Newton-Offei writes: Free SHS and Double-Tracking will survive and thrive
When I passed my Common Entrance in 1980 and I went for my prospectus at Saint John’s School, Sekondi in the Western Region of Ghana, it all came to a total of present-day Ghc 1.80p, but that brought a great deal of dislocation at home, by way of financial encumbrances, because I had a single-mother with three younger siblings of school-going age. My progression on the academic ladder was therefore seriously threatened and faced premature termination at that point in my life.
As a matter of fact, I was an exceptionally brilliant student and therefore my teachers were rather the ones that put a lot of pressure on my mother to ensure my academic progression was not cut short at that prime stage because I had the potential to excel.
This pressure was so great on my mother that she had no other choice but to sell her personal belongings, including clothes and jewelry, to procure my prospectus, pay the fees and got me the needed provisions, and the rest is now history.
Similarly, I had qualified as a young Medical Radiographer and had been posted to the Tema General Hospital, in the mid-90s and taking a monthly net salary of present-day Ghc15, when a nephew of mine passed his entrance examination to Mfantsipem School, and his academic progression was threatened by lack of funds.
My sister approached me with the issue, I asked of the amount involved, and it was about present-day Ghc20. And with my personal experience at the back of my mind, I said “I WILL PAY FOR HIM TO HAVE EDUCATION BECAUSE A TIME IS GOING TO COME, WHERE PARENTS WILL HAVE TO COUGH MILLIONS OF CEDIS TO SEE THEIR WARDS THROUGH EDUCATION”. I paid for the fees, and my nephew is a Chartered Accountant today.
Now, during my years in both Primary and Middle schools, I had classmates who were equally brilliant, academically, but had their dreams of progression and ultimately sterling careers which would have shot them into prominence in society, prematurely cut short.
The great economic benefits they would have made to the lives of their families, in particular, and nation as a whole, died at that early stage of their lives, and their real potentials buried under the weight of lack. Today, there are millions of Ghanaian children who find themselves in this very conundrum.
Nana Addo’s uniqueness
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo though was privileged to have had some level of comfortable childhood, definitely must have had a lot of both school and classmates who were equally brilliant, academically, but could not progress on the academic ladder due to economic circumstances of their parents. And this is where Akufo-Addo is unique, and this is the hurdle Nana Addo is determined to surmount.
Now, here is a man with capitalist inclination and also had comparatively comfortable childhood, but, is desperate to open gates for the under-privileged in society, to climb up the academic ladder in order to attain their God-given Potentials.
This idea of removing the barrier placed in the paths of a section of our Ghanaian society, vis-à-vis academic progression, has been on the heart of Nana Addo, from the day he dreamed of becoming the president of our Republic. He trumpeted in during electioneering campaigns of 2008 and 2012, but the opportunity was not offered him.
However, in 2016, the good people of this country saw the need to give him a chance, because those steering the affairs of state had proven, beyond boundaries of human-reasoning,that,they had no clue as to why they were in power.
Nana Addo became the president, and within a period of 18months, the FREE SHS which has always been his baby policy, was actually actualized. Today, the near-misses some of us went through with our academic progressions, with the resultant stress on our parents, particularly single-mothers, as a result of financial encumbrances, have been completely eliminated, rather ironically, by an individual who did not have to experience such mishap in his childhood days.
But rather strangely, and incompressible shockingly, those whom, without the FREE EDUCATION introduced by the Great Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of our Republic, would have been old men hawking on the streets, are rather the ones bitterly opposing this great policy initiative of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
These people who, by the benevolence of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s FREE EDUCATION, are today, members of parliament and former minsters of State, opposing FREE SHS,I must say, either have their conscience seared, or, have been possessed by demonic spirits.
As a policy at birth, it is obviously bound to be confronted with teething-challenges but to claim the policy, in its entirety, has been a total fiasco, as being trumpeted over the rooftops by opposition ndc elements, to say the least, is the height of crass political chicanery and highly abominable point-scoring skullduggery.
The argument that “there should have been a means-testing to determine those who are really in need, to have excluded those whose parents could afford to pay” in order not to have over-burdened the State as regards the FREE SHS policy, for me, is a cogent one.
However, my bile is set on edge ndc assigns jump into the fray per this line of argument, in that, when SCHOOL FEEDING and CAPITATION GRANT policies were introduced, by the Kufuor-led NPP Administration, focusing on deprived areas to encourage kids to enroll, the argument postulated by then opposition ndc elements was “parents of privileged schools in urban areas also pay taxes so their kids must also be made to benefit”.
Again, these are the very ndc elements who have always argued that “those who opposed great policies like the construction of the Tema motorway and Akosombo are nation-wreckers” for the simple reason that “though the projects were prohibitively exorbitant, per our capacity at the time; they have proven exceptionally worth the capital investment, in the long run”. Juxtaposing this line of argument to their bitter opposition to the FREE SHS policy, actually unmasks the shameless double-tongue character of these ndc people.
IS INVESTING IN HUMAN-RESOUCRE CAPACITIES AND CAPABILITIES OF THE FUTURE GENERATION OF OUR COUNTRY, LESS IMPORTANT THAT THE TEMA MOTORWAY AND AKOSOMBO DAM?
WERE THOSE TWO INFRASTRUCTURE NOT BUILT BY PEOPLE WITH THE REQUISITE KNOWLEDGE? WHICH COMES FIRST; A PRODUCT OR THE KNOWLEDGE TO MANUFACTURE THE PRODUCT?
Today, we have 180,000 extra students to be absorbed into the SHS stream. This has come about as a result of the introduction of FREE SHS. In effect, this huge mass of our youth would have been victims of failure of our policy makers, their academic progression would have suffered abrupt truncation, they would have been thrown onto the streets and the nation would have been worse for it.
There is also this rather bogus “truancy” mantra being bundied about by Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa and his ilk, where they are claiming that the DOUBLE-TRACKING SYSTEM is “demonic because will make it impossible for the public to know which group of students are on vacation and therefore breed truancy”.
Now, under the DOUBLE-TRACKING SYSTEM, these students will be taken to their various campuses by their parents, and their vacation periods will be known. No student will be accountable to the members of the public as to whether he/she is on vacation or otherwise.
These students will be under the roof and care of their parents when on vacation so where from this grotesqueness of thought by a bunch of grotesqueness of characters?
In anycase, some of these SHS students are 18years and above, and eligible to partake in national elections to elect President and legislators, so why the foolish attempt to brand them as a bunch of irresponsible people with no capacity to make meaning of their vacation except being TRUANTS?
Indeed, at a point in time, the issue of Samuel Akudzeto-Ablakwa’s mother’s mother health became a topic of public discourse because he has just been appointed a minister, earning a monthly salary of Ghc2000 and therefore did not have the capacity to cater for her: this definitely is not the case today because time indeed changes.
In much the same vein, the fortunes of FREE SHS and DOUBLE-TRACKING can change with time, and I guess Okudzeto-Ablakwa should be the best proponent of this natural phenomenon.
Indeed, it is an undeniable fact that ndc political fortunes thrives on the ignorance of a section of our populace, and therefore feels grievously threatened at the slightest sight of a ray of academic-light to the eye of Ghanaians, but the Nana
Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo-led NPP administration is in government, based on clear-cut social contracts signed with the good people of this country; and the determination to delivering on same, is going to be uncompromisingly ruthless.
Justice Abeeku Newton-Offei
School of International Relations and Diplomacy
Email: [email protected]
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