Education, as a matter of fact and observation, is fundamental to development and growth, and therefore the pragmatic approach to improving accessibility and quality is not through the usual political rhetoric, but through well-thought through policies such as the Akufo-Addo’s Free SHS policy.
“Growth, development, and poverty reduction depend on the knowledge and skills that people acquire” (World Bank 2011).
Thus, it is somewhat forward-thinking for Akufo-Addo’s government to seek to bridge the ever widening social inequalities gap through rational distribution of national resources in the form of Free SHS.
It is, however, quite worrying that despite the associated benefits, no less a person than Ex-President Mahama could find it somewhat convenient to chastise the New Patriotic Party for allegedly implementing the Free SHS policy at the expense of other developmental projects; (See: ‘Free SHS crippling other sectors-Mahama, classfmonline.com/ghanaweb.com, 24/02/2018).
Former President Mahama was reported to have poured his heart out during one of the NDC’s unity health walks: “The problem this government is facing and it is in their own interest, is that, Free Senior High School is absorbing all the fiscal space they have and so almost every money you have, you are having to put it into Free Senior High School. So you can’t pay District Assemblies Common Fund, you can’t pay NHIS (National Health Insurance Scheme), you can’t pay GET Fund (Ghana Education Trust Fund), you can’t pay other salaries and things because all your money is going into Free Senior High School.”
With all due respect with no attached condescension whatsoever, Ex-President Mahama’s assessment of the situation does not add up. In fact, there is absolutely no truth in his assessment of the situation.
At worst, his analysis is flawed, in the sense that the Free SHS programme has its own allocated budgetary funds, obviously, separate from the other sectors.
Take my word for it, I am not seeking to engage in any political equalisation, far from it, but it is important to note that during his tenure in office, former President Mahama did not spend a pesewa on Free SHS, and yet he left huge arrears amidst unpaid salaries, crippled NHIS, malfunctioned School Feeding programme, amongst others.
In that regard, does former President Mahama want to tell discerning Ghanaians that he rather wilfully misused the funds, and hence his inability to manage those sectors efficiently?
Considering the fact that the erstwhile ambivalent and largely phlegmatic Mahama’s administration wilfully left behind a huge debt amidst economic meltdown, it is, indeed, commendable for Akufo-Addo’s government to afford to implement the seemingly admirable, albeit costly social intervention such as Free SHS.
Verily, the opposition NDC’s incessant criticism of the Free SHS implementation is appalling, so to speak.
It is, therefore, fair to stress that Mahama does not fancy the Free SHS, and hence moving heaven and earth to bring down the seemingly advantageous poverty alleviation policy.
Let us however be honest, given that the NDC faithful blissfully campaigned and voted against the poverty reduction Free SHS policy with unabashed disgust during the 2016 election, it will not come as a surprise at all if the future NDC government decides to abolish the policy altogether.
If anything at all, the opposition NDC operatives relentless protestations against the Free SHS implementation should be a wake-up call to discerning Ghanaians.
Sometimes, one cannot help but admire some of our politicians for their incredible adroitness in systematic propagation of propaganda.
Let us admit though, the never ending display of hypocrisy by the NDC loyalists is mind-boggling.
It is no understatement to stress that the NDC has a penchant for reversing crucial national programmes and policies without any tangible reasons.
Some of us were indeed baffled over the NDC’s hasty and needless termination and replacement of the conventional educational system (Ordinary and Advanced Levels) with the apparent communist Junior Secondary School model.
But as to whether the Junior Secondary School system has been successful in juxtaposition with the old school system is a million dollar question that I will leave to the conscience of discerning Ghanaians.
In fact, the NDC hierarchy’s unfailing enthusiasm in reversing important national policies without basis did not end at the abolition of the old school system, but they also needlessly altered the secondary school nomenclature (SSS to SHS).
As if that was not enough, the four-year Senior Secondary School system was ponderously reversed to three-year cycle to the utter dismay of most discerning Ghanaians.
The list is not exhaustive though, and, it would only take a disputatious character to contend that the future NDC government won’t reverse crucial national policies and programmes like the Free SHS, one district one factory, and one million dollar per constituency amongst others.
