WITH six months remaining for the government to implement the four-year senior high school (SHS) programme, the Ministry of Education has tasked groups of consultants who are working feverishly on how to address the problem of additional classrooms and dormitories to accommodate new students.
The completion of the work of the consultants, which is being fast-tracked, will enable the government to take a firm decision on how more than 140,000 junior high school (JHS) students who are due for admission to SHS in September this year can begin their academic work without any hitch.
As a result of the introduction of the four-year SHS in 2007, many SHSs are faced with the lack of adequate classrooms and dormitories for the increased number of students.
A source at the Ministry of Education, who disclosed this to the Graphic in Accra last Friday, allayed the fears of the public concerning the smooth transition from the three-year SHS to four years and said a solution to the problem would certainly be found.
The assurance of the Ministry of Education comes against the backdrop of reports from the regions that SHSs may not be able to admit new JHS students for SHS programmes because of lack of space and facilities.
The source said the government was committed to pursuing its agenda of investing in the people and implementing its educational programmes.
“We are collating the various suggestions being put out and once that is done, we will take a decision,” it said.
It hinted that an amendment to the Education Act to change the four-year SHS to three years had been drafted and approved by Cabinet and that would be laid before Parliament on Wednesday, March 24, 2010.
The House is expected to approve the bill when it resumes in May 2010.
From Kumasi, some SHSs in the Ashanti Region have warned that they will not be able to admit fresh students for the next academic year if the necessary infrastructure is not put in place, reports Kwame Asare Boadu.
The heads of the schools contended that current classroom and residential accommodation available was not enough to meet the change-over of the SHS from three to four years and that it was incumbent on the government to save the situation.
The Headmaster of the Anglican SHS in Kumasi, Rev Canon Emmanuel Yaw Brobe-Mensah, told the Daily Graphic that he had told the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of the school to find ways of helping the school, without which there could not be any admission of SHS One students in September.
He stated that the PTA had agreed to levy each student GHҐ10 for the provision of an additional classroom block, adding, however, that that “is not enough under the present circumstances”.
Rev. Canon Brobe-Mensah said the school needed seven additional classrooms immediately.
“If we get this, then we can be sure to admit students to SHS One,” he added.
The Anglican SHS is one of the model schools that benefited from a number for projects during the NPP administration but the headmaster said unfortunately “no classroom blocks were provided”.
The Headmistress of Jachie Pramso SHS, Ms Afuande Eshun, said the school needed eight additional classrooms to be able to admit fresh students.
“If not, we cannot admit even one person in September,” she said in an interview.
She, therefore, urged the authorities to come in to prevent what could be a major setback in the educational sector.
Painting the same picture, the Assistant Headmaster (Academic) of the T.I. Ahmadiyya SHS, Mr Ernest Oppong Poku, said the main challenge facing the school was the lack of infrastructure, saying more needed to be provided immediately.
He said there was the need to complete a 12-unit classroom block, the construction of which had been in abeyance, to facilitate academic work.
He indicated that there was congestion in the dormitories, arguing that even if the school would admit students to SHS One, most of them would have to be day students.
With regard to teachers, the heads said the schools did not have a problem with them.
From Koforidua, A. Kofoya-Tetteh reports that most of the SHSs in the region are not prepared to admit new students at the beginning of the academic year in September due to lack of classrooms and dormitories.
The situation is serious at the Ghana SHS and the Koforidua SHS, which have virtually no extra classrooms and dormitories.
An additional 17 classrooms are needed at the Ghana SHS but there is no hope that they will be provided by September this year.
According to the Assistant Headmaster (Administration) of the school, Mr Jacob Afful, apart from the lack of classrooms and dormitories, the dining hall also had to be expanded, since its present size could not cater for additional students.
He said the school was currently not prepared to take in additional students in September and indicated that the administration had filled a form from the Ghana Education Service stipulating its needs and expressed the hope that the challenges would be met before the commencement of the new academic year.
