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Opinions of Monday, 25 September 2017

Columnist: V.S Quarshie-Adonoo

Free SHS education; an agenda to score cheap political points

Political party’s policies and principles are guided by its ideology and philosophy. In order to communicate the party’s ideals and programmes, to the electorate, and to provide yardsticks for performance and impact assessment, party manifestos are employed. The role political manifestos plays in political victories in Ghana cannot be over emphasized. Over the years political parties continue to use their manifestos as marketing tools to woo voters to their side.

The 2016 general election which saw Nana Addo winning political power is no exception. The back and forth that characterized the New Patriotic Party (NPP) manifesto launch is not a hidden issue. At first, I was confused about the delay but after a thorough analysis about the delay, I have now come to agree with a political analyst, who said “they were delaying the manifesto launch because it was riddled lies”

As the president rightly pointed out in his infamous plagiarized inaugural speech that we should be “citizens and not spectators”, I have decided to write this article to ask very important public interest questions on the NPP’s highly touted free SHS policy.

Yes, I know for sure that I will be receiving some hostile responses from the apparatchiks of the NPP for exposing their lazy government, but that notwithstanding, I will ask the said public interest questions for clarity. The truth they say hurts but it must be told no matter what. So aspersions from the NPP cannot prevent me from speaking my mind.

I remember of course this is not the first time Ghanaians are hearing free SHS by the NPP. In the heat to the 2008 general elections, candidate Nana Akufo Addo made a strong case that should he be given the mandate by Ghanaians, children will attend basic school through to SHS free of charge. He was rejected at the polls despite his immense popularity at the time.

Nana Addo having won the presidential primary of his party, made a second appearance in 2012 trying to ride on the soaring wing of the free SHS to win political power but his long time ambition of becoming president was once again shattered resulting in a rather wasteful eight (8) months’ election petition at the Supreme Court of Ghana. After breaking from the hurly-burly of Ghanaian politics for a period of six months, the 72 year old man upon return from the diaspora declared his intention to run on the ticket of the NPP. The free SHS education was not missing in the NPP’s 2016 recycled manifesto.

It is interesting to note that despite the nebulous promises made by the NPP in their manifesto, especially on the free SHS, Ghanaians bought their message of deceit and voted massively for them with the hope of enjoying paradise on earth but alas!

Nana Addo has declared on many platforms including the international platforms about his vision to implement the free SHS even though the cost was not known to him. When the then NDC government argued that the free SHS must be progressively free, because it will be difficult to implement without the needed infrastructure in place, the NPP then in opposition vehemently refuted NDC’s claims and said the erstwhile NDC government led by John Mahama was visionless and has nothing good to offer Ghanaians.

Few days ago, the President in fulfilment of his manifesto promise launched the free SHS; a policy the then opposition leader said will be implemented aggressively to benefit all Ghanaian children to attend secondary education without paying a penny.

After riding on the wing of free SHS to win the mandate of the Ghanaian electorates, Nana Addo led NPP government has made a sudden U-turn regarding their free SHS flagship policy. When the issues of cost and sustainability was raised, the NPP was found wanting.

If you could recall in one of his numerous interviews on BBC, the then candidate Akufo Addo made it clear that the free SHS will be implemented should he be voted to power but was very economical with the source of funding. His refusal to disclose the source of funding for his brain child policy (free SHS) became a topical issue which dominated political discussions at the time. These interrogations were done purposely to ensure sustainability of the policy but the NPP out of malice intentionally refused to disclose same.

When they were pushed further on the source of funding for the highly touted educational policy, the senior Minister, Hon Yaw Osafo Marfo jumped to their defence in a very bizarre manner. He minced no words to say the Heritage Fund is going to be used. The Finance Minister also has his own version of funding.

Aabaa! Do this group of people really meant well for Ghana? What possibly could have motivated the NPP to formulate this half-baked discriminatory free SHS policy? Is it to lie to Ghanaians for Nana Addo to become president at all cost or what?

