No matter how hard I tried, I was unable to take a side on the Achimota-rastafari debate. My liberal side wondered why the boy’s obvious intelligence, confidence and eloquence wasn’t prioritised. The stricter conservative part wondered what our schools would become if we allowed everyone to carry their preferred hairstyle to school. It was a hodgepodge of confused thoughts for me. I just couldn’t take a stance. However, what I am very clear in my mind about is the need for us to review the entire secondary school ecosystem in Ghana and upgrade it to meet the times. This is necessary if we truly are serious about competing with the world.

Albeit I left secondary school some 15 years ago, my work as a speaker and youth developer has kept me in touch with that ecosystem. Our secondary school system is far removed from the times. I have a couple of issues on my mind but I will just focus on one; our secondary school students cannot use laptops at school. In most schools, it is banned. They cannot use this technology even for learning. Mobile phones and general access to internet is disallowed in most secondary institutions across the country. If you consider that their age mates elsewhere in the world are writing code, developing apps, inventing devices authoring books and setting up companies, our position as a country is backward and non-competitive. We are holding our youth back from competing with the rest of the world. I know there are many good reasons why these things are disallowed. But when you juxtapose them with the capacity that these technologies have for developing the potentials of our teenage population, we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

Secondary school is one of the most significant influencers of a person’s life and career trajectory. That’s where many people find themselves; their passions, interests, talents, abilities and career direction. Secondary school is where I started learning public speaking. What was supposed to be my very first book was written in secondary school. I got introduced the fundamental concepts of self-improvement and success right from there. There are many who can identify with this. My cousin in secondary form 2 has started a fruit juice business. There is a young lady musician who has released some tracks in secondary school. A lot of talent activation happens during this stage of life. So pause and think about how powerful technology could be as an enabler in this period of life. But we disallow it, completely holding back a generation from massive exploration and learning.

Held back? Indeed, we are. If you compare the average age of talented people in the West to those of us in Africa, you will notice that most of the time, we Africans peak much late. Most of our gifted young people don’t break through till their 30s. By the time an American gift is in his or her 20s, they are world-famous or almost, because they had an early good start. But our system doesn’t enable that. So our footballers get to Europe in their 30s and have to understate their age to get some few extra years of cash. Bill Gates wrote his first software program at the age of 13. The 13 year old in Ghana is probably still drawing a computer on paper. Mark Zuckerberg began using computers and writing software in middle school. By high school, he was working under the company name Intelligent Media Group to build a music player called the Synapse. The device used machine learning to learn the user’s listening habits. Machine learning? How many of our high school students know what that means?

What I am even saying? Secondary school students to be allowed to use technology? More fool me. Most secondary school administrations are run manually. It’s possible your alma mater still insists on receiving hard copy letters rather than emails. And after you have sent the letter, you will follow up some weeks later and they can’t find it. 🙂 It’s even possible they don’t even have an email address at all. Your kid sister’s report card probably comes in by snail mail and there is no website you can go to check their results or even to see their bills paid or read about when they are reopening from vacation. You have to go to the school yourself to get that. That’s how out of date our secondary schools are.

By Jeremiah Buabeng,
Buabeng Communications,
The Stephen’s Center.
Teiko Schnapp Lane, Caprice, Accra.