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Feature Article of Thursday, 8 November 2012

Columnist: Dadzie, Ato

Nana Addo’s free SHS: Good for the rich, Bad for the poor

The NPP says free SHS is possible and that it is a testament of Nana Addo’s commitment to the poor in society. The NDC, being put on the defensive by such a catchy election promise says free SHS is possible but that the country is not ready yet for such a costly policy given the current state of our educational infrastructure. But is the NDC right and the NPP wrong? I am tempted to say so. In fact given where we are as a country, it is not difficult to come to the conclusion that this free SHS will benefit the well-to-do in society and further deepens the woes of the very poor Nana Addo is claiming to fight for.
Who in his rightful mind will argue that a free SHS will be bad for the poor? Yet, this is precisely what is going to happen if the infrastructure deficit in our senior high schools is not addressed first. The reason for this is not far fetched. Currently, many JHS graduates especially those in the villages cannot gain admission to senior high school because there are not enough schools or classrooms to accommodate them. This fact cannot be disputed and is in line with the report on the country’s SHS educational infrastructure conducted by some university professors and published on GNA on 12 October 2012. I know a lot of JHS graduates whose parents were willing to pay to get their kids into the senior high school but were told the schools are full. This means that whether SHS is made free or not, we will still face the same problem we have at the moment and even worse for the poor. This logic should be simple to understand.
When SHS is made free, it will mean that the well-to-do in society whose kids are normally the ones that gain admission to SHS and who already can afford to pay will be getting a free ride. What is even more pathetic is that this free ride would be financed with the same money that is meant for building more schools and training more teachers (especially in the rural areas) so that the kids of the poor is not denied access to the senior high school or sit under trees. With money meant for addressing the problem the poor are facing diverted to cater for the rich, isn’t it then easy to conclude that this free SHS is for the well-to-do and not the poor? In theory, given the facts on the ground, Nana Addo’s free SHS is simply saying, the rich should get richer and the poor, poorer.
The rich will be better off and the poor worse off under the proposed free SHS where there are not enough schools to accommodate all students because instead of the rich paying for their kids’ education, they rather get to keep their money. Thus, they are in the position to use this unspent money to hire private tutors for their kids to help them perform even better than the poor’s kid. This will all but ensure that only kids of the well-to-do qualify for the few SHS spot available.
It is undeniable that given the state of our economy, money will have to be diverted from some projects to finance the free SHS. This money is surely not going to come from anywhere but from the one earmarked for the expansion and improvement of the country’s educational infrastructure. If so, then the poor should be forewarned that their plight is about to get even worse than it is right now because it is impossible to get something for nothing. Remember the popular saying: There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.
By Ato Dadzie
Note: I am neither the current Nana Ato dadzie of NDC or Ato Kwamena Dadzie of Joy fm.

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