Author Archives: admin

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Directors’ Corner

Category:Director's Corner

PEF Update

Since the announcement of the establishment of the Prempeh Endowment Fund (PEF) we have received enthusiastic support from Amanfoo all over the globe as exemplified by the write-up from the class of 80/82 (in this newsletter). Our collaboration with the National Executives has also been very fruitful and enabled the ideals captured in the PEF. We now have over 1700 alumni formally registered at www.prempeh.com. However, we can confidently assume that there is a large proportion of Amanfoo who are not even aware of this initiative. We invite all Amanfoo to spread the word and encourage others to visit the website, register and learn more about PEF.

The establishment of PEF is just the first baby step in the journey towards our ultimate goal of making Prempeh College the premier institution at the secondary level of education not only in Ghana but on the continent of Africa. We are building momentum since the initial announcement but there also remains a lot of work to be done in order to accomplish that goal. We encourage all Amanfuo to donate their time as well as financial resources to support this worthy cause. Visit www.prempeh.com and make a donation today and also reach out to the Directors (directors@prempeh.com) to volunteer your time.

Reverend Pearson had a dream and initiated the project that binds us today as Amanfoo; now, it is up to us to build upon what he started and take it to the next level as benefactors. If we pull our resources and row magnificently in sync we shall reach that goal sooner. Please donate today!

Retroactive Non-profit Tax-exemption Approval by the US IRS.

We would like to remind Amanfoo that PEF’s 501 (c)(3) status is retroactive to June 18, 2016. Thus, anyone who made a charitable contribution or donation to PEF prior to December 31, 2016 can make a deduction on his or her 2016 tax returns, because of the retroactive approval. If you made a donation to PEF in 2016 but haven’t yet received a receipt for your 2016 tax returns, please send a message via email to directors@prempeh.com.

As a reminder, any charitable contributions/donations you make to PEF will be tax-deductible. We encourage every Amanfuo to take advantage of this tax-exempt status and contribute/donate generously to the fund. Please visit www.prempeh.com and donate today!

Townhall Meetings

We are currently engaging year groups in townhall meetings to take questions and discuss the goals, status and future activities of PEF. In the past month, we engaged the classes of 80/82 and 81/83 in what can only be described as lively and very fruitful discussions. If your year group or local Amanfoo association would like to engage PEF directors in an informal discussion (via either a teleconference, a chatroom or on a platform forum such as Whatsapp) please send  an email to directors@prempeh.com to schedule the event.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Category:Alumni Highlights

Q1.        What is an Endowment Fund and Why Do We Need One for Prempeh?

A1.       First, let’s start with what an endowment fund is not. An endowment fund is not just a bank account with folks contributing money to be used to fix the school’s problems. An endowment fund is set up with both the governance and legal framework that allows the school to adopt a best practice for giving through which it can raise funds and have constant annual flow of funds to address emerging challenges in a sustainable manner.  The goal is to give the school a responsible, accountable tool to invest in educational programs and infrastructure.  The Prempeh Endowment Fund (PEF) has been set up with the legal requirement to solely benefit Prempeh College.

Q2.      How many endowment funds for the school are in existence at the moment?

A2.       Besides the PEF, we are not aware of any formally registered endowment fund(s) in existence today with the legal construct as discussed above in response to Q1.

Q3.      Is the PEF owned by or belongs to the Class of ‘79?

A3.       No. There is no concept of individual ownership of the PEF and it certainly does not belong to the Class of 79.  The PEF is an independent corporate entity established for all Amanfoo and operates as such under US laws. While the interest to establish an endowment fund has been an abstraction of many, a few committed individuals from that class, with relevant experience in such matters, spearheaded the formation of the PEF.

Q4.      Why was the PEF set up as a fully independent corporate entity?

A4.      After consulting with several educational funds, obtaining input from anticipated donors, and upon seeking legal advice, it became absolutely apparent that the endowment fund be legally separated from any association or membership organization in order to protect the fund from reputational, regulatory and other risks that may emanate from the operation of an association or may be associated with an individual outside of its scope.

Q5.      What does PEF work on behalf of the school?

A5.      The PEF requires the creation of a School Plan that includes a set of annual and multi-year plans to guide how we collectively fund the school’s priorities on top of what the government provides.

Q6.      Is the PEF fully operational with a complete structure and plan for Amanfoo to get to work?  In other words, can we be doing anything in the interim?

A6.       While a great deal has been accomplished there remains a lot of work to do in order to get the PEF to the desired state.  There is a lot that can be done in the interim. Since all the work is being done on voluntary basis, any Amanfoo or year group is more than welcome to assist by contacting the directors of PEF at directors@prempeh.com

Q7.      Is the Fund limited only to Amanfoo in North America?

A7.       No, there is no concept of limiting the fund to Amanfoo in North America or any one geographical area for that matter.  Anyone, anywhere, who wants to donate to the fund is welcome to do so; we currently have donors from the US, UK and Ghana who have all given directly to the Endowment.  The Endowment operates and is managed in the US where the laws governing educational funds are strong.  The universal nature of the EF does not introduce any additional level of complexity.  Anybody giving to the fund does not alter the intent of the fund or how the fund operates.

Q8.      What role, if any, are the various Amanfoo Associations around the world expected to play?

A8.       It is expected that all Amanfoo will work together to build up the size of the fund pool.  The Amanfoo associations should be the forums for engaging alumni in all fund-raising activities.  Thus, they become partner organizations to the PEF in order to execute on the school’s 1-year, medium and long term plans.

