National Schools Inspectorate Authority struggling due to square peg in round hole – Group

The National Schools Inspectorate Authority (NaSIA’s) is struggling to make headway because there is a square peg being forced into a round hole, Samuel Yeboah, President – Private Education Coalition (PEC), has said.
 
In a statement he said, it is an impossibility awaiting rectification. 
 
“School children, school heads, school board members, parents, and proprietors across the country are in great distress and desire peace in the educational sector. We need harmony, collaboration and a team spirit.
 
“It’s high time we got a round peg that fits the round hole; a person with some experience in leadership in the education sector, who loves schools. There’s been too much agitation for far too long.”

Below is the full statement…

Square peg in a round hole: why NaSIA is struggling to achieve its core mandate; PRIVATE EDUCATION COALITION TO MoE

 
‘’On August 21, 2020, the new Education Regulatory Bodies Act 2020 (Act 1023) was passed to guide the activities of all regulatory bodies under the Ministry of Education.


Part Four of the Education Regulatory Bodies Act 2020 (Act 1023) which transitions the National Inspectorate Board (NIB) into the National Schools Inspectorate Authority (NaSIA) states in Section 98 Subsection 2 that:
(2) A pre-tertiary education institution established before the coming into force of this Act shall within six months of the coming into force of this Act, register with the Authority’’
 
This Act of Parliament and assent by the President birthed the National Schools Inspectorate Authority, NaSIA for short. Act 1023 mandates the Inspector General of Schools (IGS) to lead this new regulatory body, under the Ministry of Education, to develop the highest standards and guidelines for quality education, as well as promote these guidelines and inspect schools across the country to ensure adherence to these standards and guidelines.
 
 
The Act mandates NaSIA, under leadership of the IGS, to become the watchful eye of the Minister of Education in all pre-tertiary schools in the Republic – private or public – to ensure that the standard of education rises to match the government’s desire to see a nation who understands herself and is capable of managing her economy without aid.
 
Quoting our President in his foreword for the Ghana_beyond_aid_charter and strategy document, he said, “We can, and should build a country where everyone has opportunities to develop to their fullest God-given potential; a Ghana where everyone has access to education, training, and productive employment”. It is important to note that Education is the first sector mentioned as an area that requires accessibility for all.
 
Ghana beyond aid is a vision that energizes and propels this particular government to challenge every sector of machinery to maximize its effort, mobilizing its human capital to achieve new results.
 
 
There is no future for any nation that seeks to shake off the shackles of poverty, deprivation and ignorance without heavily investing in its human capital. The importance of educating the nation’s children and youth therefore lies at the centre of this government’s vision to develop the nation beyond dependence on foreign aid.
 
It is therefore no surprise that within the first year of governance, the President launched the free senior high school programme across the country.

After the implementation of this program, there was a 69% increase in enrolment, in 3 years, said the Vice President- Dr. Bawumia on the Ghana Business News webpage. (ghanabusinessnews.com).
 
The Ministry of Education (MoE) website described it as a ‘new record set with the highest enrolment ever seen in the country: over 470,000 students enrolled in senior high school’. All these increases had their ripple effects on food production and employment for new infrastructure that needed to shoot up to meet demand. This would mean that the patronage of basic education had in turn increased.
 
For the large investments in the secondary level of the education process to be successful, the primary level that feeds it would require a strict and effective overhaul. It is not enough to revise and or introduce a whole new curriculum. It would also require effective oversight machinery to ensure uncompromising adhesion to policies and standards that are well understood across the entire pre-tertiary sector. Without such collective comprehension, the students churned out into secondary schools would be below the required standard to produce a skilled populace that can run an economy without aid.
 
For a regulatory body -under the Ministry of Education- mandated by an Act of Parliament to design standards for running schools in the country, to get side tracked and confused by their core mandate, and be fixated on money collection, is a pity and a tad embarrassing.
 
