Unlocking The Potentials Of Ghanaian Children Through Free SHS

Feature Article Unlocking The Potentials Of Ghanaian Children Through Free SHS

“The beginning of every government starts with the education of our youth” – Pythagoras

I listened attentively to the President's address to the nation during the 67th Anniversary celebration of Ghana's independence. Of all what he said, what really captured my attention was the pronouncement that this year, as many as five hundred and three thousand (503,000) first year students were enrolled in Senior High Schools across the country. Fantastic!

According to the President, it is the highest level of intake of first year students in SHS in Ghana's education history. The President said the success story of the Free SHS is unlocking the potentials of thousands of Ghanaian children, laying the bridge of foundation of brighter future of our children. That to me is perfectly right.

They say the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. The President had a dream to make Senior High School free so that every child could get the opportunity to have at least a Senior High School education.

During my time in the then Middle School days, only two of us passed the Common Entrance Examination in the whole town. My father had to sell all the maize he cultivated that year to pay my school fees so that I could be enrolled in Secondary School. By the time I packed bag and baggage to go to school, the whole family was broke. My old man who was illiterate sacrificed everything to make sure I got educated. How I wish he is still alive to reap what he toiled to plant.

Many of my classmates could not make it to any Secondary School and ended up as farm laborers and subsistent farmers. In those days we had no private secondary schools in our area like we have today. In fact, if we had at all, parents could not afford to pay the fees.

If the government then had introduced free Secondary School like what was introduced by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in the Northern and Upper Regions, a lot of my classmates could have benefited but sadly today, many of them have ended up finding it difficult to get three square meals a day for their family.

Luckily for them, their children are all attending Senior High Schools by the grace and foresight of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. The President has proved that determination, will-power, combined with opportunity and intelligence can make things happen. History is made from such bold actions. That is why the name of Nana Akufo-Addo will be written in gold when the history of education in Ghana comes to be written.

Pythagoras interpreted the universe through numbers. He was a philosopher and a mathematician who knew the importance of learning. Pythagoras lived a long time ago but a lot of things he said have remained the same, like the significance of education for both individuals and society as a whole. Education is priceless and any nation that toys with education is doomed. No wonder developed countries built their bedrocks on education.

Those who kicked against the idea of free SHS education have been put to shame because their argument that the programme could not be sustained has hit the rocks. Mr. Mahama said building school blocks before the introduction of Free SHS was the ideal way. Candidate Nana Addo said there was no time to lose when it came to the education of the youth and his argument has been able to withstand the test of time.

Infrastructure or no infrastructure, Free SHS has survived for the past seven years, churning out students who are pursuing various courses in tertiary institutions in the country and abroad.

Meanwhile, the government continues to build more school blocks and other infrastructure to accommodate the teaming number of children who are yearning to seize the Golden Fleece. Today in Ghana, no one would like his or her ward to be left behind as far as free SHS is concerned. Gradually, the difference between the poor and the rich is being bridged. Gone were the days when only those who have take their wards to SHS while the children of the poor roam the streets thereby, becoming liabilities to their parents and society.

The other day I nearly wet my pants with urine after a long and uncontrollable laughter when I heard Mr. Mahama telling Ghanaians that when he comes back to power again, he will add all private schools to the Free SHS programme. Really? A programme which Mr. Okudjato Ablakwa said would collapse in a matter of five years has suddenly become so enticing that even private schools will join the fray.

The NDC questioned where the government will get money to execute the free SHS project. My dear reader, permit me to ask Mr. Mahama where he will get money to include private schools in the programme. You now understand why I always say liars have shorter legs.

When Mr. Kufuor introduced the free School Feeding Programme and Ghanaians bought into the idea, the late Professor Mills went to the Great Lamptey school in Accra and told the students and teachers that when he held the reins of power, he too will add private schools in the programme because parents of students in the private schools too pay taxes.

For the nearly three years that the good old late Professor ruled Ghana, he never added a single private school in the programme and even nearly collapsed the programme. NDC? Fear them!!! Sometimes I don't blame Mr. Mahama as he continues to swagger and sleep-walk aimlessly. He has come to realise rather too late that his opposition to the Free SHS was the biggest political blunder that he ever made.

My genuine fear as we go into the 2024 Presidential Election is that in case Ghanaians commit a sacrilege (May God forbid) and vote Mr. Mahama to power again, poor parents whose wards are pursuing SHS will have no option but to withdraw their wards from schools because Mahama will surely cancel the programme.

In case he wins the 2024 Presidential Election, which is as illusive as trying to find a needle in the blue Siberian Sea, it will take him not less than one year to assemble his Ministers, MMDCEs and Board Members. He will be left with two years to rule since the fourth year will be an election year. What meaningful change can the man bring to bear in our lives?

He will have nothing to lose if he fails to perform because the Constitution will bar him from running again. If he turns the apple cart upside down, he will not be the loser but poor parents who cannot pay the exorbitant fees of their wards in SHS. But as Teacher Kwame Fosu used to tell us, “Impossibility cannot be possible.”

Mahama's dream will go sore because Ghanaians have wised up. Good morning, Mr. Frank Appeagyei of Bervilly Hill Hotel, Accra and Madam Ajoa Yeboah Afari, former Best Journalist of the Year, my able editors in residence. I throway salute!!! And Dr. John Kumah, a young, enterprising and hardworking politician who has the sky as his limit is gone. Life is too short. May his soul rest in perfect peace. (Help me say AMEN!)

Eric Bawah