It is a noble idea everywhere around the world to have educated populace for economic growth and national development and Ghana is not an exception, in a bid to join all well meaning nations around the world that have implemented free basic education, Ghana rolled out its free SHS program almost two years ago to help educate more youth for national development, however, Ghana’s free SHS though, a good policy yet it is badly implemented and unnecessarily wasting scarce resources.
If anyone thinks that there is nothing wrong with a free SHS policy that allows a student who lives 100 meters away from Prempeh college, or La Bone high school to enroll in the boarding house that is fully paid by the government, then there is something wrong with that individual.
Don’t get me wrong, I support free compulsory basic education but not what is being rolled out in Ghana now. Free compulsory basic education as enshrined in the constitution is not the same as free boarding education. My three children have all enjoyed free compulsory basic education in the USA as I write; however, none of them went to a boarding school since I would have been personally liable to pay their boarding and lodging fees. If the very resourceful U.S. is not providing free boarding school for all her basic students what makes you think that a poor nation like Ghana, that cannot roll out a national budget without foreign or donor support can sustain free boarding SHS till infinity?
Today, we have oil money to fund this policy but what happens when the oil dries out? How do we continue to fund it? Remember oil is not a renewable resource and with time, it will be depleted or technology could render crude oil useless. So my question is this; shouldn’t this policy have been implemented in such a way as to reduce the cost of the program?
It is good that the government rolled out the policy at the time she did, however, the policy should have emphasized that all students who live within the catchment area of a high school should not have been allowed to enroll into boarding house for free or if they did, they do so at their own cost whilst students who live in areas without SHS should have been allowed into free boarding schools until the government provides high schools in their respective communities with the passage of time.
Because of the free SHS in its present form, the budget for education has ballooned so much that education is consuming the chunk of the national budget. People who support the free SHS in its current form argue that it is mandated by the constitution; however, what they fail to understand is that the constitution did not mandate free boarding education. Besides, where is the compulsory element of the basic free education as mandated by the constitution?
It is not too late; let government reforms the policy in its current form by cutting the free boarding aspect of it to free more resources to build schools in all communities to enhance the free basic education. After doing so can we as a nation usher in the compulsory aspect of the free basic education as practiced in the United States of America. In the U.S., every child must go to school up to the age 16: that is JHS before you can be allowed to drop out if you want to. That is what is meant by compulsory free basic education. In Ghana if students who live in communities with SHS are taken out of boarding houses except when their parents are willing to sponsor their boarding and lodging, the government can immediately implement the compulsory free basic education as mandated by the constitution and when that is done, no child would be seen selling ice water in traffic during school hours because it would be an offense to stay out of school when you are within the school going age. This would be the best use of our oil money for manpower building for future development.