The Northern Scholarship Scheme has existed for over 60 years now. Students of Northern extraction were fed free by the government of Ghana as against their counterparts in the Southern section. Nobody, and I mean nobody, asked successive governments to scrap the boarding system and make it a Day system so that, wealthy and rich parents could pay for their wards' boarding fees. In fact, former President John Mahama, whose father was a Minister of State and could pay for his son's fees thought it wise to send JM to the North to enjoy free education in some years back.
Today, and as a result of the Northern Scholarship Scheme, Ghana is blessed with the likes of HE, Alhaji Dr. Bawumia, Hon. Ambrose Derry, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, Hon. Alban Bagbin, etc who are making great impact on the society. Presidents such as the late Dr. Hilla Liman, JM, and notable Vice Presidents and Ministers of State have all come from the North due to this great social intervention by Dr. Nkrumah, our first president.
Fast forward to 2018, Ghana has struck oil in commercial quantities, courtesy the NPP government under HE, J.A. Kufuor. Whilst the NDC administration was misappropriating the oil and our tax revenue for their GYEEDA, Woyome and SUBAH projects, HE, President Akufo-Addo says "No Child Should be Left Behind". In this sense, he has expanded the existing scholarship schemes - Northern, Cocobod, Merit, Government, etc to cater for all Ghanaian kids. As a father, he says to every Ghanaian child; go to school free, eat free, sit free, study free, wear uniforms free, get books free, and sleep in school free; you need not stay home because of financial constraint.
My dear reader, are you aware that in 2017/18 alone, over 90,000 kids who could have lived on the streets are now in the classroom acquiring knowledge and skills? Don't forget that, some of these kids, if not all, could have become the "Ataa Ayis", prostitutes, dog-chain sellers, and hardened criminals. It would have cost the nation huge sums of money to train security officers, expand our courts, train judges, and expand our prisons and feed prisoners. How prudent would this expenditure be, if I may ask?
It is said that; "He who opens a school door closes a prison gate", hence the President's preference for free SHS for all. In the next academic year (2018/19), 181,993 students would want to benefit from the Free SHS Programme. But, in order not to create a class society in Ghana, where only the rich could have their wards in the boarding system and also in order not to scrap the boarding system due to its numerous advantages, the Minister of Education, Hon. Dr. Opoku Prempeh has adopted the "Double-Track" school calendar proposed by Prof. Anamuah Mensah. With this system, 257 Category A and B schools out of over 696 public SHSs will have two track of students to use the same educational facilities at different times. This will give the government enough time to fix the infrastructure gap. The benefits of this system as practised in America, Kenya, Australia, etc are many with major ones as maximising the existing infrastructure, reducing class sizes, increasing the contact hours, and employing more teachers.
From the foregoing, it is absurd to see the NDC fanatics criticising destructively instead of commending the government for thinking outside the box. For those who argue that, the rich should be made to pay, kindly furnish us with those rich people in Ghana whose wards in our schools and are willing to pay. Don't forget that when it comes to the payment of taxes, the government relies more on the rich than the poor. Therefore, the rich people also deserve their fare share of the national cake. "Mpanin se, deɛ wapotɔ ama no afe no, ɔnkyiri sɛ ɔde bɔ mu bi".
In winding down, I urge all Ghanaians to embrace the Free SHS no matter the teething challenges. Solutions to problems are not situated in the Heavens, but they could be found on earth if only we use our brains to think and think through.
Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang - 0202471070
"Vision, coupled with persistency, results in true success"