Hurray, the full complement of the Free Senior High School policy of the NPP administration under the leadership of Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, the President of the Republic would have materialized. We are told by the President that by the beginning of the 2019/2020 academic year, 1.2 million children from the Junior High School system would have been offered admissions to the various SHSs throughout the country since the policy began in the 2017/1018 academic year.
Undoubtedly, some of these children of ours would have missed the opportunity to have secondary education but for the policy of the NPP. I have stated in this column on a number of occasions that many otherwise brilliant kids of my generation did not have the opportunity to access secondary education because of financial difficulties. Only four of us out of my class of 35 who completed the Middle School the same year struggled to enter the secondary school.
I am sure along the line so many other children missed the boat for financial reasons. This generation, under the Akufo-Addo administration is lucky to enjoy a system that opens up the opportunity for them to go beyond the JHS education. The figures given by the President gives an average of 400,000 students per year since the programme began. In 2020, the first batch of the products of the Free SHS policy would sit their exams. I do not want to be cynical here in terms of what their performance would be but whatever the case might be, about 400,000 graduates would exit as the first batch of the programme.
My question here is what will be the next stage for these children? Obviously, some of them would proceed to the available universities in the country while just a few from wealthy families may proceed to other tertiary educational institutions outside the country. I understand that the total available space in the nation's tertiary institutions or post SHS educational institutions, namely, the universities, Polytechnics (which are now universities as well), Nursing Training institutions, Colleges of Education (Teacher Training colleges) and other allied training institutions put together can only engage 130, 000 graduates from the various SHSs.
Now if the vacancies are filled by the exceptional students, what happens to the average and below average graduates of the SHS whose numbers may amount to about 200,000? Where do we place them? What do we do with them? How have we prepared them to continue to the few Technical Schools available even if those schools are equipped enough to offer them the artisanal skills that will make them self -reliant in the job market?
In this era of very limited job opportunities for even those who have left various educational institutions, where would those who would not be able to move on to the next academic ladder go? Sadly, in this country, once a child enters the secondary school, the perception is that he or she cannot move backwards to learn the everyday skills which our society has reserved for the illiterates, semi-literates or school dropouts.
We do not counsel and prepare the minds of the children to accept the fact that they can go ahead to equip themselves with other skills after secondary school that will open up job opportunities for them or make them masters of their own. The truth of the matter is that modern trends have made it a little bit difficult for stark illiterates to engage in some types of artisanal occupation. For example, to detect faults in many vehicles today require the use of technology which they call diagnostic machines. Stark illiterates may not be able to handle such machines or equipment.
Plumbing and many other skills hitherto reserved for the illiterates have become full time professional jobs that require a certain minimum level of education for a practitioner to be more adept to the job. Electrical jobs on both vehicles and households can no longer be done very well in modern times by illiterate artisans. These and many other skills are in regular demand on a daily basis yet, a sizeable number of our young men and women out of school at various levels are looking up to government for jobs that do not exist.
The state has not done anything to encourage young graduates from SHS and beyond to spend a little time to learn some skills so they can live by them. Indeed, the state would not encourage them because it is not ready to invest in the formal sector institutions and the informal sectors of training to encourage our young ones to learn any form of skills. For example, the Suames and the Kokompes in this country are the places where about 90% of vehicle owners, service and maintain their vehicles. What are the states of these places?
They are so filthy and unattractive to the young ones who may otherwise want to learn some skills after school. What are we doing to upgrade these places so that the young ones would take advantage of the immense opportunities available to them in these areas? The housing sector, both at the individual levels or as Estate Development has two major components in modern houses-Tiling and what has become known as the POP (Plaster of Paris).
Our reality is that the best tilers and operators of the POP are from the Republic of Togo. What is so special about these skills that Ghanaians cannot acquire them for their own survival? The answer simply is that, the nation is not even identifying these opportunities, let alone creates the right environment for the youth to take advantage of.
Since the 1990s, a substantial number of young people in the United Kingdom are rather going to the Polytechnics to learn artisanal skills after their A' levels instead of taking £50,000.00 loans for university education. They are making more money as Plumbers and Electricians than they probably would have made as Medical doctors. This is a fact. What we have done is to politically change institutions traditionally created to offer middle level technical skills into the humanities.
Meet many of our young people from the now Technical Universities and many of them are graduates of Marketing, Purchasing and Supply, Human Resource Management, Procurement etc. No one is doing Production, what are they going to market, purchase and supply and to whom? We are training and producing human resources for convenience sake and not for the benefit of those we are training and for the nation generally.
We have 1.2 million young people who are going to come out from our Senior High Schools in the next three years, what preparations are we making as a nation to mould them in a manner that will make them more productive and less reliant on government for white colour jobs which do not exist? Should we fail to redirect the thoughts of the products of the SHS, and push them into the system as business as usual, we cannot manage the outcomes of the social upheavals that the otherwise brilliant idea of ensuring secondary education for our young people may bring in its wake.
“It is , thus, inevitable that from 2020, when the first batch of free SHS students graduate, our universities and other tertiary institutions would be confronted with the challenge of higher numbers of students seeking admission,” the President is quoted.
We know the problems ahead of us, what are the solutions? I have proffered a few above, if they are worth considering, so be it.
Daavi, three tots for the day.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."
Reproduction is authorised provided the author's permission is granted.