This sudden U-turn made by the NPP government is betrayal to the highest order and they will surely pay back in their own coin no matter how long it takes. The deceived parents are licking their wounds in silence and as the old adage goes, it is only when the frog dies that its real length is determined.
It still remains a known fact that no one forced the old man to make such a promise.

Why the inconsistencies now from the so called competent guys (people who should have known better)? I call the policy half-baked and discriminatory because it lacks clarity, not well-thought about, not entirely free, and does not cover all SHS students as clearly stated in the NPP 2016 election manifesto.

During the recently launched free SHS policy, the President made a very interesting point in his speech that “I made the pledge of providing every Ghanaian child with access to senior high school, because I know that knowledge and talent are not for the rich and privileged alone, and that free education widens the gates of opportunities to every child, especially those whose talents are arrested because of poverty”.

The above statement cannot be entirely true. It is not backed by action. The president is just speaking to score cheap political points. This again reminds me of a statement made by the president at Okwapeman Senior High School where he reportedly promised to make education free from the kindergarten to SHS. What has happened to this vision of his? The big question again is do we have the kindergartens? Do we have the primary schools? Do we have the JHS? Even the SHS being implemented is not what was promised Ghanaians. You are celebrating the arrival of the free SHS with pomp and pageantry but where is the free SHS. I cannot see it for God sake!

Mr. President you are being reminded by this article that the discerning Ghanaians know your crude agenda and you will not be allowed to “Suarez” us again.

Again, what prevented you from telling Ghanaians the truth regarding the free SHS during the electioneering period? Why do you have to lie when you knew very well that what you were promising was not sustainable taking into account the troubling realities in the schools? Where is Prof. Gyan Baffour who was seen making so much noise on many media platforms about the said policy? I wonder why people who are supposed to use their expertise for common good of our nation just decide to throw their integrity to the dogs for political expediency.

Why didn’t the president made it clear that the free SHS package will only cover first year students in a progressive manner? Was it for him to hide behind the policy to win votes for his victory project? What has really influenced your thinking to lie to Ghanaians over the free SHS Mr. President? Why the sudden change of mind? These questions are begging for clear-cut answers Mr. President.

Many people including policy analysts are asking the official position of the NDC on the half-baked free SHS policy. What else can we say? The fact in the constitution of Ghana is explicitly clear on education and the free education has been in Ghana for a long time. The founder of independent Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, implemented free education in the North and other governments including the NDC also did same in a progressive manner so the overly celebration of the policy by elements within the NPP is neither here nor there.

The NDC has said it time without number that they will support any policy that will boost the country’s growth but will insist on due process before such policies are implemented. So our position on free SHS is not in doubt at all.

I pity my brother and friend, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Minister of Education for inciting parents against head of schools who will ask students to pay PTA dues. If the policy is not meant to score cheap political points why will you be overly defensive? What does he seek to achieve with such reckless pronouncement knowing very well such calls will only create anarchy in our schools? Is sacking of otherwise hard working teachers without due process also part of the implementation guidelines?

Well, he has no other choice than to dance to the tune of the free S.H.S chorus being sung by Nana Addo. The president and surrogates of his party should by now come out and apologise unreservedly to Ghanaians for deceiving them to vote for them (NPP) based on their deceptive free education policy.

If they know the policy is not deceitful and designed to score cheap political points, why are they not explaining the policy into details for everybody to understand? The ordinary people must understand the policy before implementing it or? If yes, then why are they keeping the policy document from the public? It is undeniably obvious that the Free SHS Policy has not been planned. If it is otherwise, why instead of making available policy document or blueprint the minister is talking about guidelines for the implementation? Why have they not provided the actual implementers of the policy, the headmaster and teachers of the senior high schools the blueprint upon their request?
In fact, the inability of the Nana Addo led NPP government to accept errors and to make amends as a guide for continuous improvement in the system is very worrying.

Looking under the covers of the free SHS policy, I see nothing promising but, error riddled policy designed to score cheap political points. The end will surely justify the means!

Author

V.S Quarshie-Adonoo
(Regional Secretary)
0243603147
V.S Quarshie-Adonoo (NDC, Greater Accra Regional Secretary)