Q9.      What is a 1-year plan for Prempeh College?

A9.       The 1-year plan is nothing but the operating budget for the school year that captures the maintenance and the set of prioritized projects to be completed for the school year. This is a plan for the full year’s expenditures and sources of funds

Q10.    In what ways can one invest or make a donation towards the mission of the School?

A10.     One can definitely contribute their time to assist in putting together all the necessary structures to enable the desired state of the PEF.  In addition, Amanfoo can make financial contributions to the fund.  There are 4 contribution types:

1) Unrestricted donation — Allows the Fund to allocate funds where the need is greatest

2) Committed donation — Donate to the Fund towards a specific and defined prioritized project

3) Benefactor — A benefactor can stipulate in their will and bequeath assets to the Fund

4) Partner donors — External funds solicited from other private foundations

Q11     Will the fund be professionally managed at some point?

A11.     Presently, the fund is professionally managed by Fidelity Investments, Inc.  A first draft of an investment committee is being discussed now.  Amanfoo with the required statutory background experience in line with the fund governance are invited to participate.  This committee interfaces with the fund manager.  Express your interest to serve by contacting the directors (directors@prempeh.com)

Q12.    Are year groups supposed to fund these short, medium and long term projects through contributions to a specific fund under the PEF?

A12.     Not quite.  The school plan will have short, medium and long-term plans. Each of those plans will have activities and projects in them.  The PEF then goes out and raises funds for them.  If a new source of funding comes in the form of a class fund, then the PEF works with that source to make sure there is a fit.  For example, let’s say there is a donation that is committed to a specific project from a year group.  The year group can then decide to set up the Class Fund and when they are ready, fund the project. They may choose to do a medium term or long term project.

Q13.    Will the fund be housed in Ghana or in the US?

A13.     Funds raised in GHS will be domiciled in Ghana; funds raised in other currencies will be invested with Fidelity Investments, Inc. in the USA.

Q14.    Why is it registered as an NGO in Ghana or is it because it is a special purpose Fund?

A14.     This was done for tax reasons and also to simplify interactions with external educational donors

Q15.    Will Fidelity Investments, Inc. employ a local fund manager to invest the Ghana domiciled funds in local instruments?

A15.     The PEF has had that discussion with Fidelity Investment. The advice we received was to focus GH domiciled funds on short-term projects and immediate needs of the school.  PEF is working with Ecobank of Ghana to take on the responsibility of investing funds locally.

 


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ONE FUND, ONE MISSION – A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lay a solid foundation

Category:Highlights

Members of the 80/82 year group have been guided by this maxim from the Good Book, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” We are ever mindful of the debt of gratitude we owe Prempeh College for the invaluable life lessons inculcated in us during our formative years there. Lessons that have shaped and molded us into people we have now become.

We were trained academically and spiritually in an atmosphere which enabled us to form life-long friendships – friendships which have formally coalesced into the 80/82 year Group. Our goals among others is to be each other’s keeper and also to pull our resources together to assist in alleviating some of the numerous infrastructural and logistical problems bedeviling our alma mater.

It’s in the pursuance of the latter goal that our year group in commemoration of our 30th anniversary of admission to Prempeh undertook several activities to benefit our school in 2005. To help address the chronic water shortage on campus we donated eleven poly-tanks (one for each house and the remaining two to the administration). We also organized a formal event to honor the foremost Amanfuor of the day, the-then sitting President of the Republic of Ghana, HE John Agyekum Kufuor and his chief-of-staff, Mr. Kwame Mpianim, also an Amanfuor. We honored outstanding staff with awards. We then held a dinner for all staff and faculty as well as the student body.

We were in the process of purchasing several toilet seats in 2016 for the school when we got word that another year group had already committed to doing the same and were far advanced in their preparation than we were. We therefore gave up on that project to re-think our next step.

It was in the midst of deliberating on what we could do next for our school that we got word about the Prempeh Endowment Fund (PEF). After “meeting” with Senior Kwapong on our WhatsApp platform, he was able to fill us in on the origins of the PEF, its goals and objectives, management structure and the lasting benefit it could serve our alma mater. He was gracious enough to answer our questions and shed light on how the PEF would operate.

Needless to say, the general consensus after the “meeting” was that the PEF is well thought out and deserves our serious attention and consideration. As stakeholders in the future of our alma mater we saw the PEF as providing a long-term solution to the present norm of assisting our school on ad-hoc basis. While not being critical of our past efforts, those efforts can at best be described as haphazard, uncoordinated, duplication of efforts leading to excessive attention to some areas while others were neglected. This band-aid approach was not adequate in seriously tackling the myriad of problems facing our institution. We needed change and a new approach.

The PEF offers us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lay a solid foundation upon which we can erect the edifice of securely-structured, well-coordinated, systematic and reliable source of assistance for our school. The fund which will be professionally managed will bring transparency and accountability to endowment process. It will also tap into a wider network of donors thereby broadening our donor base beyond alumni.

There is no doubt that there might still be a few kinks to work out such as ensuring that resources sent to the school will be used for the assigned purpose, accountability at the implementation level, etc. but we are on board in using the PEF as a vehicle to contribute our quota to Prempeh’s betterment and future development.


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How to Turn Around a Failing School

Category:Alumni Highlights

To say that school reforms are a contested area is something of an understatement. There are some strongly held opinions in education about what improves a school, such as raising teaching standards and reducing class sizes.

