The right to education is not just the right to access education but also the right to receive good quality education. Education must be available and accessible, but also acceptable and adaptable.
I strongly believe free education, which will commence in September, is the gateway to right to education, but my concern is quality education for all.
According to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948): ‘Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.’
Based on the international legal framework, students must receive quality education that enables their personalities, talents and abilities to be harnessed and enable them to live a full and satisfying life within society.
When you go to rural areas such as Sefwi Aprutu, Sefwi Yawkrom and its environs in the Akontombra Constituency in the Western Region, you will have a better understanding of the need to provide quality education at all levels.
How can you ensure quality education when students and pupils do not have requisite learning materials and other logistics to learn with?
Some schools in rural areas do not have trained teachers, because they are reluctant to go there. Some residents who have some level of education, therefore, take the responsibility of teachers and teach the students voluntarily.
Some students carry tables and chairs to school because there are inadequate furniture in their schools. These are all barriers to quality education which must be cleared.
Governments always preach about quality education, but all efforts to provide the quality education enjoyed by those in urban areas to these rural areas have not yielded much.
Is this equity or equality? My worry is that these students write the same examination during the Basic Examination Certificate Examination (BECE) and West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), meanwhile those in the rural areas are unable to complete their syllabus.
According to international law, everyone has the right to receive education of good quality.
States have ‘to ensure that the standards of education are equivalent in all public educational institutions of the same level, and that the conditions relating to the quality of the education provided are also equivalent’ (Article 4(b), UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, 1960).
Additionally, states are obliged to adopt minimum educational standards to ensure that all schools, public and private, offer the same quality education (Article 13, ICESCR, 1966; Article 29(2), CRC, 1989; Article 2, UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, 1960).
How do we expect students who do not complete their syllabus to pass and further their education? It has always been the problem of the day, because eventually they do not pass their examination, and are, therefore, not encouraged to further their education. This makes them resort to whatever other means they find to make a living, including illegal means, which retard our development as a country. However when we get more scholars in the rural areas, they can also develop their areas and would not wait for government to do so for them.
Government must rise beyond promises and act. We must rise beyond politics and focus on a common goal, and provide necessary materials to enhance quality education.
There should be incentives and attractive packages to those who are willing to teach in rural areas. They need more trained teachers and not just pupil teachers.
Education is the only key to development; therefore, stakeholders should come together and promote quality education, not just access to school.
By Dennis Agyei Boateng