Most of us had our senior high school education in Ghana so I am sure that free SHS did not mean poor quality education, poor accommodation for students, low quality and unappetizing food, gagging and intimidation of Teachers and School Heads etc.
Nana Akufo-Addo opportunistically lurched on free SHS borne out of political expediency and made it the primary focus of public discourse since his 2012 bid for the presidency and brought the appreciation of free senior high school to ridiculously bizarre levels of public attention even though free SHS was duly captured in the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana.
There however seems to be no objectivity in public discussions and analysis pertaining to the implementation of free SHS to the extent that even people whom we ordinarily look up to as “Men and Women of substance” in the education sector surprise you with their flawed analysis and warped logical thinking whenever the subject of free SHS is publicly discussed making you wonder whether these people had eaten some forbidden food that suddenly turns their brains and thinking topsy-turvy.
Free SHS policy however remains a key election campaign issue for the 2020 general elections and both presidential candidates of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and New Patriotic Party (NPP) continue to campaign on which of the two main political parties has a better track record in implementation of free SHS.
Former President John Dramani Mahama and NDC’s 2020 presidential candidate touts NDC’s numerous achievements in the educational sector and implementation of the progressively free SHS policy in year 2015 which was accomplished with limited financial resources of 54 billion Cedis that accrued coupled with limited available time of his presidency having had 8 months wasted at the 2013 Supreme Court election. This notwithstanding the John Mahama NDC administration manged to complete the construction of 48 E-Block day community senior high schools across the country and resourced these schools for intake of the first batch of progressively free SHS students to gain access to quality free SHS education before he left office. The John Mahama NDC administration in addition to the new senior high schools also initiated and completed construction of the University of Health and Allied Sciences in Ho, and the University of Energy and Natural Resources in Sunyani among others.
In contrast to the contributions and accomplishments chalked by the John Mahama led NDC administration in the education sector, the Nana Akufo-Addo and Bawumia led NPP has very little to show as its contributions to the education sector after 4 years in office even though they have had access to over 140 billion Cedis and did not experience 8 months of their presidential term being wasted at a Supreme Court election petition as John Mahama experienced. Sadly Nana Akufo-Addo and Mahamadu Bawumia failed to complete the remaining 152 E-Block community day senior high schools started by John Mahama to avert the double track system which has bedevilled implementation of free SHS delivered under Nana Addo’s NPP which has also impacted negatively on quality standards and costs incurred by responsible parents and guardians who have been compelled to pay for private tuition for their wards whenever the “Green track” and “Gold tack” alternate by spending 6 weeks (2½ months) of the academic year at home on extended vacation due to lack of infrastructural facilities to accommodate them all at school in one session.
Undoubtedly, implementation of free SHS in Ghana was started by former President John Dramani Mahama when he launched NDC’s progressively free SHS at Otuam on 17 September 2015 in the Central Region. Otuam is the hometown of late former President John Atta-Mills. During the launch of the progressively free SHS, John Mahama also commissioned a completed fully resourced E-Block community day SHS at Otuam. NDC’s approach to free SHS was a pragmatic approach that was well thought-out in a “common sense” approach geared towards increasing access to quality free SHS and poverty alleviation. John Mahama knew that throwing thousands of young and vulnerable children below the ages of 17 years in a wholesale manner into non-existent SHS infrastructure was problematic, unwise and a recipe for disaster for students, parents and government. As a visionary leader, John Mahama decided to do first things first by putting up the infrastructure required to accommodate the expected large numbers of eligible students for free SHS.
As a visionary leader and believing that several deprived and needy students existed in communities across the country, in addition to constructing E-Block community day SHS, John Mahama knew that a high intake in SHS would correspond to future rise in student intake at the tertiary education level and so proceeded to establish additional Public Universities and also converted Polytechnics into Technical Universities to cater for the anticipated higher increase and demand for Tertiary level education.
The tolerant and non-vindictive John Mahama ensured that freedom of speech at every facet of the Ghanaian educational thrived and it was unheard off that the John Mahama led NDC punished any Head Teacher or School Administrator, Teacher or Ghana Education Service (GES) official who was critical of government or on some issues and challenges they were encountering. It is noteworthy that the infamous chalk incident associated with former Second-lady Matilda Amissah-Arthur who justifiably had cause to chastise a Headmistress of a School in Eastern Region who failed to administratively pursue and follow-up in getting her school’s chalk and other educational supplies but rather chose the occasion of the Second-lady’s visit to make political capital and attract publicity on what was otherwise a non-issue.
In contrast however, Nana Addo-Danquah Akufo-Addo whilst in opposition shouted to the high Heavens about his Free SHS policy and I believe even the Heavens know him much better than we mortal Ghanaians for free SHS. Nana Akufo-Addo promised to build 350 SHS school facilities across the country from scratch within 18 months of assumption of office as President of the Republic of Ghana. With barely 2 months to the expiration of his first term of 4 years as President it is imperative for Ghanaians to ask Nana Akufo-Addo and also ask themselves how many foundations have been laid for construction of the promised 350 SHS schools so far and whether the promise of 350 SHS has been delivered?
Nana Akufo-Addo in a hasty implementation of NPP’s version of free SHS which by the way was also a progressively free SHS as the free SHS policy only captured the first batch of form one SHS students of the 2017/2018 academic year whilst continuing students were excluded; dispatched gullible under aged students below 17 years and in some cases 13 years to boarding SHS in towns and villages where the students had no family relations or knew anyone compelling parents to rent private hostel accommodation just to benefit from free SHS. Sadly as a result of this there were numerous reports of truancy and some female students being impregnated and dropping out of school.
The intolerance and vindictive nature of Nana Akufo-Addo and NPP also found expression whenever Head Teachers or School Administrators, Teachers or officials of GES had cause to complain or publicly comment on lapses and issues they were experiencing under the NPP free SHS. The heavy hand of NPP attack dogs was immediately visited on dissenting officials who raised their voices followed by immediate reposting and transfers to far removed outlandish areas as a form of punishment and also to serve as a deterrent on any other Head Teachers or School Administrators, Teachers or officials of GES who contemplated attempts to publicly complain about the challenges and lapses they were experiencing in the education sector.
Fellow Ghanaians, my passionate plea is for all of us to choose credibility above deception, consistency above confusion, forward looking above inward looking and in unison make a pledge to bring back John Dramani Mahama to continue the good work he was doing for the educational sector such as expanding and increasing school infrastructure and facilities across board. John Mahama will reverse the creeping “culture of silence” in our educational establishments, and will also ensure proper nutrition and adequate feeding of students. John Mahama is the best bet to correct the mess inflicted by Nana Akufo-Addo and Mahamudu Bawumia to our country’s educational sector and will works assiduously to reinstate Ghana's enviable position as a country of Quality Education.
Our children are our future. So when they leave our jurisdiction for another, WE MUST ENSURE THAT THEY GO FOR THE BEST. OTHERWISE, IT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE SENDING THEM OUT IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Quality Free SHS is a complete package of Quality Infrastructure, Quality Teaching, Quality Logistics, and Excellent Schools Management and Government relationship. All these are lacking in Nana Akufo-Addo's current tyrannical Schools' Management System. John Mahama and Prof Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman are the best team and best bet to save Ghana, because they have been tried and tested.
Let's not make a regrettable and irreversible mistake.
Let's act now.
Your humble keen observer.