Our findings challenge some of these beliefs. To understand how to turn around a failing school quickly, using as few resources as possible, we studied changes made by 160 UK academies after they were put into remedial measures by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED) up to seven years ago. (In the UK, an academy is a publicly funded school or group of schools. One school can acquire others to form a group, which shares resources, making investment easier and cuts less painful. Academies have devolved decision-making powers, bypassing local government.)

This provided us with the rare opportunity to look at a large number of organizations which all:

  • Are regulated, documented, and measured in the same way
  • Provide a similar service
  • Have made similar changes

However, each academy:

  • Made these changes in a different order
  • Operated in regions with different levels of competition and access to resources

This is research gold, as it’s possible to isolate variables and understand the impact of changing them. For example, we were able to say 30 academies made X change, while 40 didn’t, and then draw conclusions from the differing outcomes. We could analyze the effects of 58 types of investment, on 18 performance measures over time, in 160 academies operating in 18 different regions. We were given full access to the academies’ management information systems, leaders, staff and students so we could see how they worked, the decisions they’d made and the impact they’d had.

So what did we find? Like any turnaround, there is no magic bullet — a series of remedial steps need to be taken. And each step’s impact depends and builds on the previous steps in the sequence, as well the school’s location, because the latter determines access to good leaders, teachers, and students.

Here are recommendations based on the effective (and ineffective) practices we uncovered:

Don’t improve teaching first. This was a very common mistake. Many schools tried to improve teaching while still struggling with badly behaving students, operating across a number of sites or having a poor head of school in charge. You can’t expect teachers to sort out all the problems themselves — you need to create the right environment first.

Do improve governance, leadership, and structures first. Otherwise, you’re putting great teachers in a position where they fail — they’ll waste time doing or managing the wrong things.

Don’t reduce class sizes. While reducing class size works, it is not the best use of resources. It is expensive and you can create the same impact by improving student motivation and behavior, which takes fewer resources. We found class sizes of 30 performed as well as class sizes of 15, when standards of student behavior had been addressed first.

Do improve student behavior and motivation. The best way to create the right environment for good teachers is to improve student behavior and motivation. Controversially, we found that the fastest way to do this is to exclude poorly behaved students: Pay other schools to teach them or, as most academies did, build a new, smaller school for these students. However, while this “quick win” produced immediate results, it was not the best long-term solution (and indeed, it’s probably not the best solution for society either). The better, more sustainable practice was to move poorly behaved students into another pathway within the existing school, so that they can be managed differently and reintegrated into the main pathway once their behavior has improved.

Don’t use a “zero tolerance” policy. Many schools tried to come down hard on poor behavior with a “zero tolerance” policy. However, the short term, positive impact didn’t last and in some cases, students revolted and even rioted.

Do create an “all through” school. Keep students from the age of five until they leave at ages 16 or 18. In this way, school leaders can create the right culture early on and ensure that poor behaviors never develop. It also makes teaching at secondary school level (age 11 up) much easier, as you don’t have to integrate older students with different views about standards.

Don’t use a super head. Many academies parachuted in a “super head” from a successful school to turn themselves around. Although this had a positive short-term impact, it didn’t create the right foundations for sustainable long-term improvement. These “super heads” tended to be involved only for one to two years and focused their changes on the school year (ages 15–16) and subjects (mathematics and english) used to assess performance, so they could make quick improvements, take the credit, and move on.

In every case, exam results dipped after the “super head” left and only started improving three years later. The new head spent up to $2 million cleaning up the mess created by diverting attention, resources, and teaching capability from other age groups and subjects.

Do improve all year groups. Although schools can improve short-term performance by cutting and reallocating resources, they will not create sustainable improvement unless they invest in all age groups and subjects.

Don’t expect inner city schools to be more difficult. Another common view is that it is more difficult to turn around an inner city school. However, we found it is easier, as they have greater access to good leaders, teachers, and students.

Do invest more in rural and coastal schools. It is more difficult to attract good leaders, teachers and students in rural and coastal areas. Improvement was much slower in these regions.

 

Don’t expect spending more money to solve your school’s problems any faster… More resources can help to overcome specific challenges, such as attracting good leaders and teachers, but at least in these 160 British academies, what mattered most to the overall speed of improvement was making the right changes in the right order. 

…But, at the same time, don’t expect to improve without spending more, at least in the short term. To improve student learning, schools must have the basic resources they need to improve student behavior, pay higher salaries to attract good teachers, and employ staff to manage parents so teachers can spend more time teaching and leaders can spend more time leading. Expect financial performance to dip in the short-term. Pursuing financial performance over operational performance will not serve students well in the long term. 

There are three key learnings from this research. First, you need to create the right environment before improving teaching standards. Great teaching is wasted without the right governance, leadership, and structures, with well-behaved students.

Second, the most significant improvement occurred when schools changed their students by excluding poor behavior, creating multiple pathways for students with differing needs and creating a school for ages five through 16–18. This change consistently improved performance more than any other.

Third, you have to plan for a dip in financial performance before your exam results will improve. You either need to part of a larger group (such as a multiacademy trust) with access to the resources you need to get through this dip. Or, acquire another school early on in your journey to increase your revenue and spread your costs across a larger number of students. 