Lack of dormitory facilities has been identified as one of the major challenges facing SHSs in the Upper East Region ahead of the 2010/2011 academic year in September this year, reports Benjamin Xornam Glover, Bolgatanga.
In an interview with heads of SHSs in Bolgatanga, the common challenge which ran through was the unavailability of dormitories to accommodate new students.
The Headmaster of Bawku SHS, Mr Bismark Simon Kpuli, said the school would have no option but admit new students as day students.
According to him, all the 1,784 students in the boarding house were there under difficult conditions and that until an additional dormitory was provided, it would be difficult to admit more students to the boarding house.
For her part, the Headmistress of Bolgatanga SHS, Mrs Francisca Yizura, expressed the hope that work on the new 12- unit classroom block would be completed on time to accommodate the new students.
She said the major challenge would be accommodation in the boarding house but indicated that the school authorities would meet the PTA and the board to discuss the options available to them.
Mrs Yizura, who is a member of the Upper East Regional executive of the Conference of Heads of Assisted Senior High Schools (CHASS), said the problems associated with the introduction of the new reform had been presented to the Director-General of the GES for the necessary action and solution.
From Wa, Chris Nunoo reports that accommodation for students who will be admitted to SHS next academic year seems to be the headache of most heads in the Upper West Region.
This is because many of the schools are presently grappling with lack of classroom blocks, dormitories, dining halls and furniture.
A visit to the Wa Senior High Technical School in the Wa municipality by the Daily Graphic revealed a shocking situation, with students having to convert classrooms into sleeping places after regular classes.
The situation is so appalling that it needs to be tackled as quickly as possible.
The school, situated at the centre of the Wa, has a population of about 494 students. Out of the number, about 95 per cent live on the compound, even though it has no boarding facilities.
In an interview, the Headmistress of the school, Ms Leocadia Zakpala, explained that though it did not have boarding facilities, it had been compelled to host students because majority of them came from very far villages.
She said as a result of the situation, desks had to be taken away from many of the classrooms after classes for students to sleep in them in the night.
Ms Zakpala was very concerned about where the new batch of students would have their lessons, since already there was so much pressure on classroom facilities in the school.
“You will not believe this but during examinations we run a shift system where one batch of students write after which another batch moves in. This is all because there are no halls or classrooms to accommodate students during examinations,” she lamented.
“So if we say we are going to admit fresh students, where will they sleep?” Ms Zakpala asked, and appealed to the contractors working on a new hostel, a classroom and a dining hall to speed up the work.
The Wa SHS is overcrowded, with the classrooms accommodating between 50 and 60 students, instead of a maximum of 45 students in a classroom.
The Headmaster of the school, Mr Jonas N Maari, was not happy about the situation, saying, "If we are to admit the next batch of students, then it is going to be a big problem on our hands.”
He mentioned lack of classroom accommodation, dormitories and furniture as the major concerns of the school at the moment.
The Daffiama SHS in the Nadowli District and the Lawra SHS are both confronted with similar challenges which call for a quick solution to enhance the admission of the next batch of students.
The implementation of the four-year SHS programme may run into serious difficulties if the government is not able to apply a fast-track intervention to provide additional infrastructure to solve the acute classroom and dormitory accommodation problems facing majority of schools in the Volta Region, writes Tim Dzamboe from Ho.
This came to light when the Daily Graphic interviewed some headmasters on the challenges their schools might face with respect to admissions in the next academic year.
The Headmaster of Kpedze SHS, Mr M.K. Arku, said the school needed at least 18 classrooms to ameliorate the situation of inadequate classrooms facing the school.
He said there was inadequate dormitory space, inadequate staff accommodation on the compound and inadequate number of computers in the laboratory.
The Headmaster of Awudome SHS, Mr Cyprian Kwasivi Otti said, “We don’t have classroom and dormitory accommodation and the government should come up with a package to salvage the situation before October this year.”
He said right now he was in a quandary and did not know what to do, especially whether the students should be admitted as day students.