The functions of the authority are clear; set up standards, inspect and monitor these standards to affect the outcomes of teaching and learning in the thousands of public and private schools scattered across the length and breadth of the country. This is to be done in collaboration with the Education Units of the various District and Municipal Assemblies across the country (Article 89: a,b,c).
 
However, this body is bent on harassing a selected group of private schools with exorbitant and unapproved fees under the pretext of licensing and registering them in order to be able to operate. This is preposterous!
 
Anyone would imagine that those schools under scrutiny would be the lowest achieving segment and therefore those needing the most attention to rise up and improve upon their performance. However, unfortunately, the opposite is true. 
 
Despite some hesitation, the government asked all school activity to cease from the 15th of March, 2020. This was to curtail the spread of the notorious coronavirus, which has killed over 4 million (https://www.worldometers.info ) people around the world, and still is a vicious enemy to date. Ghanaian school children stayed at home for 11 months, missing a whole academic year’s work which created a huge learning loss.
 
Shutting schools down meant that there was no revenue for any private school operator whose principal income is generated from the fees paid by parents. Salary payments and many other financial commitments became a huge burden for private school proprietors across this country. Public school staff, thanks to the government, were paid all through the school lockdown without a hitch.
 
It was at the height of this misfortune that NaSIA, led by the IGS, began visiting private schools, and threatening them with closure if they failed to pay arbitrary, unapproved registration fees. Although some private schools continued teaching online (to mitigate the level of learning loss), and took fees to pay salaries, loans, taxes and other statutory payments etc, they also had to incur huge costs in setting up the infrastructure and procurement of equipment for virtual learning. Parents were agitated as they struggled to pay fees, because their lives had been restricted without much economic activity due to the pandemic. Schools that offered virtual learning had to cut costs heavily to accommodate colossal discounts on fees. Costs were high but revenue was low. 
 
It was hardly the time for a government agency, committed to supporting the government’s vision of ensuring quality education across the spectrum, to position itself as the body to syphon monies from school proprietors, under the guise of school registration. It is during crisis, that what we are made of is clearly revealed.
 
“When you face a crisis, you know who your true friends are.” Magic Johnson
 
Perhaps, if the Inspector-General of Schools had some experience in starting a business from scratch and paying staff salaries among other financial obligations, she would have appreciated the times and seasons better, from the perspective of a proprietor? Or would it have made any difference if the leader of the agency mandated to develop high standards and guidelines for effective teaching and learning in our schools had her formal professional training in education? In an era where both our public and private educational sectors are crying out for new education strategies to equip our students with relevant 21st century skills, in a time of global economic crisis, should registration with unapproved fees really be our highest priority?
 
On the contrary, it is no fault of hers that she has neither conceived to start, run, or maintain an educational institution ever in her life. As someone who has no known leadership experience in the education sector, she is now charged to promulgate education standards, create inspection teams and educate stakeholders of the education fraternity, on the mandate of the National Schools Inspectorate Authority and somehow convince them of the benefits of having an authority register their schools and paying exorbitant charges for apparently ‘non-existent’ services, even during a global pandemic. One could have succeeded, if one was inclined to listen to advice and not arrogate to oneself powers not meant for the office.
 
Square peg in a round hole, indeed!
 
Had this peg been conscious of the need to learn from the proponents in the terrain and had she been keen on seeking to understand first, before being understood, it might have been easier for pre-tertiary schools to be welcoming, agreeable and cooperative.
 
At surface level, it is public knowledge that almost all privately owned schools in the country are registered under the Ghana Education Service and Registrar General’s Department. This means there is an existing database that is readily accessible to NaSIA rather than insisting on a whole new registration process. 
 
It would have also been easy to identify that almost all private schools in the country belong to one association or the other. Thus, NaSIA could have engaged the national and regional leadership of these bodies to sensitize them over a period of time, of the impact of NaSIA’s activities on their personal investments as well as seek their buy in on the whole operation. Proprietors would have embraced NaSIA.
 
