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Definition of A School

    A close examination of the various definitions of school and of new educational trends at every level, leads one to formulate the concept of school as a place of integral formation by means of a systematic and critical assimilation of culture. A school is therefore a privileged place in which through a living encounter with a cultural inheritance, integral formation occurs. This vital approach takes place in the school in the form of personal contacts and commitments which consider absolute values in a life – context and seek to insert them into a life – framework.
    Indeed, culture is only educational when young people can relate their study to real life situations with which they are familiar.
    The school is a facility which offers education to those who access it. And education takes place in the recipient if the exposure produces a person to become useful to himself and society. It must help him spell out the meaning of his experiences and their truths.
    The human capital of every nation is its most valuable asset. Formal education which takes place in a school setting, since its inception, has become the basis for the acquisition, expansion and dissemination of knowledge. It also helps to create a body of knowledge which forms the basis for socio-economic development as well as the exploitation, management and preservation of natural and human resources. Education in its various forms provides the basis for transmitting the received knowledge of the society, equip people with skills, attitudes and the capacity to become productive human beings, participate in social life and be able to adapt positively to change. The God-given potentials in every person are to be developed and used for the good of society.
    Any school which neglects this duty and which offers merely pre-cast conclusions hinders the personal development of its pupils.
    To relate the definition of the school to the topic of our discussion “Catholic Schools” we will now look at the mission of the church.

Why Catholic Schools?

    In the past few years people have been asking why the church should be involved in the establishment of schools. Some claim that it is the responsibility of the state and private individuals who so desire to be in that business. Unfortunately, among those who have this view are recipients of education in Catholic and other religious bodies schools.
    The church derives her right to establish and direct schools for any field of study, kind and grade, from the mandate of Christ to educate and bring all people to the knowledge of their creator. The church considers it a duty to educate young people as part of “her responsibility of announcing the way of salvation to all men, of communicating the life of Christ to those who believe, and in her unfailing solicitude of assisting men to be able to come to the fullness of this life” Gravissimum Educationis GE.3).
    The church does not seek to use her school as a strategy to “convert” souls to the Catholic faith. Neither does it establish the school to educate only Catholic pupils and students. The mandate is to educate and bring all people to the knowledge of their creator. The reason Catholic schools are much sought-after is an indication that they are unique in their education delivery.
    A study which the speaker conducted while at the Catholic Education Unit as the Regional Manager (Ashanti) in 1997 revealed that with the exception of the seminaries, no Catholic School (basic to tertiary) had more than 30% Catholic enrolment.
    The upbringing of children is a basic responsibility of parents (Can. 1055). And Catholic schools are established to offer assistance in this responsibility. The Catholic environment of the school facilitates the faith formation of the child in the faith. The Catholic school forms part of the saving mission of the church, especially for education in the faith.
    The Catholic school forms part of the saving mission of the Church, especially for education in the faith.  Remembering that “the simultaneous development of man’s psychological and moral consciousness is demanded by Christ almost as a pre-condition for the reception of the befitting divine gifts of truth and grace” the Church fulfils her obligation to foster in her children a full awareness of their rebirth to a new life.  It is precisely in the Gospel of Christ, taking root in the minds and lives of the faithful, that the Catholic school finds its definition as it comes to terms with the cultural conditions of the times.
    Remembering that “the simultaneous development of man’s psychological and moral consciousness is demanded by Christ almost as a precondition for the reception of the befitting divine gifts of truth and grace “(Ecclesiam Suam, Paul V1, Encyclical Letter).
    Since its inception in the country, the Catholic Church has established schools and other institutions as part of its mission of evangelization and human capital development. Over the years Catholic Schools have been associated with quality education, and have been historical synonymous with discipline, dedication, honesty and commitment to duty.
    These qualities are derived from the mission of the church, which aims at forming the human person. As the most effective way of developing the potentials of individuals, Catholic education seeks to offer young people avenues to develop critical thinking, reflection and the means for evangelization.
    The mission of the Church to establish schools and other institutions of learning is also in consonance with Article 25 clause ii of the 1992 constitution, which states:
    Every person shall have the right, at his own expense, to establish and maintain
    private school or schools at all levels and of such categories and in accordance with such conditions as many be
    provided by law.
    The church has been involved in the delivery of formal education for many reasons. These include:
-    Use of formal education as a vehicle for evangelization.
-    Promotion of sound human development through Catholic educational principles.
-    Provision of formal education as one of the social responsibilities of the church.
-    Provision of moral and religious training.
-    Provision of options to parents who wish to give their children religious-based education.
-    Supplementing the efforts of Government in the education enterprise.

