My favourite subject in basic school was Ghanaian Language – Asante Twi. Of course, Social Studies and English Language did come through on some occasions, but I was awed at the depth of culture and history that learning Twi exposed me to.

I enjoyed the topics ranging from Aware3 ( Marriage), Ahay) ( Hunting), Ayiy) ( Funerals), etc. I was privileged to have amazing Twi teachers and I think that could have been a great contribution to my liking for the subject.

I vividly remember one of the essays I wrote; the topic being to show a stranger around your village. The proverb with which I began the essay was, “Y3taa ka s3 kofirikwanso na )ware temanmuhunu”. Akosua Gyamfua Fofie’s books were a childhood delight.

I enjoyed those stories written in Twi. How can I forget my favourite Nimde3 Kwankyer3 textbook? Chapter topics like Ignatius Gaisah, Maame Ataa Fie, Poems by the late J. H. Kwabena Nketiah and several others were highly educative and pivotal in my appreciation of language and culture.

In those times, it was not uncommon to hear a teacher say, ” If you don’t study hard, you will go and join your grandparents in the farm”. I look back today and wonder what those adults, mostly males, were thinking as they “poisoned” our little minds against a venture as noble as agriculture. Need I mention the constant trolls at students who couldn’t do well academically in High School, when our prep supervisors, mostly seniors, would suggest that those ones will most likely end up in KNUST doing Social Science, the common slang being; “Socioso- Y3reda awu”, to wit, Socioso-( the accepted abbreviation for the Social Science subject), we are sleeping till we die.

It appears as though the educational system of Ghana engineers many to see some areas of study as inferior to others. Today, I look around the world, the many initiatives started by young people, friends in Agriculture landing international deals and creating lasting social change through their fields of work, I look at my own academic journey and realise that the only thing the Ghanaian system of education is interested in is numbers; churning out large numbers of graduates at the various levels of education each year, like cans of sardines in a production line, so we can, by the numbers, boast of how literate the nation has become, a very laughable feat to speak of, I must say.

This is why we train many professionals and all they do is to go look for greener pastures elsewhere. For an educational institution like a school, it should be the responsibility of the government to see to the holistic development of the individual. Having listened to elder cousins share their delights in studying courses like Life skills in school, I was very disappointed when the curriculum was changed, denying me the opportunity to learn some history and life skills. At least, I can still remember some bead making lessons from my Pre-Vocational Skills class. Even in that, the teacher himself made it look like the best students needn’t waste their time on it.

Many parents also fail at these. The passive approach to child raising, with the mentality of paying feed and giving every provision needed, and the child’s future will fall right in place has not done much good. Maybe if some parents were more intentional and involved in their children’s career choices, not in an imposition of preferences like many do, but the opportunities that bring out the child’s talents and capabilities, and the education and coaching on available career paths that will suit such skill, we would not have every Science student thinking about Medicine as the best choice of career.

How many basic schools today, can boast of a Career Counsellor, or a Counselling Psychologist? I am glad I studied Science, but if I had had the opportunity to speak to a Guidance Counsellor, I believe I’d be in a place far better than I am today. It is this same warped educational system that makes even trained counsellors think the only place they can work is either a church, a hospital, or by setting up their own business. We seem to be throwing away many talents because we teach work as a means to wealth, and not as utilizing one’s innate skills for productivity and change.

A Career Counsellor would coach students through self discovery programs, involving teachers and parents and using standardized assessment tests that help to identify individuals’ unique skills and abilities as complements their temperament.

Whilst the government continually implements reforms in the educational sector, it behoves on everyone of us to get involved, and speak to the future we desire. Our basic education system needs to be redesigned to accommodate an inclusion of career guidance, skills and talent development. Since most career decisions are taken at the tertiary level of education, the Free SHS Initiative could be a proper dashboard.

Senior High School education in Ghana spans a period of three years. Students would mostly complete the final academic assessments in June, and have to stay till August when they proceed to the tertiary front. For many, this period of waiting is misused, and such issues as the lack of proper parenting and home programs for kids development, lack of community resources for human development lead many of these children, adolescents mostly, into wasting all the time engaging in unproductive ventures, at a period in their lives when attention should be paid to taking very critical life decisions.

The National Service Scheme, as has been known for eons, seeks to provide a platform for graduates of tertiary institutions to give back to Society. Even graduates from Private Institutions where there is no subsidy on tuition fees, are mandated to undergo this one year of service to the nation – an act of giving back and to learn on the job. After all, it is in giving that we receive, according to the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

Mindful of the ever evolving career world, and the number of months it usually takes after the WASSCE before these young ones get into tertiary education, wouldn’t it be helpful to national and human development if we can have a well structured voluntary program; call it the Post High School Gap Patriotic Program ( too long I know), where instead of the routine white collar jobs the National Service Scheme is characterised with, these ones are expected to go through some mandatory skills apprenticeship with credit, which will even matter in their admission to tertiary institutions.

We could have students volunteer in such national ventures as Afforestation, Sanitation, Agriculture, and Handcraft, for which academic credits that would contribute to tertiary grades can be given. By so doing, we inculcate in them a need to serve the nation, we get our environment back in shape, and boost the production of some items that would greatly contribute to our economic development.

A 3- month project of this nature can be designed by the relevant stakeholders, consulting the students in its implementation. We may need to give them allowances, but the greater benefit to national good should not make the little monies we may need to dole out to these young ones an issue at all.

Free SHS should be set in the right perspective; mind transformation in recognizing the nation’s investment in one’s life, and a determination to put the nation and it’s development first by giving back in whatever way anyone can. By this, we help form a new generation of people who love the paths they choose, and approach their careers with joy.

It is doable. It is possible. Over to our stakeholders.

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The writer an Occupational Therapist, a Social Justice and Gender advocate and a Human Security Enthusiast. She can be contacted via email: maamek2216@gmail.com