In the case of the Kpeve SHS, many structures have already been converted into classrooms and the school will not be able to cope with the pressure when the new batch of students is admitted in September 2010.
The Headmaster, Mr S.K. Kudaya, said a pavilion which could accommodate 100 students was urgently needed, adding that an 18-unit classroom block would be ideal.
He said the needs of the school were numerous, including a science laboratory, staff bungalows and offices for the headmaster and teachers.
The Headmaster of Anloga SHS, Mr W.I.K. Azumah, said there was already congestion in the classrooms and the dormitories and the school would face a greater burden under the four-year SHS programme.
He suggested that pavilions be provided by the end of August, otherwise all new students would be admitted as day students.
For his part, the Principal of Have Senior High Technical School, Reverend G.K. Gidiglo, said a four-unit classroom block was needed, in addition to 350 pieces of furniture.
Meanwhile, the Volta Regional Director of the GES, Mr Gabriel S. Kploanyi, has corroborated the predicament facing the schools, saying that facilities in the 76 SHS in the region were overstretched.
He said a needs assessment had been conducted and delivered to the Ministry of Education, the GES and the Volta Regional Co-ordinating Council for their perusal and action.
Mr Kploanyi appealed to headmasters to be creative and innovative to enable them to accommodate the challenge and said they could not simply throw their hands in the air in desperation.
According to him, very good contractors could be engaged to construct pavilion school blocks within two months to meet the exigencies of the time.
In an address read on his behalf at the 20th anniversary of the Mampong Presbyterian SHS in the Akuapem North District on Saturday, the Minister of Education, Mr Alex Tettey-Enyo, confirmed the government's determination to resource SHSs with the needed infrastructure towards the take-off of the new programme next academic year, reports Nana Konadu.
"I wish to assure stakeholders that the government is seriously working around the clock to ensure that the basic necessities for the take-off of the extension next academic year will be put in place in all second-cycle schools, especially where the need is most critical and urgent," he stated.
The event was also used to inaugurate a two-storey girls’ dormitory that was funded by the PTA of the school.
The Minister of Education said while the four-year SHS programme had become an albatross around the neck of stakeholders, the government was making every strenuous efforts to provide all the SHSs across the country with the needed infrastructure to ensure a smooth take-off next academic year.
According to him, more attention would be given to schools that were in dire need of infrastructure, including the Mampong Presbyterian SHS.
The minister, who commended the PTA of the school for its commitment and support to the development of the school, also appealed to the students to concentrate on their studies to ensure that investments made in their education would yield positive outcomes in the future.
He appealed to the students not to allow the present inadequate learning environment they found themselves in to discourage them from concentrating on their studies.
The Eastern Regional Minister, Mr Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, also commended the PTA for its commitment to the growth of the institution over the past 20 years.
"With your great strides, you must not relent but continue to give your best support to your children's school, since the provision of education is a shared responsibility among the government, parents and civil society," he stated.
Earlier in his welcoming address, the Headmaster of the school, Rev S. M. A. Munyuhitum, had said the school currently had a student population of 952, comprising 236 day students and 716 boarders.
Being a community school, he said, the PTA had played an enormous role in its growth and development, with the government only providing a two-bedroom bungalow and an Isuzu pick-up for the school, apart from books.
"Over the years, it has been our PTA that has provided the school with dining and assembly halls, three classrooms and an office, two storerooms, 500 desks, two boreholes, a generator, two gas tanks for the kitchen and an extended and renovated girls' dormitory," he stated.
The headmaster, who was grateful for the commitment of the PTA, added that the PTA was currently funding the construction of a two-storey boys' dormitory block that could accommodate about 400 students upon completion.
He appealed to the government to come to the aid of the school, saying, "We need two vehicles, a 12-unit classroom block, a boys' dormitory, an administration block and staff bungalows to enhance teaching and learning."
The assurance of the Ministry of Education comes against the backdrop of reports from the regions that SHS may not be able to admit new students for SHS programmes because of lack of space and facilities.