The Ghana Education Service in recent days has shown intent to punish JHS1 and 2 students who wrote 2023 BECE. The principle is that only JHS3 students can take the examination.
This intention to fish out JHS1 and 2 students who were absent from their respective schools during the BECE and subsequently punish them by not allowing them to enjoy the Free SHS is absolutely wrong. The plan should be shelved because there are verifiable reasons why this move will not work.
Verifiable Legal and ethical reasons why GES cannot punish JHS1 and 2 students who wrote 2023 BECE
Parents whose JHS1 and 2 students sat the BECE in 2023 will surely sue the Ghana Education Service and are likely to win these cases. Do not forget that education is a fundamental human right enshrined in the 1992 Constitution. Any attempt by the GES to prevent these students from accessing education will amount to an open disregard for the law and abuse of the fundamental rights of these children. These are the basics of the constitution, and since the GES has them in its Social Studies syllabus and teaches these students, it (GES) is expected to know better. Clearly, the GES cannot punish JHS1 and 2 students for writing the 2023 BECE.
The GES cannot, on any day, decide to deny these students access to education because of this. If anything at all, the heads of schools that registered such students should be those the GES should go after.
In our schools, students or learners in lower classes are often promoted or jumped to another class depending on their academic capabilities. For instance, some students in class five who are exceptionally brilliant are often promoted to JHS1 at the end of the third term instead of being promoted to basic 6. The same is done for JHS1 students who may be promoted to JHS2 or JHS3, depending on the discussions they had with their parents. Again, the GES cannot punish JHS1 and 2 students for writing the 2023 BECE.
Again, in our secondary schools, students in SHS2 often write the NOVDEC, which is a private WASSCE for students. They absent themselves during the examination to prepare for and write the examination. Very often, this is known to one or more teachers, who also encourage their good students to sit the WASSCE for private students. When such students excel, they have the option to complete the SHS as school candidates and write the WASSCE as school candidates, or they may apply for admission into a university, gain admission, and stop the usual SHS. This is another reason why GES cannot punish JHS1 and 2 students who wrote 2023 BECE.
The question the GES needs to answer is: do they punish these students or prevent them from progressing to the university? The answer is a big no.
All things held constant, the NSMQ is usually a preserve for final-year SHS students. However, some schools present SHS1 and SHS2 students for the competition because they are brilliant and have what it takes to compete. The newest reference in hand is the case of Stephen Baah of Opoku Ware SHS who is in SHS1 yet carried the school on his shoulders into the finals of the 2023 NSMQ.
We cannot deny the fact that, when JHS1 and JHS2 students are registered for the BECE, it has some negative implications. For instance, JHS1 and JHS2 students in private schools are very often those who are registered by public schools to sit the examination ahead of their colleagues. This is not to say that private schools do not register their JHS1 or JHS2 students. However, heads of private Junior High schools always lament about their JHS2 and even JHS3 students being secretly registered for the BECE by public basic schools, and the GES has always paid lip service to this. It only warns schools in a white paper and black ink press release on the act, and that ends it.
Apart from head teachers who register such students, the GES must take much of the blame and suffer punitive actions instead of innocent learners whose right to education it wants to violate.
The GES must, instead, dedicate time and effort towards improving basic education. The time to be used to investigate and do the so-called fishing out for JHS1 and JHS2 students who sat the 2023 BECE should be used to research the poor level of reading ability of public basic schools, solve the public school infrastructure deficit, and develop strategies to provide better conditions of service for our teachers. These will yield greater returns for education in general than going on a goose chase.
If a student in JHS1 or JHS2 is brilliant, they should be allowed to sit the BECE examination. Public schools should only register students of their school and not break the bounds of registering students in private schools whom these schools have invested so much time and effort to groom only for public schools to snatch as illegal Good Samaritans.
Parents whose wards are in private schools and in JHS1 or 2 but want them to sit the BECE earlier should also consult their schools instead of enrolling the students in public schools for the examination.
The GES cannot punish JHS1 and 2 students for writing the 2023 BECE; instead, it should re-channel its energy and resources where they are needed.