Feature Article of Monday, 24 September 2012
Columnist: Arthur, A. K.
By A. K. Arthur
On January 16, 2012, I. K. Gyasi, a retired educationist wrote an article in The Chronicle with the headline, Question for Akufo Addo: How free will be SHS?
In the said article, I. K. Gyasi discounted the NPP Presidential Candidate, Nana Akufo Addo’s free SHS education, and questioned the feasibility of Nana Addo’s campaign promise.
However, in a bizarre turn of event, the old retired educationist was reported as saying that Nana Akufo-Addo's free education policy calling it a visionary idea which holds the key to the transformation of the Ghanaian society. He was speaking at a stakeholders' educational forum held in Kumasi on Wednesday, September 19, 2012. The forum brought together several representatives from stakeholder groups in the Ashanti Region including GNAT, NAGRAT, Parent-Teacher Associations and a host of other groups and personalities.
I am reproducing below the article I. K. Gyasi wrote in The Chronicle on Januray 16 this year.
Question for Akufo Addo: How free will be SHS?
By I.K. Gyasi
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, the re-elected presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) for the up-coming 2012 Elections, has given the clearest indication yet, of his plan to make Senior High School (SHS) education free.
He reiterated his position on the subject, when he recently addressed a group of people named Action Troopers in Accra. He spoke in Ga and English.
If Nana Akufo Addo ever becomes the president, and is able to implement this policy, it should bring a great deal of relief to parents.
Increasingly, the parents and guardians of first year senior high school students have had to pay large sums of admission fees to the school they get admitted to.
For the 2011/2012 Academic Year, the media gave reports of first year students taking bags of cement or buckets of paints to the schools, in addition to the large admission fees asked for by the schools. Only the affected parents and guardians can tell what other items they had to pay for.
Before we applaud Nana Akufo Addo, we need to pause a bit and ask one or two questions. The 13th Principle of Governor Gordon Guggisberg on education was that education could neither be free nor compulsory. That was way back in 1925.
The 16 Principles of Education enunciated by Guggisberg contained many wise and far-reaching ideas about education. However; his 13th Principle meant that access to education was limited to those who could afford it.
The 1961 Education Act of the Nkrumah Government provided for, among other things, “Fee-free tuition, except payment for the provision of essential books or stationery, or of material for use in practical work.” Tuition has continued to be free at all level of state-sponsored education that is, from the basic level to the university level. So, when Nana Akufo Addo talks of his administration providing free education at the senior high school level, what exactly does he mean?
He should make available for our study his blueprint for providing free education at the senior high school level. Nobody who is serious can say that from 1993, the governments of the two major parties, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) have achieved nothing.
However, we also know that their manifestoes have contained unfulfilled and unfulfillable promises. If Nana Addo should become President, will he be able to fulfill this election promise, or will he be reduced to the ignominy of the previous government for a possible inability to fulfill the promise? Will he continue with the lamentation that he did not know that the previous administration had left the coffers empty?
There are, at the moment, two categories of students, namely, boarders and day students. Of course, there are those whose parents and guardians must pay the cost of boarding, while others have state scholarship.
Being a boarder has more advantages than being a day student. For one thing, all things being normal, the border is assured of regular meals being provided by the school kitchen.
The boarder does not have to face the hassle of looking for transportation to and from school daily. Come time for prep (studies) and the boarder is assured of a classroom and lights. There is also the opportunity for the students to do group study.
All in all, it is cheaper to be boarder than to be a day student. My question to Nana Akuffo Addo is: Will the state pay the boarding fee of any student who becomes a boarder?
As pointed out earlier, the plight of the day student is very pathetic. If he lives far away from the school, he has great difficulty commuting to and from school.
If he lives in so-called ‘compound ‘house with his parents, the proper condition for meaningful study may not be available. He, or more likely she, may have to help in the household chores. He may not have the assurance of regular meals, regular organised weekend entertainment available to his boarding student counterpart.
What provisions will Nana Akufo Addo make for the students whose expenses, at the end of the term, would definitely be above the expenses of the boarder?
Over the years, the schools’ Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), to a large extent, and past students, to some extent have been the mainstay of the schools.
Of course, the PTAs collect monies from member-parents to carry out projects or provide amenities for the schools. This is happening because, over the years, the government has not been able to provide the amenities needed by the schools.
PTAs have become the subject of criticism, some valid and others clearly unfair. The job of providing amenities to the schools will cease to be part of the objectives of the PTAs, if the government could provide those amenities and services. What will Nana Akufo Addo do such that PTAs would merely provide a platform for parents and the school administration to interact in the interest of all concerned: students, parents and guardians, and the school as a whole?
Nana Akufo Addo is undoubtedly a seasoned politician, and does not need me to tell him about the dangers of making promises of any kind.
Before he is aware, he may be quoted by his ordinary followers as saying that senior high school education will be free, that literally, everything will be paid for or provided by his government.
They will reduce his promise to such simple terms that they will become highly disappointed if he is unable to meet their expectations.
Education at any level, but, especially, at the second cycle and tertiary levels, gets increasingly expensive. Nana Akufo Addo should tell us how his grandiose scheme will be accomplished; especially, where the money will come from.
Once more, Ghanaians would not like to be told that the government did not know that the coffers of the state were empty, and that the new government was now embarking on how to repair the economic damage before a so-called take-off. He and his advisers must think through the proposal very carefully.
While Nana Akufo Addo is talking of free education at the senior high school level, he should also think of the problems at the basic school level. After all, the materials he would like to work on at the senior high school would come from the basic school.
There is no doubt that the basic school level (from Primary One to the Junior High School) is a mess, and it has been so for a long time.
We cannot, and should not, expect good Basic Education Certificate Examination(BECE) results in a situation where there are no teachers, proper classrooms, basic school books, proper supervision, etc. How say ye, Nana Akufo Addo?
SO WHO IS I. K. GYASI DECEIVING?
By A. K. Arthur