Characteristics of a Catholic School
    A school or an institution is considered to belong to the Catholic Education system when
•    It is under the control of a diocesan Bishop or an appropriate ecclesiastical authority and
•    when there is an officially written document acknowledging it as Catholic by an appropriate ecclesiastical authority.
There are two categories of Catholic schools – Public and Private Catholic schools.
The public ones are those which have been established either through or directly by the Church but have been absorbed into the Ghanaian public school system and the private ones are the schools which are run by the church and various religious institutions.
    Among the common practices that take place in the Catholic school include:
•    Common Catholic prayers and the celebration of the Eucharist are part of the life of the school community.
•     A crucifix is hung at convenient places in the school.
•    Catholic holidays of obligation are observed.

Brief History

    Catholic education in Ghana began in 1529 when some Portuguese chaplains opened a school in Elmina at the Elmina Castle. This attempt was short-lived and a second attempt was made in 1572 by some Augustinian Friars, unfortunately this second attempt was also short-lived after four years.
    It was in 1880 that Sir James Marshall, a Scot while working in the British Colony of Gold Coast and Nigeria appealed to Propaganda Fide to assign the Gold Coast to the society of African Missions (SMA).
    A year later two SMA Fathers were assigned to the Gold Coast. They arrived at Elmina and opened a Catholic School for Boys in 1882. We can therefore say that a firm foundation for Catholic education was laid in 1882. This first school opened with five pupils and by the end of the year the enrolment had risen to 150.
    In March 1884 the OLA Sisters arrived at Elmina and opened a Gils School in December. When mission stations were established in Cape Coast (1889), Saltpond (1890) and Keta (1890) schools were established for boys and girls at these stations. It was upon these modest beginnings that Catholic schools were established in the Gold Coast.
    The Catholic Church was formally established in Asante (Ashanti Region and Brong Ahafo Region) on 25th December, 1910. Prior to that, groups of Catholic lay faithful consisting of foreign miners, railway workers, traders etc had informally founded Catholic congregations at Obuasi (1897) Akrokerri (1902) and Kumasi (1903) for Sunday workshop. These lay faithful opened schools to give Western Education to their children and train them in the Catholic faith.
    There was an increase in the establishment of schools between 1933 – 1951. By 1951 there were 179 Primary schools, (27 in Brong Ahafo and 152 in Ashanti).


The types and number of Catholic schools in the Diocese currently stand as follows:

    KG    PRIMARY    JHS    SHS   
PUBLIC    89    95    31    2    217
PRIVATE    0    0    0    2    2
TOTAL    89    95    31    4    219

Since 1882 there has been a partnership arrangement between the government and the Religious bodies (including the Catholic Church) in the management of schools.
    Public Catholic schools under this partnership are financed by the government. The church through the Catholic Education Unit is responsible for the management and supervision of the schools.
    This partnership has been expressed in a number of ordinances, acts and official government policy documents. In 1925 the nature of this partnership was captured in the 14th principle of Gordon Guggisberg on education thus:
    “There should be co-operation between the Government and the Missions, and the latter should be subsidized for education purposes”
This relationship was altered slightly in the Education Act of 1961 (Act 87 which brought all educational institutions under the Ministry of Education. Under the Act Mission schools were financed through the grant – in – aid” system but were allowed to managed their own schools subject to the regulations contained in the Act. 
    The Education ACT, 2008 (Act 778) which replaced the 1961 Act acknowledged the immense contribution of Religious Bodies to the educational system. This new Act directed that the District Education directorate and the appropriate religious bodies will be responsible for the efficient delivery of the educational services. Religious bodies have been given the right, by the Act, to set up, in conjunction with the District Assembly, its own directorate for the inspection and supervision of the educational institutions established by that religious body.


    The current situation of the Catholic school is not the ideal type. Over the past few years, situation of the Catholic school, especially those in the public system calls for serious attention by the church.
•    Management of the basic schools is gradually shifting from the Education Unit office to the District Education Directorate. Recruitment, posting and transfer of teachers in the Catholic school are done by the District Education Directorate.
•    The Regional Manager’s authority over the Catholic school is gradually being eroded.
•    The church has no control over the teachers who are posted to the schools.
•    Funds from government for supervision of teaching and learning are no more getting to the managers. Hence the schools are virtually there without external supervision. Logistics for teaching and learning are not enough to go round.
•    There are a number of authoritative documents which are jointly prepared by the Ministry of Education and the Religious Bodies intended to strengthen the partnership. Sadly, these documents are always ignored by the GES officials. One of such documents entitled “The Right of Educational Units to Manage and Supervise Educational Institutions Established and Developed by their respective Religious Bodies in Partnership with Government” dated 18th October, 1999 issued by the Ministry of Education clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of the General Manager, Regional Manager and Local Manager. Unfortunately this document has not received any serious attention by officials of the GES.
    A case in point is the unilateral appointment of a non-Catholic to head the St Jerome Catholic Senior High School at Abofour by the Ashanti Regional Director of Education without recourse to the Archbishop of Kumasi.
•    Sadly, some of our own Catholic teachers in our Catholic public schools (Basic and second cycle) do not make the expected impact on these schools with their faith and exemplary life.