Parent groups could have also been involved in the sensitization process, acknowledging their key role in the whole education process, and that any lasting impact made in the classroom must be enforced and supported by parents at home. Possibly also because we all know they would eventually bear the brunt of all these NaSIA’s additional costs.
 
The issue of funding the work of the Authority would have been a natural outcome from these engagements, where different funding strategies would have been agreed on, enabling the school proprietors, parents and other stakeholders to brainstorm the additional fees for registering with NaSIA in appreciation of the quality standards developed for operating.
 
It is unfortunate however, that Banks have been contacted by the IGS and asked to ‘request from all pre-tertiary schools, evidence of their registration with NaSIA, in the form of a Provisional Certificate, Provisional License or Full License, before transacting any business with such schools.’ It is shocking to witness this hostile approach towards a sector of society that is attempting to contribute positively to the upbringing and education of the future leaders of the Land.
 
If this peg was round, it would have perceived the negative impact of such an aggressive approach in pursuing private schools to open their doors for inspection (even when schools were under lockdown and no teachers were teaching students in the classrooms) and pay high fees. All the while creating the impression that the Honourable Minister of Education was in cahoots with NaSIA to turn private schools into a cash cow to fund the inspection of public schools in the country.
 
Perhaps even more damaging to the government but unknown to NaSIA, is the fact that such an unfriendly technique for ‘squeezing’ monies from the international certification schools, is a very negative message to the rest of the world. These international partners know and believe that their local partner schools have duly met all international standards and have been operating for many years. How is it that they are suddenly operating illegally and so must be blocked from allowing their final year students to sit for external examinations though parents have already paid? What is the reason given to justify this? That ‘NaSIA is underfunded by the Ministry of Finance and therefore must generate enough funds from private schools to be able to manage its annual budget’.
 
The Act 1023 that empowers NaSIA to operate, also stipulates the structure it should operate with. Article 90 clearly shows how the governing board must be constituted.
 
Peradventure, if the Inspector General of Schools was well suited for this role, the representative for private schools on the newly appointed NaSIA board would not be only 1 association which has been on the said board for over three terms. Article 90.1.e requires that the representative should be selected by the associations of private schools themselves and not imposed by NaSIA unilaterally.
 
In fact, NaSIA’s attitude towards private schools associations in general leave much to be desired considering how it wants to deal with schools individually when it comes to dialogue on policies and fees, yet is required by law to engage associations even on its national board level. What makes NaSIA’s head afraid to allow school associations to negotiate on behalf of their members?
 
In recent times, the Private Education Coalition (PEC) has begun healthy and effective discussions with the Ministry of Education in order to enhance collaboration and team spirit towards enhanced policy appreciation, teaching and learning and better outcomes for our students. However, the IGS’s attitude has systematically been derailing this process entirely.

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The Private Education Coalition is an association of associations. It was formed to seek the welfare of all private schools in Ghana and is made up the Montessori Alliance of Ghana (MONTAG), Association of International Certification Schools of Ghana (ASICS), Federation of Education Research & Development (FERD), Ghana National Council of Private Schools (GNACOPS), National Council of Parent Teachers Associations (NCPTA), and last but certainly not the least, the National Council for Private Early Childhood Growth & Development (NC.PECGD). 

 
It is our position that today, NaSIA’s struggle to make headway is all because there’s a square peg being forced into a round hole.
 
It’s an impossibility awaiting rectification. 
 
School children, school heads, school board members, parents, and proprietors across the country are in great distress and desire peace in the educational sector. We need harmony, collaboration and a team spirit.
 
It’s high time we got a round peg that fits the round hole; a person with some experience in leadership in the education sector, who loves schools. There’s been too much agitation for far too long.
 
Enough is indeed, enough! 

Samuel Yeboah
President – Private Education Coalition (PEC)

Source: 3news.com|Ghana