The Government of Ghana has decided to give back the numerous mission schools scattered across the country to its original owners citing lack of proper supervision, moral decadence and lack of proper supervision as its reasons.
A performance review by the government in the educational sector, especially the basic and high schools, has provoked the State to reconsider giving back the mission schools to its original owners.
The government, through the Ministry of Education, The Chronicle understands, is not happy about their findings, hence the need to fall on the missions (churches and mosques) to correct the wrongs of the past.
Lack of proper supervision, falling standards of education, moral decadence and financial constraints have been cited as the bases in arriving at such a decision.
The decision, if implemented, would be welcoming news for the churches, which have over the years tried relentlessly to gain control of their cherished assets, which were once enviable institutions.
But as to whether the churches have the financial clout to cater for the remuneration and emoluments of the teachers, now that they are on the Single Spine after government hands over to them, is another issue.
Formal education in Ghana, according to historians, began in what was known as castle schools some two hundred years ago.
The education given then was meant to equip citizens with the needed tutoring for them to work as clerks for the European merchants, and as teachers for their children.
Beyond the schools, the various missionary societies that arrived in the Gold Coast as part of their evangelization, introduced formal education.
Among the missionary groups were the Wesleyan Mission, Basel Mission, Bremen Mission and English Mission among others.
By 1882, the colonial government in the Gold Coast recognized the role of the missions in the establishment of schools and, therefore, gave legal recognition to the partnership between government and the churches, with the Education Ordinance passed that year.
The government, seeing the role of the missions in establishing schools and bringing formal education to the people, began to establish their own schools.
In 1887, another Ordinance was passed to differentiate between the government schools and government assisted schools. By this Ordinance, government assisted schools were financially assisted by the government while non-assisted schools were run completely by the various church organizations.
However, the responsibility of provision of education at all levels with control of all schools was taken over by the government after independence in 1957. The result was that all mission schools became part of the public system under the Ministry of Education, with its main agent, the Ghana Education Service, to manage them.
Experts say the 1952 Accelerated Development Plan for Education and the 1961 Education Act attempted to take over the mission schools, but could not succeed, much to the public outcry.
However, after the 1966 coup, all mission schools that were taken over by the government, which were owned by the churches before and after 1952, and which were only temporarily managed at the time, were to be reverted to the churches for permanent management.
The decision, prior to its implementation, has received backing from the country’s legislature with some Members of Parliament (MP) calling for public to address the likely challenges that may come along with such implementation.
MP for Akatsi North, Peter Nortsu-Kotoe, commenting on the issue in a statement delivered on the floor of Parliament yesterday, said the decision if implemented would lift much of the supervisory burden on the District Directorates of Education, since they are currently faced with a number of challenges in that regard.
That notwithstanding, he said the aspect of religious and morale education, coupled with the spirit of academic competition, which was one of the core pillars of mission schools and currently missing in the various schools would be restored.
“Nobody seems to be concerned about the morale upbringing of children to instill discipline and the respect for authority in them. There is so much waywardness, now that as a nation we need to rise up to our responsibilities before we are overtaken by events,” he noted.
Additionally, he said maintenance and development of the schools could be taken care of by well-meaning members of the various religious bodies.
MP for Sekondi, Papa Owusu Ankomah, in a brief remark, said the issue brings to focus a broad section as to the management of schools in the country.
“Mr. Speaker, if you look at the so called well endowed schools in this country, approximately 90% of those who gained admissions there are products of private basic schools, where the fees they pay are even higher than the fees they pay in the secondary schools.
“And so, I asked myself the question, is it not possible to have an arrangement where some of these schools could generate some resources so that the meager resources that we always have to give to educational institutions are concentrated on even community schools,” he noted.
He said now is the time for the country to be realistic on its educational priorities and adopt pragmatic policies that would enable it use its little resources judiciously so as to make public schools that could generate some resources “be able to do so”.
The MP for Weija, Mrs. Rosemond Abrah, on her part welcomed the news, since the churches would help reduce moral decadence.
She also backed calls for debate into the matter, since some parents have over the years strongly objected to schools taken disciplinary action against their wards, which has resulted in the churning out of students who are not morally upright.
She said the issue of repeating students was another critical factor to consider, since there currently exists a policy not to repeat failed students at the basic level. “How will we synchronize this when the schools are handed over to the mission schools, because in the past, the missions were repeating failed students?” she quizzed.
MP for Asawase, who is also the Majority Chief Whip, Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, in a sharp comment said though the decision was laudable, the issue of schools coercing students to conform to their doctrines would have to be addressed.