- *They were placed in a school and on a programme and a residency status (day/boarding) that featured in their five choices.
Let me begin with a sincere apology for my French leave last week and the week before from this column.
I had been so busy with senior high school (SHS) placement issues that I missed my deadline for the submission of articles.
It has been a whirlwind at work. Worried friends have also weighed in with requests for one change or the other.
Let’s crunch some basic data.
Total number of BECE candidates in 2019: 517,331
Number of candidates whose results were released by WAEC: 512,083
Number of candidates who qualified to be placed in SHS: 473,728
Number of available SHS seats: 520,298
Number of candidates placed automatically by CSSPS : 351,022 (74.1%)*
Number of candidates who could not be placed: 122, 706 (25.9%)
*They were placed in a school and on a programme and a residency status (day/boarding) that featured in their five choices.
What the candidates who could not be placed in any of their five school choices needed to do was to go online and select from a list of schools that still had spaces, a school that matched their grades, as well as their preference of programme and residency status and then place themselves there.
Unfortunately, there was a breach of the self-placement portal on September 9, 2019, which enabled some candidates to place themselves in Category A schools which did not have to be available in the portal in the first place since they were already full after the automatic placement.
The portal was, therefore, taken down and those self-placements were annulled. The breach was resolved within 24 hours, following which the portal was resolved.
By 11 p.m on Wednesday, September 18, 2019, 81,383 candidates out of the 122,706 who had not been placed in any school had successfully placed themselves in schools.
In total, 432,405 candidates had been placed in schools through automatic placement and self-placement. As a percentage of the total number of students who qualified to be placed, this amounted to 91.2 per cent.
My experience as a member of the team that manned the Black Star Square was that the vast majority of people who came there had been placed, but were not satisfied and wanted changes to their schools, programmes or residency status.
Some said they were not aware their child or ward’s teacher had chosen the schools without consulting them.
Others claimed the family member the child was to live with to attend a particular school as a day student had died or relocated and, therefore, requested boarding status. There were quite a lot of such requests.
I think the boarding culture of our senior high schools is rooted quite deeply in the national psyche, and I find it quite fascinating. It appears almost as if one did not have a proper second cycle education if one was a day student.
I think it would take a suicidal government to try to dismantle the boarding system.
There are those that say that our boarding system is unsustainable, especially in the face of its cost to the government, and who point to other countries where children attend high schools in their district, and those who desire boarding status have to pay for it.
I strongly disagree with the dismantling of our boarding system for the fundamental reason that in the countries referred to, good schools are spread evenly across the country.
The same cannot be said here.
It cannot be right that a child in my village of Ankaase should be forced to attend senior high school in the locality, whatever its quality, and be denied the opportunity to study at Opoku Ware School in Kumasi no matter how qualified he is, simply because of the accident of his place of birth and/or upbringing.
The state must pay for that child because it is no fault of his that there is no such school in his locality.
Until we are able to grow schools of the standard of Opoku Ware all over the country, boarding schools are a necessity, not a luxury for which a child must pay. We cannot afford to make our boarding houses, the preserve of the rich and the well-heeled.
It is not good for social cohesion anyway.
That said, I am looking forward to the end of the placement season and a long holiday somewhere, lying on a beach, sipping a lovely cocktail and watching the sunset.
Writer: Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng