The Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) Ghana, in collaboration with Local Accountability Network (LANET), has organised School Performance Appraisal Meetings (SPAM) in some zero-scoring schools at the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), the level at the Kadjebi district in the Oti Region.

According to CDD-Ghana and LANET, some six basic schools in the district have scored zero at the BECE level hence the need to organise these meetings with all the relevant players – students, teachers, parents, and Ghana Education Service (GES), to find lasting solutions to the challenges through what the group calls “I am aware” campaigns.

The solutions to the challenges are decided by the key players and commitments and pledges made to enforce the resolutions. Chiefs and opinion leaders in the various communities were also roped into the discussion.

The challenges to these poor outcomes, at least for the past two consecutive years were attributed to lack of learning materials due to change in curriculum, mass promotion directive by government, non-use of corporal punishment in schools, misuse of contact hours by teachers and poor parental control among others.

Some parents also blamed the poor performance on the free SHS programme by government that places every student into a senior high school regardless of their poor performance at the Junior High School level.

They argued that the former system where a threshold was put on admissions into senior high schools was better.

“The problem is mass promotion, previously the aggregates from 6 to 36 were placed, so everybody was forced to learn otherwise you dropped out. Now if you fail, you will be placed in a senior high school, so the students would not want to learn,” he said.

Another parent, Silas, lamented the unavailability of reading materials in schools. “Even the textbooks are not there, when they come (to school) what can they do.

The frequent changes in the textbooks are also not helping. Parents do not have the money to be buying the books as frequent as the changes occur.  

A mother (Maafio Lawoe) who also spoke to Joynews said the free education introduced by government is good but the supporting materials such as textbooks and other learning resources for students are not readily available.

“The children go to school but it looks as if learning is not taking place so we are asking government to provide the textbooks so our children can make progress.

This mother also bemoaned the stubborn and difficult nature of their wards but blamed it on the non-use of canes in schools (corporal punishment).

She has therefore called for the use of the canes since the children fear it and become serious.

“Some of our wards are very difficult. Some of them do not sleep at home and whenever we report them to the teachers, they do not have any punishment to give them because government said the teachers should not use canes in schools. We want them to use the canes.”

Some students and teachers at Obuase L/A Junior High School (JHS) in the Kadjebi district who are part of the zero-scoring schools where one of the SPAMs took place said they do not have the needed resources to learn. He said whenever they want to study ICT, the teacher draws the computer and its parts on the board for them to imagine.

“There are no textbooks for us to read. When our teacher wants to teach ICT, we do not have computers, so he draws them on the board. That is one of our problems,” he said.

One of the teachers who spoke on behalf of his colleagues on the challenges in the school that may be responsible for the poor showing at the BECE over the past two years said, there are no reading materials for the students, the deprived nature of the area of social amenities such as mobile phone connectivity, that would give them access to the internet are absent.

He also mentioned the absence of teachers’ bungalow, which has compelled most of them to reside at the district capital ten kilometres away.

“There are no reading textbooks for the students to read. Most of us live at the district capital, which is about 10km away. There is not network here for research, no mobile phone network. No bungalows for teachers. If government can provide these that would help” the teacher fumed.

Mavis Zupork Dorme is the lead team member for CDD Ghana who organised the SPAM in some selected schools in the district. She highlights some of the challenges as part of their interactions with the various schools and stakeholders.

“Using the schools’ performance statistics, we found some low performing schools and we conducted town hall meetings and SPAM in some of the schools to understand why students were failing. Some of the things we found out were quite worrying.

“Some of them were issues of no teaching and learning materials, no learning aids, lack of pieces of furniture, children being disrespectful in schools, inactive School Management Committees (SMCs), and parents not interested in the education of their wards.”

For Ghana Education Service in the district, solutions to these challenges must involve all the key players starting from the SMSc, PTAs, and the District Education Oversight Committee (DEOC).

Bernard Osei who is the Public Relations Officer for GES in the Kadjebi district said the district assembly would have to provide financial empowerment to the DEOC to function fully by enacting by-laws to control the behaviour of students especially.

“We (GES) want to train some PTA executives and when that happens, the inactive status of some of these executives would be solved. We also believe that DEOC must be strengthened. Some funds must be made available for its operations.

“The district assembly in collaboration with GES must enact a few by-laws that would be used to at least curtail some of the problems we have in our communities.