On 6th April 2021, the Ghana Education Service, in a letter signed by its Head of Public Relations Unit, Cassandra Twum Ampofo, announced postponement of the reopening date for the SHS3 students. This postponement came at a time that most of the students had already arrived in school or, were on their way to school. Changes were also made in the academic calendar for the SHS1 & 2 students. That change in the academic calendar was the fourth within three months of the 2021 academic year!
This sudden postponement brought about public outcry for which, I learnt, the Education authorities rendered an apology to students and parents.
In an article titled *"Mistracking the Free SHS Academic Calendar, an Incurable Malady for the Ghana Education Service?"* dated 9th April 2021, I indicated that there were still some challenges in the revised calendar and predicted that the GES was likely to alter even the revised calendar before the end of the first Semester. The position I postulated in *PART TWO* of that article was that there was no way the SHS3 students could report to school on *5th May 2021* with the SHS2 and SHS1 green track students still in school till their due vacation date on 25th June 2021. I indicated that either the SHS2 green track, or one of the SHS1 tracks would have to be sent home earlier than planned in order to create space in classrooms and dormitories for the SHS3 on 5th May 2021.
*THE NEW REVISED CALENDAR*
True to my prediction, the Ghana Education Service issued another letter which not only altered the already seriously battered calendar, but also created more confusion that left Heads of school, teachers and parents alarmed and furious.
As if to share the blame among the GES Management, the latest letter announcing the new changes in the academic calendar was not signed by the Director General Prof. Kwasi Opoku Amankwa, or Deputy Director General in charge of Management Services Lawyer Anthony Boateng, or the Head of Public Relations Unit Cassandra Twum Ampofo as had been the trend. It was rather signed by the other Deputy Director General in charge of Quality and Access, Dr. Kwabena Bempah Tandor. This might be a smart way of announcing to Ghanaians that, perhaps, it isn't only a section of Management that needs total overhaul, but the entire team. So tactfully, Dr. Bempah Tandoh, whose signature had not earlier been associated with the messed up calendars, had been brought into the picture to be part of the mess. Thanks though that Cassandra Twum Ampofo has been spared the ordeal this time.
So the letter signed by Dr. Kwabena Bempah Tandoh on Monday 26th April 2021, Ref.GES/DD-G/Q&A/20/0 and titled *"REOPENING AND VACATION DATES FOR SENIOR HIGH SCHOOLS"* announced yet another change in the 2021 academic calendar. The letter addressed to all Regional Directors of Education stated in its opening paragraph that *"Management of the Ghana Education Service (GES) has adjusted the academic calendar and dates for Senior High Schools (SHS) for the 2021 Academic Year and wishes to inform all Heads of Schools to take note and to communicate same to staff, students and parents."* The letter ended by directing Heads of double track schools of SHS1 students to *"as a matter of urgency, communicate to all parents about the designated tracks for their wards to enable them plan accordingly."*
Take note that in my last article, I stated how the Minister of Education announced to the whole nation that the SHS1 students would not be running double track but directed the GES to secretly write to the Heads of School to split the students into green and gold tracks using their own criteria. So the Heads of school, rather than the Ministry and the GES, now have the added responsibility to green and gold track the students placed in their schools, and inform parents.
Dr. Bempah Tandoh's letter reaffirmed the reopening date for the SHS3 students both in the single and double track schools as 5th May 2021. This is, however, made possible as I had predicted, only by asking the SHS1 gold track students to proceed on vacation on 4th May 2021 instead of their originally scheduled date of *28th May 2021.* Their colleagues in the green track will also now vacate earlier on 15th June 2021 instead of the original date of *25th June 2021.* The SHS2 Gold track which were originally scheduled in the earlier revised calendar to vacate on *25th June 2021,* will also now vacate earlier on 29th May 2021. In effect, the academic calendar that was revised on 6th April 2021 ( 3 weeks ago) has again been changed for SHS2 and SHS1 students in all the double track schools.
*THE UNPARDONABLE CONFUSION*
In what could be termed as lack of due diligence, the newly revised academic calendar for the *SHS2 Single track* schools created two confusions that beat the imagination of teachers. Teachers have been registering their anger against the GES on various social media platforms since yesterday.