After all, didn’t the erstwhile Mahama government woefully run down the crucial social interventions to the chagrin of discerning Ghanaians?
Yes, the erstwhile Mahama’s government abysmally ran down and cancelled most of the crucial social interventions to the disgust of discerning Ghanaians.
The Nurse’s Allowance, the Teacher’s Allowance, SADA, GYEEDA, NHIS, the Maternal Care, the School Feeding programme and the Mass Transport System readily come to mind.
You would think that individuals who pride themselves as social democrats will be extremely empathetic to the needs of the masses, but this is not the case with the NDC apparatchiks.
It would thus appear that the NDC apparatchiks only sing along the social democratic rendition and then turn their back on the masses. It is an illustrative case of social democrats who do not know how to initiate and manage social interventions.
Let us face it though, in spite of the initial challenges, the Free SHS will suffice. So the endless attacks and unfair criticisms will not and cannot bring the scheme down.
It is absolutely true that the universal free education has been introduced in a number of jurisdictions across our own continent, Africa.
Suffice it to state that in spite of the initial challenges, the policy has sufficed in those jurisdictions. So, why not in Ghana? Of course we can.
Take, for example, in 2007, Uganda became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to introduce free universal secondary education. Under the secondary scheme, students who get specific grades in each of the four primary school-leaving exams study free in public schools and participating private schools.
The government of Kenya, in 2002, declared a universal free primary school, and followed it up with a free secondary schooling education programme in 2008.
In Namibia, a former South African colony under apartheid, primary education was declared free in 2012, while secondary education became free from 2016.
The poverty alleviation Free SHS policy, as a matter of fact, will bring enormous benefits to the students, parents and the nation as a whole.
What is more pleasing to some of us is that the social mobility improvement Free SHS policy should at least provide a sound and congenial environment for the students to develop to their full potential and to have a reasonable chance of leading productive and creative lives.
However, we cannot vouch for the sustainability of the free SHS policy, should Ghanaians make a terrible mistake and hand over the poverty alleviation free SHS programme back to the NDC futuristically.
Our fears stem from the fact that since the implementation of the free SHS policy by the NPP government, the minority NDC operatives have gathered momentum and called uncountable press conferences with the view to discrediting the policy’s implementation.
Somehow, the minority NDC operatives prefer “progressively free” (whatever that means) to NPP’s comprehensively free.
In fact, unless I come across as the worst performer in mathematics, I cannot fathom how and why the NDC’s GH48 per student is better than the NPP’s GH1844.27 per student a year.
Whatever the case, some of us cannot accept the minority NDC operatives somewhat spurious argument. Well, they may choose to call it progressively free or comprehensively free, the fact however remains that the policy will return huge benefits in the long run.
Indeed, the vast majority of Ghanaians will benefit immensely from the policy, including my maternal uncle, Oliver, a diehard NDC supporter, who had earlier criticised the apparent poverty alleviation Free SHS.
But despite my uncle Oliver’s needless and never ending pessimism, he is likely to reap tremendous benefits eventually, and will most likely decline to endorse Mahama to cancel such an advantageous policy.
Apparently, credible sources have it that the government will spend a staggering amount of GH5532.83 over a period of three years on each student.
So, my uncle Oliver, who has three of his children in SHS, will be pocketing not less than GH16598.49 over three years.
Who can then persuade my maternal uncle to turn down such a juicy offer and vote for the unrepentant critic of the Free SHS who is set to abandon the policy?
It is quite unfortunate to observe how some Ghanaians could easily give in to the manipulating politicians vague rhetoric and vile propaganda designed to advance their vested interests.
My maternal uncle, as a matter of fact, was amongst the millions of impoverished Ghanaians who were brainwashed by the cunning and manipulating politicians to reject the expedient Free SHS offer during the 2016 electioneering campaign.
The fact of the matter is that if everyone else had voted the same way Uncle Oliver did, I am not sure his three children would have benefited from any free SHS.
In sum, I, for one, do not anticipate Uncle Oliver and the likes benefiting from the Free SHS policy should Ghanaians make a terrible mistake and hand over the poverty alleviation Free SHS policy back to the NDC government in the near future.
BY Kwaku Badu, UK.
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