General News of Monday, 29 October 2012
: Okyenhene, Otabil & J.H Mensah Shoot It Down
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) and its flag bearer, Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s much-trumpeted free education policy has suffered a near-fatal blow, since last weekend, with the voices of three eminent and respected Ghanaian personalities shooting down that promise by politicians. Speaking at separate fora, all three, namely, Pastor Mensah Otabil, the General Overseer of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) and Chancellor of the Central University College, the Okyenhene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panyin II and former Senior Minister and member of the NPP Council of Elders, Hon. J.H Mensah, were unanimous on the need for parents to commit resources for their wards’ education. Addressing his congregation during the Life Seminar 2012 on the theme “Wholesome Living Part II”, Pastor Otabil described as a hoax the free education policy as propounded by the NPP presidential candidate, Nana Akufo Addo, saying, “some politicians say when we come to power nobody will pay fees; and I am sure when you hear all of that you are happy. Education can never be free”.
According to respected man of God, education can never be free and those who believe such promises; that fees will be free, do not understand what goes into the payment of such fees by parents, insisting, parents still pay for their wards' education through taxes. “Education can never be free; somebody is paying for it. When they come to you and say free education, you are happy; you know why you think you don’t pay fees; it’s because you can’t even understand what is going into it. Nothing is free; you are paying for it; only that you are being told you didn’t pay. You pay it through taxation, the taxes you pay...I pay taxes and you tell me you are giving me free education when it is my taxes that are paying for it? So don’t tell me free education”.
Pastor Mensah Otabil raised red flags over the potential effect on the quality of education in the event of introducing such a policy. “If somebody tells you something is free, ask them what the quality is; because if you don’t know the quality, don’t take it free. If somebody tells you something is free, ask them what control I have over it. If you think that it is free, even when it is bad you can’t complain,” he noted.
Continuing, Pastor Otabil said: “I don’t want free education, I don’t believe in free education. I said pay me well my due and let me have the joy of paying my own child’s school fees so that my child is not a property of the state. He’s my own child and I have the dignity of a father to pay for my own child. When my child grows up, I'll say I paid your fees.”
Pastor Otabil stressed that the reason why people will accept such promises is because “ignorance makes it very easy for people to accept anything”. On his part, the highly-regarded King of Akim Abuakwa Kingdom, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panyin II said to ensure quality education at all levels it was necessary for all stakeholders to play their respective roles and therefore urged parents to consider education of their wards important investment and commit resources to it. “Parents must be responsible enough to ensure that all children of school-going age should be in school and provide them with all the necessary resources,” he stressed. The Okyenhene, who was addressing the 21st anniversary and the first speech and prize-giving day of the Kyebi Senior High and Technical School at Kyebi last Saturday, 27th October, 2012 also said it was time governments prioritize education by pumping more resources into the sector by way of motivating teachers, especially those who accept postings to rural areas. The exceedingly revered veteran politician/statesman and NPP stalwart, Hon. J.H. Mensah, who was the first to broach this subject in the Ghanaian parliament stated in unambiguous terms that; ‘there is no free lunch anywhere in the world”. Making a passionate submission on the floor of Parliament before his exit from the House in 2008, Hon Mensah called on parents to be prepared to offer their wards best quality education even if it meant spending a little extra, arguing that, “after all, the bottom line in the FCUBE (Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education) is the education and not the free”. The former Senior Minister in the Kufuor regime also chastised Ghanaians who are fond of freebies, insisting, it is only when a nation and its people invest in their children’s education, will they be deemed to be making progress. Nana Akufo Addo and the NPP have been proposing free education at the Senior High School level if it is voted into office, but, President John Mahama’s ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) has countered that by declaring that what the nation needed at this material time is quality and accessible education at all levels. The ruling party, NDC, has additionally said the constitutional requirement of free education at the basic level must be satisfied before any talks about jumping up to the SHS level.