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27.09.2019 Feature Article

If Teachers and Nurses Allowances were too expensive to manage, what about Free SHS?

If Teachers and Nurses Allowances were too expensive to manage, what about Free SHS?

“The introduction of Free SHS was not built on some pompous political agenda to grab social democratic narratives from those who surprisingly have shunned their ideology for quick wins (Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta 2019).”

Sometimes, one cannot help but to convivially applaud some of our politicians for their incredible adroitness in systematic propagation of propaganda intended to either hoodwink or proselytise unsuspecting Ghanaians into accepting their parochial agenda.

If that was not the case, how can anyone deliberately blame the ephemeral defect in the computerised school selection placement system on the implementation of the poverty alleviation Free SHS?

Notwithstanding the seeming desperate attempts to discredit the policy, the fact remains that the social mobility improvement Free SHS will 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.

And more so in spite of the incessant shrieking and grumbling, by the year 2020, the NDC operatives will take back their needless criticisms when all the three levels of the SHS become free and the initial exigencies are brought to the barest minimum.

In the meantime, the disputatious NDC brassbound followers can choose to travel the length and breadth of the country and discredit the Free SHS in order to score cheap political points.

After all, didn’t the NDC operatives brashly campaign against the poverty reduction Free SHS policy during the 2016 electioneering campaign?

Indeed, it would only take a doubting Thomas to challenge the fact that the NDC faithful, who take pride in the social democratic ideology, are not in the business of promoting the welfare of the masses.

One would have thought 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 as a party.

There is no denying or hiding the fact that the NDC has a penchant for running down or cancelling crucial social interventions with an unabashed disgust. It is a sad case of social democrats who do not know how to initiate and manage social interventions.

It is absolutely true that the erstwhile Mahama government either cancelled or collapsed the social interventions such as the Nurse’s Allowance, the Teacher’s Allowance, SADA, GYEEDA, NHIS, the Maternal Care, the School Feeding programme, the Mass Transport System, amongst others.

So there is nothing out of the ordinary if the NDC operatives unblushingly put up fierce resistance against the seemingly advantageous Free SHS policy.

Let us admit though, 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.

“Growth, development, and poverty reduction depend on the knowledge and skills people may acquire (World Bank 2011).”

Given the benefits therein education, it was extremely prudent 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.

But that notwithstanding, no less a person than Ex-President Mahama could find it somewhat convenient to upbraid Akufo-Addo for judiciously implementing the Free SHS policy, supposedly, at the expense of other developmental projects (see: ‘Free SHS crippling other sectors-Mahama, classfmonline.com/ghanaweb.com, 24/02/2018).

Former President Mahama censured President Akufo-Addo 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.”

This is the reason why some of us share in the sentiments of those who insist that in the unlikely event of Mahama regaining the presidency, he will most likely suspend the poverty alleviation Free SHS.

We can, therefore, draw an adverse inference that Mahama does not fancy the Free SHS, and hence needlessly keep criticising its implementation.

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 analysis of the Free SHS funding.

At worst, his analysis is oxymoronic, in the sense that the Free SHS programme has its own allocated budgetary funds, patently, separate from the other sectors of the economy.

Take my word for it, dearest reader, 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.

So, does former President Mahama want to tell discerning Ghanaians that he rather wilfully misused the funds, hence his inability to manage those sectors of the economy efficiently?

And more so considering the fact that the erstwhile Mahama administration regrettably 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.

Given that the NDC faithful had the brashness to campaign and vote against the poverty reduction Free SHS policy during the 2016 election, it will not come as a surprise at all if the future NDC government decides to abolish the policy.

Some of us, in fact, were extremely astonished 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 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 wilfully run down the crucial social interventions to the chagrin of discerning Ghanaians?

Verily, 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.

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.

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 in the near future.

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.

In ending, some of us, in fact, do not anticipate the good people of Ghana benefiting from the Free SHS policy should Ghanaians make a terrible mistake and hand the policy over to the NDC government in the near future.

K. Badu, UK.

[email protected]

Kwaku Badu
Kwaku Badu, © 2019

This author has authored 869 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwakuBadu

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