Wobbly times ahead for agriculture …as schools abandon its study

farmingMost Senior High Schools have abandoned the study of agriculture, whilst its study was struck out of Primary and Junior High School syllabuses in 2007, the Agriculture Educators and Trainers Association of Ghana (AETAG), has said, warning of dire consequences.

Unless the subject is reintroduced at the basic level of education, the country’s agriculture will continue to stagnate, whilst efforts at attracting the youth may never succeed, Eric Amoah, President of AETAG, told the B&FT in Accra.

AETAG, whose mother body is the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), says it has noted with concern, the shrinking number of students pursuing agriculture at the Senior High School level since the educational reforms in 2007, and that if the country does not initiate moves as a matter of urgency to reintroduce the subject, a time will come where educated personnel for the sector would become extinct.

“Agriculture was taken out of the Primary and Junior High School syllabuses and was added to science, and it is called Integrated Science. When you look at the content of agriculture in the Integrated Science, it covers just a few topics. It does not arouse the interest of students who want to pursue agriculture to the highest level.

We have been pushing for the reintroduction of agriculture as a course. Students are not interested in pursuing agriculture anymore even when they get to SHS level. Basically, agriculture is about interest and the monetary value attached to it but if the interest is not there from an early stage, how do you expect them to pursue it to the highest level?” Eric Amoah, President of AETAG told the B&FT in Accra.

“When you come to the SHS, most schools are no more offering agriculture. The schools that used to be very good at agriculture are no more offering it. Even those that are offering it, if you look at the number of students, it is nothing to write home about,” Mr. Amoah added.

He expressed disappointment that nothing has been done about the situation although his association has been calling for a reversal since 2008.

“What are we doing to ourselves? He asked, adding that “If we claim that agriculture is the engine of the economy, why make a policy that is threatening to kill that engine?

They took away religious and moral education (RME), agriculture and some other two subjects but almost all of them have been reintroduced because there were personalities behind it. The religious bodies pushed for RME and it has been restored but for agriculture, no one is genuinely interested.”

The agriculture sector, in 2015, recorded an abysmal 0.04percent growth rate, a decline from a revised target of 3.6 percent for that year.

Government has blamed the decline on the crops sub-sector, “on account of the subsector’s large weight,” which recorded a negative 1.7percent growth rate.

Some watchers of the sector argue that growth could tumble further this year because government has yanked off GH?40 million from its 2016 expenditure.

In in recent times, the government in a desperate bid to avert the fraying fortunes of the sector has initiated a number of moves targeted at whipping up youth interest in the sector.

However, Mr. Amoah said all these interventions may not see the light of the day if the problem is not wrestled from the base. “We need to tackle the problem from the basics. It is something that the nation needs to take a look at again. Other than that this youth in agriculture programmes that we are all bandying around may not work. The students or the youth may not be interested.”

Most of Ghana’s neighbours, Mr. Amoah explained have made agriculture mandatory at the Primary and JHS levels.

He advocated for a more practical oriented training of students including making students understand the business aspect of agriculture from the childhood stage.

“The content at the basic level should be more practical than theory oriented. As a nation, I think we have misunderstood agriculture. We think it is basically about cultivating the soil, it goes beyond that. It has a wider scope, the business aspect of it or the entrepreneurship aspect needs to be taught at a tender age.”

 

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