1. TWO SEPARATE CALENDARS FOR SHS1 SINGLE TRACK STUDENTS
The GES gave two separate reopening dates for SHS1 Single track students! How could this be? Under the heading *"DOUBLE TRACK SCHOOLS"* in Dr. Bempah Tandoh's letter, the SHS1 Single track students would go on vacation on *15th June 2021,* while under the heading *"SINGLE TRACK SCHOOLS"* in the same letter, the same students would be vacating on *25th July, 2021.* So which is which? Is GES sure it has competent men and women in charge of planning the academic calendar? So when are the SHS1 Single track students reporting to school? GES needs to come out clear on this.
2. CONFUSING REOPENING DATE FOR SHS2 SINGLE TRACK STUDENTS
The second unpardonable confusion is the so called "reopening date" for the SHS2 Single track schools. The GES gave the "reopening date" as *1st June 2021.* This is an unpardonable confusion. The truth is that *all the SHS2 Single track students are already currently in school.* So how can they be reopening on 1st June 2021? The calendar should rather tell us when the SHS2 Single track students are to go on vacation. It appears GES is with the erroneous belief that the students are currently at home.
This was the kind of confusion that made schools in Eastern Region keep their SHS2 Single track schools at home while their colleagues in the other regions were in school this semester.
After my last article on 9th April 2021 that revealed this unfortunate occurrence, the Deputy Director General in charge of Management Services, Lawyer Anthony Boateng, I was informed, summoned CHASS Eastern Region to Headquarters on Monday 12th April 2021 and directed them to recall the students to school on Friday 16th April 2021. Heads of School have complied and all the students are in school in all regions. So how can the same GES claim it is unaware that the SHS2 Single track schools are currently in school and is asking them to reopen on 1st June 2021? By this, it appears Eastern Region was right after all in keeping the students at home due to the confusing GES Calendar. The question then would be which calendar did the other regions use to get those students in school while those in Eastern Region were at home till their recall on 16th April 2021?
This unfortunate and embarrassing occurrence suggests lack of cohesion among the GES Management team.
1. What type of working relationship exists between the two Deputy Directors General Lawyer Anthony Boateng and Dr. Kwabena Bempah Tandoh?
2. When the Eastern Region schools were directed by Lawyer Anthony Boateng on 12th April 2021 to recall the SHS2 single track students to school on Friday 16th April 2021, was Dr. Kwabena Bempah Tandoh not briefed by his colleague? 3. And when Dr. Bempah Tandoh was going to issue this latest letter on reopening and vacation dates, did he not confer with his colleague, Lawyer Anthony Boateng on the issue?
4. Or is there a turf war between the two Deputies? If that is not the case, how then can this embarrassing confusion arise in calling the students to report to school on 1st June 2021 when they are already in school?
The Director General needs to investigate this embarrassing occurrence at the GES Headquarters with a view to putting appropriate measures in place to stop this malady once and for all.
MISPLACED PRIORITIES OF THE MINISTER
In the midst of these challenges, the Minister of Education Hon. Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum tickled himself and told us that *Ghana's SHS education is the best managed in the world.* How can an education system characterised by erratic and unpredictable academic calendar with long unplanned vacation periods, unpardonable infrastructure deficit and poor teaching and learning outcomes, be said to be the best managed in the world? How can an education system in which intimidation and threats of removal from office of Heads have become the order of the day, compelling them to compromise their integrity in the 2020 WASSCE, leading to massive examination malpractices to achieve political objectives, be said to be well managed?
When quizzed by Evans Mensah of JOY NEWS, the Hon. Minister conceded that the integrity of the 2020 WASSCE was compromised but was quick to shift the blame to the West African Examinations Council, rather than the GES and its staff that organised and supervised the examinations.
It is pathetic that the only prescription by the Hon. Minister to dealing with these challenges was to direct that his portrait, and that of the President of the Republic be displayed in the offices of all Heads of school in the country.
How do the portraits of the His Excellency the President and the Hon. Minister solve the infrastructure deficits in the schools and the erratic double track system? How many students, Headmasters and Headteachers in Ghana don't know that H.E. Nana Akufo Addo is the President of the Republic? Is the Hon. Minister's responsibility and preoccupation misdirected to seeking self aggrandisement rather than dealing with the challenges bedeviling his Ministry?
Within the week, news broke out about leaflets in circulation in Ashanti Region telling the people that H. E. John Dramani Mahama was planning to destroy the free SHS. What a desperation by people failing in their duties to Ghanaians! Leave JM alone and deal with the mess you have created at all levels of our education system.
I sincerely feel that a national Conference on Education is long overdue to brainstorm on the future direction of Ghana's Education.
Dated: Tuesday 27th April, 2021