Johnnie Hughes asks: AFTER BECE, WHAT NEXT?

While, this may seem a very simple but over flogged question at first glance, it is also, a daunting query to the reasoning man.

This is so because, for many years, the ‘lame duck period’ that precedes when Junior High School leavers are signaled to literally remount the academic horse for another race at the WASSCE, after a rather long break, is actually left unstructured.

Pretty sad, but this has been an annual occurrence since 1987 when the Junior Secondary School was introduced.

If you experienced this period of neglect, then it’s possible someone else did.

I experienced same too, back in the nineties so I assumed that since times have changed, things would have changed too.

But I got the shock of my life sometime last week, when I went back to my alma mater; Kaneshie Anglican School to inspire some BECE candidates.

The narrative hadn’t changed and unfortunately, 2018 would not be an exception, for as long as ayetefrem and nimokafui remain friends of Obinim.

Maybe, 2019 won’t be any different either. Well, if anything does change, I will be very surprised and excited at once.

This year’s basic school certificate examinations (BECE) started on Monday June 4, 2018 with some 509,824 candidates.

It will run until Friday June 8, when candidates would congratulate each other and confidently refer to themselves as “graduates”.

First, the multiple thanksgiving services will be organized along with all the prophetic utterances upon the lives of the ‘graduates’.

The well-deserved valedictory parties will follow and then when the dust settles, reality will set in. The new ‘graduate’ is likely to be ‘home alone’ for most of the time.

The temptation to find company is high. But how ‘clean’ can this company be?

Prior to this, there has been a well-planned instruction and examinations regime right from primary 1 to JHS 3 for all 263,295 males and 246,529 females involved.

Then after the examinations what next? What becomes of the JHS leavers? Who takes up the duty of care? Is it left for just the parents and guardians alone to perform?

Is that fair treatment from a nation whose mantra reads “Freedom & Justice”?

And do we honestly believe as a nation that these young ones would have any sense of patriotism duly imbibed in them after all the cruel neglect?

Now here comes the shocker!

Beginning today, and for the next four to six months, many youngsters in Ghana will be left to their fate.

Just a handful will be kept busy with some extra classes and computer classes (which was in vogue during my time).

Some may get exposed to pornography and other vices such and drinking, smoking, tramadol and codeine abuse and experimenting with other drugs.

Some may become lonely and timid; completely shunned by society. Others may break their virginity out of curiosity.

Some more may discover that they have skills and talent outside the classroom and would put them to good use.

For some others, this would mark an end to their education and signal a rough start to their struggles in life (mind you, our basic education is not skills based, it is largely for the theoretical examinations.

Therefore, a JHS leaver is almost worthless in the workplace).  Some may engage in light holiday jobs either with their parents or on their own to make some money to support their education.

These, are but a few of the scenarios that easily come to mind. And oh yes, brace yourself for the noisy ones who would scream the whole day either in argument or long needless conversations.

However, as horrifying as the situation looks, it leads me to my next round of questions: What is our social protection policy stand point for these children as a nation?

Is it defined by the monthly hand down called Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP)?

Or the long speeches that claim to care about what we actually don’t give a hoot about? Or maybe, it is the sharing of mathematical sets by politicians with their pictures shamefully embossed on them?

Or the constant empty reminders that these young chaps are the so-called future leaders?

Where are the child rights advocates? Where do they stand in all of this? Are they with the children or with the faulty system?

Where is the ministry of gender, children and social protection?

Now, let’s assume that the idle period is over and school has resumed. How do these young people pick themselves up from their academic hibernation?

If they picked up any negative habits or addictions within the period, how do we ensure that they don’t influence their peers wrongfully, especially at the various boarding houses?

How deep will the knife of neglect cut, to become a bleeding disaster upon us? What levels of counseling is afforded them before they leave school?

And how are they welcomed and psyched up for the journey ahead? Who really cares? Nobody, I guess!

I have raised these issues many times before and the answers I got were the least assuring.

The Ghana Education Service (GES) said that they have functioning Guidance and Counselling Units in all schools under their purview.

My checks proved that a large majority of these units are non functional.

Those that are partially functional are either superintended by one vibrant teacher who either has a knack for it or has been forced to add this role to his or her classroom duties.

Now, take a wild guess as to what the results of this trial and error enterprise is likely to yield.

And then, measure that against the long term effects on the child or teenager at the receiving end. Stretch it further and imagine the wider society in the next ten years.

Yeah! Garbage in; garbage out. That’s the sum of what it is, init? Well, the GES needs to wake up and smell the 21stcentury coffee. The aroma is something else.

Well, as of now, the candidates in the examination halls across the country have not chosen the schools they wish to attend for their second cycle education.

They have been told to spend 3 weeks after the examinations to do so.

So they are currently managing the pressures of the 10-subject (crammed into one week) exam on one hand, and the wahala of either deciding or being forced to choose a school or programme they must pursue.

In most cases, their test scores are used as basis to decide their would-be schools and programmes. How that magic is worked out, only God knows.

But I can say for a fact that most often, the arbiters at that stage get it wrong. And, future events buttress my point.

If you doubt me, engage a random sample of professionals today and most of them will tell you they had to change direction at some point.

So we have a national problem. But who will fix it?

To be candid, I wish our Christian fraternity would willingly invest the same lengthy hours of prayer and fasting for these teenagers, just as they do before the examinations.

I also truthfully wish that some of those long hours would actually be converted into realistic mentorship programmes, seminars and fora for the youngsters.

I look forward to a day when child rights advocates and children-themed civil society organizations would not just issue press releases or host press conferences or visit a few schools and tout them as achievements.

I want to see the children being scratched where they itch. By this, I mean they must structure a strategic plan to influence the whole growing up culture of these future leaders.

And for the parents, I wish they would also have a plan.

A plan to keep an eye on their wards at all times.

And, to be largely responsible for their well being any day.

They must do this as if they expect help from nowhere. After all, they say charity begins at home.

In conclusion, I ask again: AFTER BECE, WHAT NEXT? Do you know? What can we do about this?

The writer is the award-wining host of TV3 Newday every weekday at 6:00 am & #ComunityConnect on 3fm 92.7 on Fridays at 8:30 am.


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