4 May 2016
I attended the Occasional Lecture organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) yesterday, delivered by Prof Kwesi Yankah (Vice Chancellor of Central University) on the topic “The Three-Year-Four-Year School Pendulum: Towards A Stable Public Policy On Senior High School Education in Ghana”. This lecture had been originally scheduled to be delivered on the platform of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) as the 21st WAEC Endowment Fund Lecture.
However, the lecture was cancelled by WAEC.
WAEC said in an official statement that “…while admitting that the subject falls within the broad themes suggested by the WAEC endowment fund, we are minded to observe that it has the potential of generating political controversy, especially in an election year such as 2016. The council supports the exchange of scholarly ideas and works without any fetters. However, it recognises the tendency to be drawn into a political debate, which it strives to avoid in order to remain professional and not be distracted from executing its core mandate”.
According to Starr FM Online, the statement concluded : “We would therefore advise that your lecture be put on hold and save for another occasion when the season is right”.
Well, GAAS determined that the occasion was right and in the words of the Chairman for the lecture, Justice Prof. S.K.Date-Bah, a Retired Supreme Court Judge, “…the Academy encourages the ventilation of evidence-based views.”
And Prof Yankah did ventilate!
I “understand” why WAEC cancelled this lecture: the trends and facts were frightening and damning! We have really been toying with the education of our children. This oscillating of our educational pendulum must stop. The data presented (from 2009 to 2015, without 2010 as there were no candidates for the WASSCE as both groups were in transition) showed better performance for the groups that did 4-years in terms of passes and failures, versus those that did 3-years. Better-endowed schools are not much disadvantaged by the 3-year system. The affected ones are the rest: the non-elite schools.
We have created a caste educational system.
One of the key recommendations by Prof Kwesi Yankah was for a flexible 3 or 4 year system where the first optional year is used as remedial and preparatory for students coming in from less endowed and socially-disadvantaged JHSs. High calibre students can go straight to the 2nd year of the 4-year SHS system.
During the lecture, a good friend of mine who is a journalist asked me whether there was a link for the data whose pictures I was sharing on Facebook. I told him I was in the hall listening to the lecture live and that those pictures were taken with my phone at the event. After answering him, it hit me that he didn’t know about the lecture and, by extension, his media house didn’t as well and, thus, there was no reporter from his station at the event.
I observed only one reporter who recorded the audio for the lecture. After the lecture, I asked him which station he worked for and whether he would upload it online. He told me he was from Starr FM and that they will play portions on their station. As I write this, Starr FM is discussing the lecture and the topic on their breakfast show.
Apart from a few journalists I know that I saw at the lecture, such as Francis Prince Ankrah (Sankara), who also works with the Academy, Kwame Sefa-Kayi and Emmanuel K. Dogbevi of GhanaBusinessNews.com and Kofi Akpabli, who also lectures at Central University, I didn’t see media activity and interest. Emmanuel and I posted about the lecture and shared pictures, but I still haven’t seen much on Facebook and Twitter about this fine lecture.
I was saddened. Considering both the topic and the history of this lecture, I expected more coverage. I was saddened the more when I reflected on the fact that if it had been a politician doing the lecture, the interest would have been higher. Even for the same topic.
We get what we are interested in. Our leaders know that. Perhaps the media know that as well. And they feed us what we hunger for, whilst the meatier issues go unattended to.
Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.