Alex Hill is a Co-Founder and Director of The Centre for High Performance, an Associate Professor at the University of Kingston and a Visiting Professor at a number of universities around the world. He previously worked at the University of Oxford and spent ten years in various divisions of the Smiths Group, a large engineering multinational. Twitter: @cfhperformance


Liz Mellon is the Founder and Chair of the Editorial Board for the Duke Corporate Education journal, Dialogue. She was previously the Indian Regional Managing Director at Duke CE, a Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School and spent twelve years in the Department of Trade and Industry. Twitter: @lizmellonduke


Jules Goddard is a Fellow of London Business School and formerly Gresham Professor of Commerce at City University.


Ben Laker is a Co-Founder and Director of The Centre for High Performance, a Lecturer at Kingston University and a Visiting Professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy. He previously spent ten years as a turnaround consultant.


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Doing Great Work In the G20 – Henry Addison ’80/82

Category:Class Notes

There are lots of Amanfoo doing great work in the service of not only Ghana, but also to the world at large.  One of the finest is Mr Henry Addison of the 80/82 year group, Aggrey House.

Henry trained as a Barrister in England and also holds a Masters Degree in Commercial Law from the University of Melbourne, Australia.  Henry is currently a corporate and international taxation adviser to the Australian government. He has represented Australia at OECD meetings in Paris in relation to the G20/OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project aimed at preventing multinationals from avoiding or deferring taxes.

He negotiated key Australian free trade agreements, amongst them the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  He has also conducted national interest assessments for Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board in relation to inbound investment proposals to acquire Australian assets.

Henry currently resides in Canberra, Australia with his family.


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Guidelines for Organizing Year Groups……across the globe

Category:Highlights

We have provided functionalities on Prempeh.com to provide the tools for Amanfoo to organize around logical groups especially around respective Year Groups in furtherance of marshaling resources and talent to help the school.  Here are some of the features we want to highlight:

Your Profile

Your profile is similar to Facebook-like profile where you can share, post photos, and connect as friends with other Amanfoo.

Groups

There is a social networking feature to enable your group community to connect using profiles, groups, and more.

To create a group for your community (eg. year group), please send a request to admin@prempeh.com, with the name of the group.

An email subscription feature notifies members of a group when other members post content.  The notification is done by email, and is totally configurable.  Each member can choose, for each group, how he or she wants to be notified – (1) No Email; (2) Weekly Digest Summary; (3) Daily Digest Summary; (4) New Topics Email; or (5) All Email.  Members can also determine what kind of group activity that want to be notified about.

Creating Documents In Groups

Document creation feature “adds collaborative work spaces to your community. Part wiki, part document editing,”  Docs provides a robust way for members to collaborate on group content.  Permissions can be set to control edit and view privileges.  Version control is automatically maintained, and members can revert changes, or simply track a document’s evolution.  Documents can be tagged, sorted, and filtered.

Forums for Discussions

There is also a group forum functionality.  It allows members of a group to start forum topics, create discussion threads, tag content, and easily add images and links.

We are inviting year groups to organize on the platform to make it easier to stay in touch for the benefit of a great school.


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The Registration Push Is On

Category:Highlights

Dear Amanfoo,

We are in our next phase of making Prempeh College the school of choice again. With the launch of the Prempeh Endowment Fund (PEF), we are asking all Amanfoo, friends and supporters to register to be counted.

Registration is through the website, www.prempeh.com/register, which has all the information to help educate all interested parties and also serves as a communication platform to help us create a community for all alumni and friends of Prempeh College.

The Directors are inviting all Amanfuo to register and join this effort to work collaboratively to make planning and support for the school both meaningful and sustainable. We are also encouraging each and every one of you to help spread the news to other Amanfoo you know by forwarding this post.


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The Prempeh Endowment Fund – Get Onboard

Category:Highlights

By Godfried Foli Arthur

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” – Winston Churchill

Wait no more!! The promised and indeed, the much anticipated Prempeh Endowment Fund (PEF) is launched.  This project was borne out of numerous conversations with Prempeh College stakeholders where it became clear that an Endowment Fund (EF) is the wave of the future since the status quo hasn’t worked or helped. The fervent desire to give back to the school that nurtured us sent a group of seniors and consultants to work, and the end product is a well-developed endowment fund (EF) four all Amanfoo to give back to Prempeh College. This is the Prempeh hubris we have all grown to accept and love to project among our equals.

We realize that a school spanning almost seven decades has an Alumni who are always ready to lend a helping hand if the right call is made or the right approach employed. We also realize or recognize that it takes a collective effort in a novel project like this to bring people together and work towards a common cause like what is envisaged here with the EF. Therefore, the establishment of this EF now gives us a new avenue to make a lasting and a more sustainable contribution to our Alma Mater. It is in fact a way to support the needs of Prempeh College with practically no time commitment. Simply choose how you want to donate to the Fund through various provisions provided.

It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us“-Jackie Mutcheson


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Taking Care of A Community – Dr. Eba Polley

Category:Class Notes

There is no service more amazing than a man who, out of the kindness of his heart, finds life’s purpose in helping everyone he is able to help.   This Class Note is a focus on Dr. Eba Polley, who is a practicing gynecologist in Tema.

A young french refugee from the tragic Ivorian war walked into his office one day.  She did not speak English but his brother who she came with spoke a bit of English and told Eba Polley that she had been in pain for almost 6 months.  Everyone believed she had gotten cancer until an Amanfoo came across a church group and heard the young woman’s story.  When the Amanfoo shared the story with Eba Polley, the amazing doctor went out of his way to take care of her and arranged for her to have a surgery for removal of a cyst.   Amanfoo like Dr. Eba Polley are the ones who push the boundaries of service.

