“Some other countries that run the free education system, like Australia, Kenya and Japan run the same double-track system too. Even in USA, over 3,000 schools run the multi-track system. I believe this is doable and it is workable”~ Prof. Stephen Adei, Joy News.
Hopefully, Mercy Aboagyewaa Yeboah is gradually settling into her new environment at Achimota, and may have already started making some new friends. She is a bird of a feather but she should quickly learn to fly together with birds of other feathers. It is typical of friends from the same school or region to move together when they go to a new school. Aboagyewaa may not be able to flock with another girl from Chiraa. She is the first female from the town to attend Achimota. Not quite. Agnes Adarkwa Aggrey was in Achimota in the 1950s. There may be a few more.
Abogyewaa is first in more obvious ways. At this point, she is the only girl from Chiraa to walk in double tracks to free education in Achimota. Her new school is one of the 400-second cycle institutions that are running the Green and Gold double intake system to absorb about 181,000 more students into secondary education. There are about 300 more schools that are on single tracks. You need not run faster or pay anything to go on any of the tracks. But if you fail woefully, you could end up without a track.
Thankfully, Aboagyewaa found one of the tracks. My friend’s daughter was running on the Green track to Abugri Girls when she was stopped just before the finishing line. Had she missed her track? The authorities told her to change tracks to Gold and come back when the Greens end their race. She had said her goodbyes to proud parents who had sold her BECE success to family friends home and abroad. Mimi had a grade one in all nine subjects. Phenomenal. She was the only person in her school to bag those many ‘ones’ after joining the JHS three class from another school in a different region.
Thus far, Aboagyewaa is lucky to have started school this month. Michelle is not less lucky, sidelined or late; she is only making way for another group to go ahead (not take the lead). She will take her turn after 41 days when the Greens are back home. Meanwhile, she should not forget that while she is not in a race with her friends in the other track, it would be helpful to do some running around, instead of sleeping and watching TV.
So what will Michelle be doing at home while Aboagyewaa is enjoying her first semester at Achimota? Like her statistician mother, Michelle likes reading, so it is time for her to devour new novels in the family library. Her dad’s line of business is not gender-friendly, so she may not be very useful there. Instead, she could take advantage of the free vacation classes planned to support students while they wait in their tracks. If your parents sell in the market or roast plantain by the roadside, there is a lot of honour in helping out. What is in the cake is also in the crumbs. Eat it anyway.
Well, there may be some special parts of the cake, especially the toppings, which do not usually mix with the crumbs. Vacation classes have for long been the crumbs. We do not eat them when we have a good size of the cake. Do vacation classes help the academic preparation of our students in any way? Mostly, students attend these classes for reasons that are only a little believable than a politician’s promise. The girls fall prey to flirtatious men, including teachers, while the boys come to make the best of their youths.
In my sixth form days, we supplemented the quality teaching in our secondary school with some sharp tutorials by university students at vacation classes. I am quick to credit my good grade in Government to a fine law student who helped us with question answering techniques. Anytime I listen to him in Parliament, I am reminded that his free vacation lessons helped shape my academic journey. Even before the government’s free vacation classes will kick in, the progressive Chief of Fiapre in the Brong Ahafo Region has already started implementing the policy. Mazal tov! to Nana Prof Emmanuel Afoakwah.
High school mischief
On her first day in Achimota, Aboagyewaa may find that academic ability, curriculum exposure, and emotional competence, have their own competitive double tracks. The news of her historic admission to Achimota may not help her confidence and integration. She has become a poster girl for policy privilege and academic grace. These Achimotans can be funny. She should wear her Chiraa roots proudly on her sleeves, just like Akwasi Adoma of Worcester, USA. He is obnoxiously proud of his Chiraa beginnings than the huge success triumphant American capitalism has made of him.
There was a lot of mischief in my time. Before we ended the first term of the first year, Peprah Kenneth (not real name), a tall and hairy man from Wamanafo, had already earned himself a funny sobriquet–Obonfo Karat. He was older than all of us but he was the youngest in terms of simple comprehension of very basic things. He had a particular phobia for Literature in English. He felt a palpitating mixture of relief and anger when a friend in the next dormitory stole his copy of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Peprah had come from a less endowed school where the fundamentals were weak; the marking scheme quickly exposed him. He left school after the second term. I kept his Chaucer.
For folks like Peprah, it doesn’t matter what track you place them to free SHS. They would struggle to fail if there are no equity support systems to bring them up to speed. This is what the present handlers of our education are trying to avoid. Under the double-track free SHS, there is a support structure for students from less endowed schools who may falter along the line. Some $300 Million intervention grant has been put aside to invest in different programmes. Already, there have been some success stories from schools like Wesley Girls who played host to not-so-brilliant students who ordinarily wouldn’t have merited a WEYGEYHEY admission. Now, these girls are doing very well.
No boyfriends, please
The thing with our education is that it was already very bad before free SHS. The Green and Gold tracks are innocent. Consider that some 65% of WASSCE students do not obtain decent grades to proceed to tertiary education. In fact, we understand less than 10% go to university. In South Korea, it is about 98%. So we need to get the numbers in, but we should be careful not to mess up an already messed up system. This year’s BECE graduated some 528,000 young people, up from last year’s 460,000, to take advantage of the free SHS. It demands an increase in educational infrastructure. The President has announced $500Million to build new structures and finish uncompleted projects.
Things will get better, so will Aboagyewaa. She should keep a cool head and read widely. She doesn’t need a boyfriend at this point. Boys don’t come as free as free SHS; they could cost her the fine grades she needs to go to SHS 2. Soon, it will be vacation, but Aboagyewaa should not expect a bonfire welcome in Chiraa. We want to see her grades.
By: Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin