August 3, 2010

Parliament on Monday August 2 passed the Education (Amendment) Bill, 2010 to revert the duration of Senior High School (SHS) education from four to three years.

The passage followed a tense debate, which had also been preceded by two votes on proposed amendments of the bill, both going in favour of the majority.

However, in both votes, the Minority side expressed dissatisfaction with the results, with the Minority leader, Mr. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, and the MP for Adansi Asokwa, Mr. K.T. Hammond, expressing some strong reservations.

The House voted 106-78 to amend a portion of the Bill that had sought to make the duration of the programme not less than three years. The Minority side opposed that, with the MP for Sekondi, Papa Owusu-Ankomah, arguing that maintaining that provision would ensure that in future there would be no need to go through another amendment to change the duration of the programme.

He stated further that in future if a government found it prudent to increase the duration of the programme, then it could simply do that through an administration procedure. His view was supported by the MP for New Juaben North, Mr. Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, who argued that ensuring that there was no rigid three–year duration would be more helpful, as it would not compel everybody to do the course in three years.

However, the Majority side disagreed with that position and argued strongly in support of the amendment. The Majority leader, Mr. Cletus Apul Avoka, stated that the purpose of the Bill was to reduce the duration of the SHS programme from four to three years. He added, however, that if the amendment proposed was not carried through, there would be a situation whereby in some schools the duration would be three years while in others it will be four years.

“The law must be precise and clear, else the law will be ambiguous and its implication will be at the whims and caprices of school heads,” he stated. His view was supported by the MP for Wa West, Mr. Joseph Yieleh Chireh, who argued that the House needed to be specific when making laws. He added that the House could not afford to make a law and leave a gap open in such a manner.

After a voice vote, the First Deputy Speaker, Mr. Edward Doe Adjaho, who was in the chair, called it for the Majority. But Papa Owusu—Ankomah invoked a standing order of the House and called for a division and head count.

The subsequent division resulted in a vote that witnessed the Majority getting the amendment passed with a vote of 106-79, but that drew a fierce protest from the Minority Leader, who said the process was flawed, as the Speaker had called the election using the results of the division.

In the second vote, the House voted 108-78 to reject an amendment proposed by Christopher Am