us remember that we were never taught by untrained teachers, but by teachers who inspired us to aspire to be like them. Today, many teachers struggle to achieve even the ordinary standards expected of them. But not too long ago, teachers used to harbour lofty ambition for higher education, over and above their given circumstances. They often succeeded in transferring their thirst for knowledge to their young wards. Teachers who had a Certificate “A” qualification were not satisfied with it and often studied privately so that they could gain a higher qualification and become ”post-secondary” teachers.
And many post-secondary teachers took overseas correspondence courses in order to obtain the GCE “Advanced Level” certificate, which enabled them to qualify to go to university. Have today’s generation heard of ”Wolsey Hall” or the “Rapid Results College” – two institutions that helped to send many teachers to university, who would, otherwise, have fallen by the wayside?
Without ambition, there can be no progress, but ambition can be stifled through neglect or indifference. How can you convince a young mind that he or she should try to excel at studies, when the computers supplied to them cannot be used because their school is not supplied with electricity, or if it has electricity, it is sporadic in nature, because of a nation-wide curse known as dumsor?
There is, one must reiterate, a bubble that separates the policy-makers (in their 4 by 4s; their generator-served homes and air-conditioned offices that renders dumsor irrelevant to them) from the society that is at the receiving end of their policies. That bubble must be pricked. And the Kukurantumi headmistress did just that.
Good on her!
Talking of education, I am pleased to learn that the Rotary Club of Accra Spintex – in a joint project with Rotary Accra South branch — has adopted the old Lashibi TMA School and is seeking funds to replace the School’s dilapidated Kindergarten Classroom with a modern Classroom Block..
This was announced on 12 July 2015, when the Club inaugurated the indomitable Publisher, Mr Fred Labi of Digibooks, P.O. Box T1, Tema, as its president for 2015-16. Fred Labi, a Publisher who has brought out several autobiographies of prominent Ghanaian men and women, is determined to move heaven and earth to complete the project during his presidency.
I know this because I have personal experience of his drive and determination, which he deployed to get the Club to help an orphanage at Abensu, near Pokuase, whose distress was brought to their attention by yours truly in September 2013.
At the inauguration, the immediate past president of Rotary Club Spintex Accra, Mr. Gordon Van Tay, recalled that since the Club obtained its Charter 3 years ago, it has, among other things, donated medicines and other items to Lekma Hospital to help manage a Cholera Epidemic; actively participate in the National Polio immunization week; and, as I disclosed earlier, donated various items to the Abensu Orphange. It has also given Library books, mattresses and various items, to The Accra Borstal Correction Centre.
My congratulations to all of them. God willing, I shall report to my readers that two Rotary Club branches in Accra have handed over a spanking new Kindergarten Classroom Block to the Lashibi TMA School, in the not too distant future! I know they can – and WILL — do it!