Education is universally recognized as one of the most fundamental building blocks for human development and poverty reduction-World Bank.

Permit me to start my write-up with a Chinese proverb “To talk much and arrive nowhere is the same as climbing a tree to catch a fish.” Free education, sounds good, free secondary education sounds even better. This is audacious and must be given a thought.

However, as a very pragmatic person, I don’t see the existing system or the proposed one being able to address the major challenge faced by our dear nation, i.e artisan training.

This is evidenced by our haste to categorize all people who don’t make it to our secondary educational institutions as dropouts. Well maybe they dropped out of the formal sector and drop into the informal sector. That for me is the major challenge in the education sector.

I have always been suspect about things offered free. What we need to do as a nation is to address the inherent challenges within the education sector. I have identified the following:

1. Inadequate school infrastructure

2. Trained and well motivated teachers

3. Learning and teaching facilities, school uniform and books inclusive

4. Improving access through scholarships to brilliant but poor students

5. Reward hard work and brilliance by identifying high performing students for sponsorship into specialized training in and outside the country

6. Address the issue of dropouts: this is my main interest. A lot of people dropout of school not because they are dump or cannot cope, but simply because they are very smart and find going through the normal formalized education waste of their precious time.

In Ghana we categorize all our kids who do not make it to secondary education as dropouts. Really? Are they really dropouts? Most of these people get engaged in the informal and unstructured educational system we have termed apprenticeship or trade training. If the aim of education is to equip people with knowledge and skills, then all those people in the informal education sector cannot be referred to as dropouts.

Master craftsmen and women, have for generations, imparted essential knowledge and skills to our young ones in the area of masonry, carpentry, draughtmanship, steel bending, auto repair, metal works, dress making, welding etc. The number of years spent on acquiring such knowledge and skills range from two to four years.

The painful truth is that these people, after undergoing this sometimes grueling form of training, end up with no recognized certificates. No wonder our skilled welders end up not getting jobs with the numerous oil companies coming to town.

The way forward in streamlining apprenticeship training/trade learning

i.Set at a body to identify and accredit master craftsmen and shops with a track record in training highly skilled artisans.

ii.Fashion out a simple but effective curricula for broad implementation

iii.Set up well resourced technological/technical centres across the country (I suggest 2 in each region)

iv.Resource and equip identified high performing shops or garages.
v.Accreditation body must do annual review to either admit new members or drop non performing ones

vi.Three levels of instruction: first from the master craftsman, second, at the technological/technical centres and lastly through attachment at an institution.

vii.The curricula must spell out the training hours an apprentice must obtain at all levels of instruction and the grade points he must accumulate in order to graduate.

I sincerely believe that this form of practical training, that involves the trainee hands on, if well planned will help in moving our country forward and achieving our collective goal of building a land of prosperity and equal opportunity for all.

In conclusion, I leave you with this Chinese proverb “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”