Today Dr. Eba Polley lives in Tema, married with 2 children and doing some great work.


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The Challenges of Ghana’s Educational System – Some Reflections

Category:Highlights

By Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

Ghana, as a nation, has come far on the educational ladder, right from the ECM (English Church Mission) and SPG (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) church schools in the castles, which were ran by Rev Thomas Thompson and Philip Quarcoo. Then came Akropong Akwapim Training College in 1848 founded by the Presbyterian Church, Mfantsipim (formerly Richmond College in 1876 founded by Kwaa Botwe), and Achimota College in 1919 founded by Governor Gordon Guggisberg. Before those, we had Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Education is the process of exposure to superior and quality knowledge, as well as empowering educatees with valid knowledge so that they have critical thinking skills and faculties to make informed, better and quality decisions which will add value to the quality of their own lives, and lives of others, and in the end, help resolve socio-techno-politico-economic (PEST), and national problems.

Can we vouch that in the light of the aforementioned definition and inferred objectives of education, these noble objectives of education are being attained by the current products of our pre-tertiary educational institutions in Ghana?

A.N. Whitehead, the renowned English philosopher and educationist, once wrote that, ‘Education is the purgation of the crudities of the mind.’ Thus, from this quote, we infer that education is a process of refinement of the brain such that base and crude ideas are rid of through expungement, annihilation, extirpation, and banishing of darkness, socially, mentally, physically, and morally by imprinting on what John Locke referred to as the ‘tabula rasa’ or the analogical blank sheet or uninformed mind of the child.

It is a never-ending and continuous process of enlightenment to know and uncover the truth. Is our current educational system in Ghana achieving those goals set by Whitehead in his definition, and are we imprinting the right things on the ‘tabula rasa’ of the children? Confucius once said that the future of a country depends on the quality of education its citizens receive, and the quality of leadership of a country is as bad as its citizenry or a reflection of it.

The Pestalozzi principle of education aims at training the head, heart, and hands of our tutees so that they can think rationally, become passionate about noble and national causes, and become creative with their heads and hands in adding value to the GDP. Can we say that our current educational system in Ghana is achieving those noble goals set by Pestalozzi more than 300 years ago? As a nation, what are the educational goals that we set for ourselves, as defined by the ruling party’s manifesto and policies, and by the public interest?

It is, however, gratifying to note that the World Bank from 2014 to 2019 has set aside 156 million dollars towards the Secondary Education Improvement Programme in Ghana. This is in partnership with the government, and it is in recognition of the falling standards of education in Ghana which Brig General Nunoo-Mensah recently referred to severally and generically when he said that, ‘the country of Ghana was rapidly going downhill in all spheres of life’. An American documentary on Ghana which was made in 1994 ran a commentary pertaining to the falling standards of education in Ghana. I could not better concur with these views.

The OECD recently published a report of a survey taken of 15 year olds from 76 countries, and Ghana happened to fall at the tail end of the league table which was compiled by them. What a sad story to befall our beloved country! The World Bank amount of 156 million dollars which is to be spent between 2014 and 2019 is targeted at 23 selected Senior High Schools in Ghana, to help them improve on quality delivery of educational services.

What kind of education are we giving our children in Ghana these days? Are we giving the right dose of holistic education which will make our students and pupils self-reliant, tolerant, honest, patriotic, innovative, inquisitive, diligent, globally competitive, technologically-savvy and au-fait, and above all, selfless or altruistic?

Is our educational system inspiring confidence in our students to appreciate their self-worth, become appreciative of beauty in nature, beauty in their surroundings, and kindle in them high appreciation for aesthetic beauty in art works, music, sculpture, crafts, dance, poetry, folklore, scholarship, temperance? Are they being properly prepared to become cautiously futuristic, optimistic, and humane in all their noble endeavours?

If we examine the levels of crimes and moral turpitude prevailing in all spheres of life in Ghana today, we will be wont to conclude that the quality of education being delivered now has gone down from the previous high standards. It will be highly subjective to measure such criterion but then the evidence of frequent and rampant telling of lies, soaring levels of corruption and cheating in our nation are barometric indicators which are there for all to see, and there is no need to develop metrics to measure such an elusive phenomenon.

For purposes of this short write-up, I shall narrow education down to basic education received up to senior high school level. This write-up will also examine why we have mediocrity in Ghana today, explore the genesis of vices such as corruption, greed and avarice, examination leakages, political kerfuffle and disquiet, media obfuscation, and in general, national malaise and social atrophy in the Ghanaian body polity.

It seems that we have two main types of parallel education in Ghana today, leading to education apartheid or separateness. On the one hand, we have some modicum of quality education found in the so-called (in Ghanaian terminology), elite private international schools at the primary and Junior Secondary school levels, where educational standards are relatively quite high, and fees are astronomical, beyond the reach of most average Ghanaians. (Of course, we have the high or upper end of the market world-class international schools for expatriates and the super-rich.

This market has schools such as the Ghana International School, Lincoln International School, S.O.S Herman School in Tema, among others. These are in the international circuit and they are not meant for majority of us on account of their steep charges which are denominated in foreign currency. These schools have international curricula which they follow such as IB, Cambridge A Levels, IGCSE, and the American schools’ syllabus).

