The blind leading the Blind?
I believe we all know what the situation will be when a blind leads another blind. This is what the likely scenario will be in a few years in our education sector if care is not taken by those in charge of providing quality education to the coming generations.
Only recently, some textbooks have found themselves in basic schools that have raised a lot of concerns about their contents, some bordering on what some describe as tribal or ethnic bigotry. What it means is that some ethnic groups (tribes) have been sighted for ridicule and disdain. How an author can put such stuff in writing for young minds to imbibe beats the mind completely unless that author has a personal agenda to poison these young minds.
People are known to malign others in fictional story books, biographies and autobiographies or even in poetry, but textbooks? Anyway, personal agenda or not, the thrust of my write-up today is how the stuff in some of these textbooks is packaged. Because the official language of Ghana is English, the language becomes the tool of any endeavour to educate or inform the student.
That my 13-year-old grandniece puts down a textbook and, with a red pen in hand, sets to correct the grammar of one such published material, is a clear indictment on our education system. She picks up wrong spelling, wrong punctuation and many other proofreading errors in a book that is supposed to be approved for basic education in this country. Meanwhile, the author of the textbook in question definitely is not a basic school student. But my little girl identified 39 errors of grammar, spelling and punctuation in this textbook.
I hear there is a National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA) that has the responsibility of vetting all materials meant to serve as textbooks for education purposes. The question I have for NaCCA is: do they just pass everything that a publisher puts forward into the system? Is the Council not clothed to vet grammar, content and factual presentation of content?
Meanwhile, on NaCCA’s website are a lot of rejected publications, yet these offensive textbooks met the criteria for use by schools. How come? Where are the safety nets around the release of materials for schools? Does NaCCA have competent staff to look at or vet all the areas that make a textbook appropriate for education purposes? I am referring to proofreading issues and factual presentation of texts. Or anyone is allowed to conjure their own ‘facts’ from hearsay or their own fertile minds and imagination and publish them for our school children?
We as a nation cannot allow authors of textbooks to behave like illiterate bloggers who write any trash on social media platforms for public consumption. We are discussing the future of our young generation who need guidance and decorous learning in truthfulness and correctness of the medium in which they are expressed. We cannot assume that young minds are discerning enough to determine what is right stuff or trash.
I was caned in Primary Four for daring to tell my class teacher that it was not Tetteh Quarshie who introduced cocoa to Ghana and that before he brought in the Fernando Po variety, there was cocoa in this country. There are records today that show that there was cocoa in our land long before Tetteh Quarshie was even born. Young as I was then, I knew because my late father was a cocoa farmer and knew the difference between the Tetteh Quarshie variety and what was in existence before him.
So, because people are looking to make quick money, they have no time to do proper research into the subject matter they want to produce for education purposes? Definitely, we kill the soul of a nation by this kind of shoddy exercises in the guise of textbooks. In which traditional area in Ghana, for instance, are chiefs elected? We all know that our chieftaincy institution is not clothed in an electoral process.
What is the role of the Ghana Education Service and, by extension, the Ministry of Education in all of this? Do they just flood the classrooms with these materials because NaCCA has found them good for our children? I have heard and watched the Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Education Service vigorously defending one of these offensive materials and I felt sick to my stomach.
Now, to the most intriguing part: is the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) going to examine these basic school children based on the bad grammar, punctuations and spellings? What about the blatant falsehood in the historical narrative of these authors? Can WAEC explain what its role will be in this matter of offensive textbooks serving as reference points for our school children?
It is not only the future of our young generation that is at stake here, but that of the nation as a whole. I see a future where the nation’s foundation is predicated on total falsehood accepted as the truth. If NaCCA, GES and the Ministry of Education are blind, one can foresee the abyss our education is running into.
These institutions of state must bear the vicarious responsibility for the end result that comes out of shoddy and unprofessional educational materials for our school children. They can rescue themselves by ordering a total withdrawal of all these offensive materials from our schools immediately. And the time to act is now, unless they are all blind.
Every child needs protection. They need protection from falsehood; protection from bigots with evil intent. The child needs protection from conniving officialdom today, not tomorrow.
By Dr. Akofa K. Segbefia
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