Catholic basic schools, especially those in the public system, which were the envy of all in terms of their high academic achievement and moral uprightness, are fast deteriorating. The interpretation of the decentralized system of governance to the partnership is almost always suggesting the irrelevance of the Church’s active involvement in the management and supervision of the schools. This calls for a serious consideration by the church.
Those days when the Catholic teacher in the Catholic school played the role of both a teacher and faith formator in lacking. The teacher in the Catholic school is an important factor if the school should be described as Catholic. The situation where the teacher pays more allegiance to his pay-master and pays little or no attention to the demands of the church in the school is a worrying situation. The teacher factor cannot be taken for granted in a true Catholic school.
At great cost and sacrifice the church was inspired by the teaching of the church to establish schools which enriched mankind and responded to the needs of time and place. While it recognizes it own inadequacies, the Catholic school is conscious of its responsibility to continue this service today as in the past. Some schools which bear the name Catholic do not appear to correspond fully to the principles of education, which should be their distinguishing feature and, therefore, do not fulfill the duties which the church and the society have every right to expect of them. In some Catholic schools emphasis is placed on the acquisition of knowledge and skills and moral training aspect is given little emphasis. High academic achievement is rewarded and little or no attention is given to moral uprightness.

The Way Forward

    The real problem facing the Catholic school is to identify and lay down the conditions necessary for it to fulfill its mission. It is therefore a problem requiring clear and positive thinking, courage, perseverance and cooperation to tackle the necessary measures without being overawed by the size of the difficulties from within and without, nor “by persistent and outmoded slogans “which in the last analysis aim to abolish Catholic schools. To give into them would be suicidal.
    The Educational Partnership with the state which has been in existence since the 1880’s and which is the envy of many countries in our sub-region should not be allowed to crumble down. The leadership of the church should be given the necessary support and encouragement to continue with the dialogue with the civil authorities to strengthen it.
    The church is a very powerful stakeholder in education and all legitimate means should be employed to make the church’s participation in public school management and supervision of schools a reality.
    The Catholic Education Unit which is the church’s department of education needs adequate support to perform. Even with the little support the church’s schools receive, they are counted among the best and remain the much sought after schools. This suggests that the church has something special to offer, failure of which will be a disservice to mankind. As one of my lectures in school Administration once said “The day the churches are pushed out from the management of public schools that will be the end of quality education delivery in Ghana”.
How Catholic are our Catholic public Basic Schools? What role should the Parish Community play in keeping the Parish schools Catholic? Do parents of pupils in our schools have a role to play? What about the Parish clergy? Do they have a role to play? Where do Catholic teachers find themselves in this situation?
    Some of our Parish priests have little or nothing to do with the schools in the Parish. The excuse is that the District Directorate has virtually taken over the schools.  Is it not time for us to “own” the schools? If we do not announce our presence nobody will notice our presence. At least the celebration of the Eucharist once a term and an organized programme to prepare the young pupils for the sacraments could be some of the activities which could be considered.
    At a great cost and sacrifice the church has established these schools for a purpose. As of 2011 the church operates the world’s largest non-governmental school system. Catholic schools participate in the evangelizing mission of the church integrating religious education as the core subject within their curriculum. I think it is time the church considered seriously the establishment of Catholic Private schools which will be fully managed and supervised by the church.


    In conclusion, the Konongo Mampong Dioceses effort in evangelization cannot be effective without the contribution of the role of her formal education programme. The Catholic school plays a strategic role in the life of the church.
    While the Bishop’s authority is to watch over the orthodoxy of religious instruction and the observance of Christian morals in the Catholic schools, it is the task of the whole educative community to ensure that a distinctive Christian educational environment is maintained in practice. The responsibility applies chiefly to Christian parents who confide their children to the school. Having chosen, it does not relieve them of a personal duty to give their children a Christian upbringing. They are bound to cooperate actively with the school – which means supporting the educational efforts of the school and utilizing the structures offered for parental involvement, in order to make certain that the school remains faithful to Christian principles of education. An equally important role belongs of to the teachers in safe guarding and developing the distinctive mission of the Catholic school, particularly with regarded to the Christian atmosphere which should characterize its life and teaching.
Where difficulties and conflicts arise about the authentic Christian character of the Catholic school, hierarchical authority can and must intervene.
And this, I believe has informed the inclusion of the topic in the deliberations of the Synod.
Thank you.


1.    What is the state of Catholic Basic Schools in the Diocese today?
2.    What are your expectations of a Catholic School?
3.    In what ways can we make our schools truly Catholic?
4.    The present Educational Partnership with government seems to be facing problems with implementation. Will you advocate for the abrogation of the partnership? Should the church take over the schools or hand them over to the government?