On the other hand are the mass ‘cyto’ or public primary and junior secondary schools where in most cases, school buildings are dilapidated, school furniture is hardly found, teachers are inadequate, overworked, and relatively poorly remunerated. Instructional materials are scarcely supplied, and teachers in some cases, for most times, are doing sinecure jobs. Some school pupils in rural areas learn under trees. Some of their dilapidated buildings have their roofs blown off during heavy tropical storms. This is the typical scenario for most poverty-stricken families in poor rural communities, and even in the old towns which have experienced declining economic fortunes.

Pupils are mostly deployed to work on farms, or they do some communal labour such as weeding or construction work to help raise some funds for the school kitty. In such schools and environment, academic learning is relegated to a secondary status as the aim is to be seen to be going through the motions of delivering some kind of education, with no regard for quality. When we talk about quality education, we mean total, comprehensive, and holistic education that touches the head, heart, and hands of educatees and tutees.

Run-down school infrastructure is normally found in the remote areas of Ghana where school inspection and supervision are hardly existent. Educational institutions in the public primary and junior secondary categories in Ghana have become havens and incubators for ‘sakawa’ or internet fraudsters, breeding grounds for loafers, rabble-rousers, armed robbers, a place to grow up, and in general, the sans cullotte repository.

This is so because students and tutees are not academically engaged and challenged by their instructors, teachers, and tutors. Sometimes, students become disenchanted, with bleak prospects facing them in the job market, and so they lose momentum for learning. The plight of these half-baked and potentially dangerous drop-outs reminds one of the poetry of Alexander Pope who intoned;

A little learning is a dangerous thing,
Drink deep or taste not the Pierian Springs
Where shallow draughts intoxicate the brain
And drinking deep sobers the mind once again
~ Alexander Pope

Boys and girls in these cyto public schools can hardly speak good English as some resort to the easy way out – what is usually termed Pidgin English or patois. They hardly can spell simple English words correctly. Many cannot construct nor write simple grammatically-correct plain words of good English. I always bow down my head in shame whenever some of these Ghanaians are interviewed in the international media on TV or on air, and they stutter and fumble a lot with the way they express themselves in the English Language, creating a sorry sight for themselves, and cutting a poor image for our country.

We are not saying that we want to train students for educational grammar or scholarship, but then for them to be functionally literate and employable or effective as entrepreneurs in the global village, they need to be well-rounded and well-grounded in basic literacy and numeracy, reading skills, good writing skills, logic, rhetoric, eloquence, interpersonal and communication skills, among other areas of epistemology and pedagogy.

Ghana used to be a role model for other colonial African countries in terms of our high levels of education. Our judges and magistrates used to be deployed to superintendent work in some of the neighbouring countries, working for UAC, and the colonial judicature and civil service. Our soldiers in the colonial West African Frontier Force distinguished themselves in various fields of endeavour during the World Wars in Camerouns, Abbysinia, Burma, among others. Those included people like Lt Gen Emmanuel Ankrah, Major Anthony, Lawyer Aduamuah, Sgt Mike Adjavon, Sgt Adjetey, among others of blessed memory.

The list at the beginning of this write-up informs and refers. Of those listed there, some were international diplomats of repute with UN agencies, Commonwealth Secretariat, distinguished academics and researchers, scientists currently at NASA, among others. They are products from the old school. But now we have lost it, and we are far flung at the bottom of the global league table of academic ranking. Of course, our universities are still of great standing in Africa. Whether we like it or not, English has become the international or universal language (lingua franca), and a vehicle for communication and instruction in the world of commerce and industry, in the on-going process of globalisation.

Of course, it is cardinal and imperative for us to get our kids first to value and appreciate our rich heritage and lore in the local languages and culture, and then extend the knowledge gained therefrom in mastering the English Language. After all, it is often said that charity begins at home. Some Ghanaian critics parochially view mastering of the English Language as part of cultural imperialism. Need this be the case? What about the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and others who are falling over themselves and making every effort to learn English in order to drive their businesses in the global milieu?

The thesis of this write-up is that we do not have to crowd the timetables of our beginning students with so many subjects as to make them functionally illiterate in the basics of reading, writing, and basic arithmetic. Do we believe in more is better than less or is it a way of keeping the masses at the bottom so that the few monetised and ruling classes will continue dominating and keeping the status quo ante?

These elite can afford to hire part-time teachers for their children, and also provide them with a conducive environment for their wards to excel academically in the BECE and WASSCE examinations. Even though there is a policy of Free Compulsory Universal Education in Ghana, outcomes of education are not commensurate with what one will expect in a Middle Income country like Ghana.

The table below from WAEC shows the increasing numbers of candidates who write the Senior High School exams from about 500 SHS public and 288 private secondary schools in Ghana. It is reckoned that an average of 21% candidates manage to obtain grades between A1 and C6 to go on to tertiary institutions. In 2014, there were 422,946 candidates from all the 10 regions who wrote the exam, comprising 223,765 male and 199,181 female;

WASSCE PASS RATES
2014 2013 2012 2011 2009 2008 2007 2006 YR
28.10 19.15 31.19 26.00 14.58 12.95 10.58 12.51 %

Number of Candidates for WASSCE
YR 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Number 395637 350899 372826 376859 391079 422946
Source: WAEC

Why are we toying with, and treating education in Ghana to Cinderella looks? Are we practising factional elitism in order to create a wedge between the well-educated minority elite on the one hand, and on the other hand, the functionally illiterate majority? Why do we rush to build many schools where trained teachers cannot be found, and where we do not have the wherewithal to procure instructional materials for use by pupils?

