The Colleges of Education in Ghana have undergone significant transformation since their establishment under the 2012 Act (Act 847).
Initially offering various certificate programmes, the then 38 teacher-training colleges were upgraded to diploma-awarding institutions in 2004 and affiliated with the University of Cape Coast.
The government later absorbed eight more colleges, bringing the total number of public colleges to 46.
In 2014, recognising the need to improve the quality of teachers, the government initiated a six-year collaboration with UKAid, resulting in the implementation of a programme known as the Transforming Teacher Education and Learning (T-TEL) programme.
T-TEL focused on raising teacher training standards and introducing institutional changes in colleges of education. Consequently, a new teacher training curriculum was developed to foster critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration in student teachers, addressing the previous curriculum’s shortcomings.
In 2018, colleges of education transitioned from offering a three-year Diploma in Basic Education (DBE) to a four-year Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degree programme with three specialisations: Early Grade Education, Primary Education, and Junior High School Education.
In July 2022, a national dialogue was organised to discuss the state of colleges of education in Ghana and how challenges could be addressed.
The Ministry of Education and the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC) have received a report and communique from the dialogue.
There are significant infrastructure deficits in almost all the colleges of education in Ghana; a sector charged with the crucial responsibility of training the country’s basic school teachers. The infrastructural facilities found in the colleges have, on average, been in use for over sixty years.
These structures were designed to fit the post-middle and post-secondary teacher-training model (4-year / 3-year Certificate A).
Edifices at that time were patterned on the style of secondary school boarding houses, where students are put in dormitories that accommodate between 20 and 30 students.
Indeed, the introduction of the four-year bachelor’s programme is a wake-up call to the government to prioritise the upgrading of structures in the colleges to meet the standard expected in this 21st century.
The current situation where students are made to resume lectures or report to their campuses in batches as a result of lack of accommodation in colleges of education is quite worrying.
At the national dialogue last year, participants acknowledged that the colleges of education were beset by infrastructural challenges of various kinds.
It was observed that the introduction of the Free Senior High School Policy in the country has increased considerably, the number of candidates who apply for admission into colleges of education.
Also, all 46 public colleges of education have resorted to a double-shift system where different cohorts report for academic work alternatively.
This is to enable the different groups to have a fair use of the limited facilities.
Remarkably, the government has spent a total of GH¢432,680,456.00 from 2017 to 2020 on payment of trainee teachers’ allowance.
Is it worth spending such huge amounts of money on allowances at the expense of other pertinent challenges faced by the colleges?
On the campus of Bagabaga College of Education, a 400-bed capacity ladies’ hostel has been abandoned for more than a decade.
The school had, for lack of accommodation for female student teachers, been forced to house them at Tamale Senior High School.
The abandoned project has now become a den of miscreants, leaving staff and students in a state of despair.
At Akrokerri College of Education, work on a 300-bed hostel facility has stopped since 2015 even though the contractor was supposed to complete and hand over the keys to the college in October 2018.
At NJA College of Education in Wa, a three-storey building hostel has been left to rot away with the building caving in from the second floor.
Meanwhile, the staff of Enchi College of Education have to compete with students for limited accommodation.
There are instances when two tutors and their families are compelled to share bungalows meant for one tutor.
Fosu College of Education also has a 500-bed capacity female hostel that has stalled for about four years, forcing the college to cut down enrolment for females.
The project started in 2017 and came to a halt in 2019.
Since then, no progress has been made towards the continuation of the project.
At St. Joseph College of Education in Bechem, female students are unhappy as a two-storey building block has been left uncompleted for years, making them struggle for space.
It is no news that managers of Ghana’s economy are going through a tough time in setting priorities for financing government projects.
According to the World Economic Forum, the IMF forecasts global growth to slow to 3.2 per cent in 2022 and 2.7 per cent in 2023 from 6.0 per cent in 2021.
This is the weakest growth profile since 2001, except for the global financial crisis and the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With all these economic challenges and forecasts, one does not need a soothsayer to tell him or her that it will be difficult for the government at this stage to address the infrastructure crisis in our colleges of education.
It will be prudent to hold a stakeholder policy engagement to consider the options of adopting the In-In-Out-Out accommodation policy, which is being practised in some public universities, to bridge the infrastructural gap and access to university education.
Government should also revise the formula for the allocation of GETFund which is largely based on the student numbers of the institution.
The In-In-Out-Out policy can be the game changer to avoid the continuous running of the double shift system in professional institutions such as teacher training colleges of education.
I would like to enumerate the merits of the In-In-Out-Out policy over the possible double shift system.
To start with, the policy will guarantee quality teacher education since students will not lose contact hours, as well as their practical lessons.
Additionally, it will also minimise the frequent interruption of the semesters which affects students’ Supported Teaching in Schools (STS) activities.
To add to this, the policy will not overstretch the tutors as the same staff will be teaching all the different levels of students at the same period.
The government may not need to provide extra support to the tutors for teaching extra contact hours or employ more hands within a short period to beef up the staff strength of the colleges.
In conclusion, the facilities in the colleges can be used during vacations to run top-up sandwich courses for Diploma in Basic Education graduates in the system to obtain degrees instead of using the vacation periods for the double shift.