Dr Prince Armah

The Executive Secretary of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, Dr Prince Hamid Armah has condemned what he says are isolated incidents of violence and lawlessness by some final year senior high school students in the ongoing WAEC exams.

Dr Prince Armah, who is also the ruling New Patriotic Party’s parliamentary candidate for Kwesimintsim constituency in the Western Region insists the violence and lawlessness cannot be blamed on government policy to remove cost implications and increase access to secondary education under the free SHS programme.

He observed that the isolated incidents of violence are largely from students who are unprepared for the WAEC exams and may be looking for a quick fix.

He was speaking on Ekosiisen, a late afternoon political talk show programme on Asempa FM on Thursday 6th August, 2020.

While conceding that some of the students may not be academically prepared for WASSCE, he was quick to add that government’s objective for the free SHS policy is not just to have students write and pass WASSCE but to mould a new breed of SHS students with critical thinking skills.

“What we are seeing is that there are pockets of violence [by people] who themselves [cannot write the university entrance WASCCE]. Remember that we have opened up the combined aggregate to include others who would have otherwise gone to vocational training but are now in secondary school, Dr Armah said adding, “these are people who would originally not have writen the WASSCE but are now writing it and they feel uncomfortable.

He explained that “for the government, the value of Free SHS is not in students merely writing and passing examinations but rather in them gaining the skills necessary to be responsible citizens who are critical thinkers, effective communicators and problem solvers. This is what they need to be of benefit to society and to become assets in the workplace.”

Background

In a week where prayers were said for the first batch of the free SHS students to write and pass their WASSCE, some of them have taken to violence arising from frustration, some believe, at their inability to bend the rules governing their exams.

As a result, there have been pockets of vandalism in some schools including Bright Senior High School in Kukurantumi in the Eastern Region, Tweneboa Kodua SHS in the Ashanti Region and some schools in the Northern region as well.

Vice President of NAGRAT Angel Carbonu in condemning the lawlessness of the students blamed government’s decision to provide past questions to the students which he said raised the hopes of the students to think that the past questions will be automatically repeated in the ongoing WASSCE.

He also blamed what he said is government’s high handedness with head teachers in a bid to implement the FREE SHS which he claimed has engendered impunity among students.

But in a response, Dr Prince Armah, a noted expert in education policy, said Mr Carbonu’s arguments are untenable.

He said past questions have always been part of the structure of education in Ghana and across the world.

“It is in Ghana that past questions are difficult to find; in other countries they are available online to be downloaded,” he said.

He added that government’s policy is to remove the cost barriers in school in order to make it accessible for all and that is why it decided to buy past questions for all the students.

He said it was the responsibility of the teachers to guide the students in studying the past questions as well as their text books and prepare them for the exams.

He found it intriguing that government would rather be blamed for taking the step to make things easier for parents and the kids as well.

He also dismissed assertions government has been high handed with head masters.

“Holding teachers accountable cannot undermine the authority of the teachers and compromise discipline in schools,” he added.