The statistics enclosed here below indicates that Ghana is among the global front-runners in terms of allocation of GDP to education. Denmark, Iceland, Finland and most Scandinavian countries are global leaders in education, healthcare and general welfare of their citizens. It is commendable that the figures below show a rising trend of educational budget allocations for Ghana, being above the UN recommended minimum of 4% of GDP to be allocated to education. However, it seems the problem lies in the utilisation of funds for planned and intended purposes, and other lapses in the system such as poor budget oversight. Arthur Okun refers to the fungibility of donor funds and likens it to a leaking bucket.

Expenditures on Education in Ghana as Per cent of GDP
YEAR 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005
%GDP Exp 8.1 5.5 5.3 5.8 5.5 5.3 7.4
Source: World Development Indicators Sept 2014

Is quality not better than quantity? Is it not better to use the little resources to improve the quality of existing infrastructure than to dissipate the resources in providing more schools which become like empty shells? In some communities that I know of, new schools were built but no pupils could be found in the catchment areas which are populated by very old people, whose grown-up children and grandchildren have domestically migrated to the cocoa-growing and heavily forested areas. These migrants periodically come back home during Gomoa Two Weeks Festival or during other festivals.

Timetables of junior secondary school students are crowded and populated with 10 fanciful subject areas such as ICT, Basic Design and Technology, Religious and Moral Education, Social Studies, Integrated Science, Mathematics, among others. At the end of their programmes, some of them will not have physically seen a computer or a chisel in their lives or even a test tube, beaker or flat-bottomed flask, or electric cooker/oven, and yet they are supposed to take BECE and WASSCE examinations in ICT, Science, Basic Design and Technology, among other subjects.

I had occasion to read some of the textbooks of my daughter who wrote her BECE in 2013, and I was shocked to realise that their ICT textbooks were 20 years behind time. Many of their textbooks are poorly written with factual errors and they are poorly articulated. Most authors were just rushing to press to make money and not to deliver quality. Their English textbook was equally poorly written and not well articulated or illustrated.

In 1986, the current junior and senior secondary school systems came into being to replace the old 6-4/5-2-3 system which comprised 6 years primary education, 4 years middle school, 5 years secondary school, 2 years sixth form, and three years university. The author went through that old system of 6-4/5-2-3. The current system is 2-6-3-3-4, comprising 2 years kindergarten, 6 years primary school, 3 years junior secondary, 3 years senior secondary, and 4 years university.

Under the current system, most students do not complete studying their secondary syllabus, and then they are rushed to write final exams because the time duration is short, syllabus content is dense and bulky, some teachers are not committed, among other hurdles. Students are forced to learn and regurgitate stock answers because the BECE and WASSCE exams are structured in a way, requiring specific stock answers, and students are not awarded credit for critical thinking nor allowed the freedom to think outside the box when answering questions in the exam. Could this be one reason why there is an upsurge in exam malpractices in Ghana, and also decay in moral standards?

It seems to me that the whole aim of the current system of education is to first frustrate as many students as possible to drop out or fail the exams, or to produce programmed robotic students who can pass exams through producing stock answers. Is this quality learning? Are we producing critical thinkers who can be creative and problem-solvers? Are our students going to be successful when they meet their counterparts from other parts of the world? Will this type of stock learning of programmed answers produce quality national leaders?

What do you expect from such a flawed educational system? There is high incidence of functional illiteracy of most pupils, prevalence of rote-learning, institutionalisation of dichotomised education, rampant cheating, persistent corruption, among other vices and negative consequences. Prior to the exam period, students are gripped with panic and there is pandemonium, and bedlam preceding exams.

Head teachers and teachers become desperate to record high pass rates for their schools, parents want their children to have certificates at all cost, pupils become anxious and restless to obtain good credits so as to gain admission into tertiary institutions, school proprietors want to attract more custom, and they may resort to buying question papers, among other motives and underhand methods.

Our current state of Ghana reflects this dysfunctional educational system, as shortcuts become the norm because of lack of proper moral foundations.

Politicians who emerge from such a system see nothing wrong bribing the electorate to gain power because power is the ultimate prize which must be attained at any price in this world of survival of the fittest, and Hobbesian state of nature of Leviathan. The contractor sees nothing wrong using inferior materials in construction. The building inspector who should know better is easily fobbed off by bribes in brown envelopes. The pastor will willy-nilly give false prophecy so as to scare the hell out of his congregation so that he can fleece and milk them. Goro boys and leeches emerge at passport and visa offices, expecting their cuts from frustrated and prospective applicants and candidates.

Judges swing the pendulum of justice in the direction where their bread is heavily buttered. Law enforcement officers play to the gallery and free culprits who can grease their palms. Male lecturers award high marks to beautiful but undeserving female students who will pander to their lust. Town planners turn a blind eye to bribes when prospective builders entice them to overrule professional advice for them to build in unpermitted areas. The upshot is a nation of disorder, greed, gross disrespect for time-honoured conventions and standards, and a mad rush for short term gratification.

The list of vices goes on ad infinitum. All these vices stem from our flawed educational system. Perhaps, I am claiming high moral ground here, and in this bleak scenario of doom and gloom, there could be a few people out there who have still not lowered their guard, and are still playing by the book. I doff off my hat to them and urge them to be the standard bearers of hope and recovery for our dear nation. We salute such staunch adherents and sticklers for rectitude. Yes, charity begins at home, so we need our educational system to inculcate high moral lessons in our tutees. There needs to be a tsunamic revolution in education to get out the dross and rot from the system, or else we are doomed as a nation forever.

Some of the problems bedevilling our educational system include poor teaching methodologies and lack of commitment by teachers and pupils, the inadequacy of instructional materials, lack of support from PTAs and communities, late release of Government Capitation Grants to schools, inoperability, collapse, and lack of vision of most politicised District Assemblies/Local Government structures and their dereliction, among others.

All these mean that our students and their teachers will resort to finding shortcuts such as mass examination question leakages, mass cheating in exams, influencing the issuance of exam results, forged exam results and certificates, among other vices. Do we have to blame the policy of Free and Compulsory Universal Basic Education enacted in 1996, and the Educational Reforms of 2002?

Why can’t we simplify basic education to include just a few salient subjects, and incorporate the 3Rs of reading, writing, and arithmetic as the building blocks and foundational material for future advancement? Better still, to remain globally competitive; let us give our junior and senior high secondary students STEM education with emphasis on the Sciences, Technology, English, and Mathematics as it is done in Scotland, Ireland and other countries which have quality education. Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Netherlands are successful economically, socially, and politically because of their high quality educational standards.

To be globally competitive, we need to pay attention to quality teacher training and providing teachers with higher incentives. Our policy-makers in Government need to sit up and come up with better policies because our future prosperity as a nation lies in investment in human capital via quality education and quality health care delivery. These two sectors are a desideratum and sine qua non for rapid economic and social development.

Let us develop a new educational paradigm which will strategically position our educational system to meet our national needs as well as help our students and tutees come abreast with their counterparts in other parts of the world.

It is a pity that whilst many countries are getting their best students into Ivy League and Russell universities in the USA and UK respectively, to elite institutions such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, UCLA, MIT, Imperial College, Caltech, Dartmouth, Sorbonne, among others, our students are only struggling to compete at sub-regional level for WASSCE dominance. How are our future leaders going to have clout and influence in rubbing shoulders with the graduates of such advanced, powerful and elite global institutions? They will have no powerful networks to enable them pull the stops and call the shots, especially when it comes to international negotiations.

It is a sad scenario to witness many of our school dropouts from our current dysfunctional educational system in Ghana becoming street vendors, foot soldiers and political party cadres or zombies, taxi drivers, Sakawas and internet fraudsters, prostitutes and pimps, Mediterranean boat migrants, among others. This is sheer waste and needless attrition of human capital, and also a waste of scarce resources. The factionalisation and dichotomisation of Ghana right now along political party lines, tribal affiliations, interest groups, and religious groupings, does not augur well for the future.

We are currently producing students who seemingly have breadth to their education, but there is no depth. We are having mass quantitative education rather than laying emphasis on quality. Our current students have become very aggressive in articulating issues but they lack substance, and I bet many cannot make it far on the knowledge ladder whereby they can produce books or contribute to academic discourses or become inventors like Apostle Kwadwo Safo, or become quality leaders in future. They have become the noise makers and serial callers of our time, forever on cell phones, and making incessant calls to our call-in radio shows where they talk shallow and offer no quality ideas.

The very fabric of our educational foundation has been eroded by political chicanery and poor policy articulation. We have, like the ostrich, buried our heads in the sand and become oblivious to the stupendous advancements taking place in the global village. We are busy building fanciful estates and infrastructure but paying little attention to the quality of education. In fact, for purposes of political expediency, our current politicians are obsessed and infatuated with the massification, fragmentation, and scatterisation of education, so much so that resources allocated to education become very thinly spread on the ground.

We pay lip service to making quality education accessible to all and with no child left behind. Do we put the money where our mouth is? Have we set our priorities right? If our students come out tops in regional WASSCE exams, is it any worthwhile achievement to celebrate? In other countries elsewhere, they are coming out tops in globally competitive exams such as IGCSE, SAT, GMAT, IELTS, and International Baccalaureate (IB), and yet they are not trumpeting their successes or politicising them.

In Ghana today with high rates of poverty and unemployment, many are the people whose children have no dream of accessing quality education due to poverty. Many are the people who cannot access quality health care due to the same reason. Is access to quality education a right or a privilege? Why do we have a parallel situation of one type of quality education for the minority rich and another type of inferior education for the majority poor? Such a scenario leads to perpetuation of class struggle, and a recipe for revolution.

Is it selective social marginalisation engineering or political malfeasance? What future does this scenario hold for our dear country Ghana? Where are the patriots? Where do we stand as a nation where every Tom, Dick, and Harry now believes that being dishonest, mischievous and Machiavellian is the norm because the end justifies the means, and not the other way round?

What values are our students acquiring from schools, and from the national psyche? What sort of education are our students receiving these days? What moral or immoral lessons are they taking from our leaders? What kind of leaders will they be when their time comes? Why is everybody in a mad rush for power, material wealth, and vainglory? Can we start teaching moral philosophy, psychology, mythology, literature, civic education, and religious tenets in our schools to halt the greedy, crazy, and avaricious trends?

Can we start taking measures and interventions to stop the rot and functional illiteracy in our schools? Can we stop dichotomisation and factionalism which are creeping their way imperceptibly into education? Don’t we need a unitary and functional educational system for national cohesion? These are the worries of a concerned citizen, and I hope thinking aloud, is thinking allowed.


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