Feature Article of Saturday, 1 December 2012

Columnist: Lomotey, Kenneth

Free SHS? May God Bless The NPP

I have been utterly amused at the extent of desperation the ndc is attempting to do negative propaganda about the npp's flaship policy of FREE SHS for poor ghananaian parents if the npp should win power, come dec,7th 2012. I am amused because every single statement or complaint about the free shs program issued by the ndc have been effectively addressed by the npp, yet the ndc and president mahama, who appear to be feeling the heat of the free shs momentum still continue to attack the program.

Infact the ndc have raised about 5 main problems they have with the free shs program viz

1. the free shs program canot be implemented immmediately

2.that the country cannot afford the resources required to implement the program.

3.that even the program has not been thoroughly thought through and the npp is just using it at the last time to rescue a so called failing npp campaign

4. that if ghaianains become rich, which the ndc govt is supposed to be working on, there wont be the need for people to suscribe to the free shs program

5. and some members of the ndc party have also gone to the extent of advocating that ,there should have been a referendum on the free shs policy by ghanaians to determine their preference before the npp govt considers implementing it or imposing it on ghanaians.

Now the npp's anwers have been summarised as follows Firstly,the issue of immediate implementation and money for the program should not arise because, all the elements needed for the free shs program are adequately in place. The elements are school structures and facililities, teachers and learning materials. Indeed the reseach unit of ministry of education in their 2011 report have concluded that enrollable students currently not in school amount to less than 10% of the total shs enrolment figures.Already the existing structures and facilities at the various shs campuses can house about 90% of all potential shs enrollable students.These already enrolled shs students have their teachers at their schools currently teaching, and also they have access to their required learning materials. Again govt continues to provide enhanced capitation grants to these schools which already subsidizes about 60% of the fundamental shs student costs. The real cost issues here include, find ing money for the outside 10% enrollable students in terms of upgrading or expanding facilities, recruiting additional teachers and procuring new learning materials as well as adding additional 40% extra subsidy or capitation to cover the existing students to make 100% full capitation for existing students, as well as the capitation to cover the potential 10% new entants.

Indeed one could use various costing scenarious annually for the free shs program but the the worst case scenario i.e using the prof.djangmah/essuman model, indicates that additional expenses to be occasioned by the full implementation of the shs program will not exceed 350 million gh cedis(and this is the nightmare scenario). so what is all the ndc fuss about? Because simply at current conservative estimates, the 350m ghc represents a third of oil proceeds annually and soi why cant the nation afford it? As for the issue of the need for refendum on the free shs, the least said about it the better.

The other issue of the npp using it as a last minute redemption tool for a so called faltering campaign cannot be farther from the truth. According to the npp, and this fact has been observed by the writer, since 2009, even before nana addo won the npp presidential primaries, he had been championing this ideal. infact his philosophy is that the best gift one could give ghanaians as a result of the new oil found wealth for the country , where all and sundry, will benefit, is for every ghananian student to be given the right of education , whether their parents are rich or poor. who can contest the wisdom of this line of thinking.

some people have argued that the oil money should be invested in developmental projects. there is some value in the idea as well except that with a corrupt government in power, about half of the oil wealth may be stolen by govt and party offcials by way of huge kickbacks on oil related developmental contracts. Afterall, is it not becoming clear now, that the gas plant being built in the western region by SINOPEC of china under the ndc administration has been overpriced by about three times ( compared to cost of similar projects elsewhere in the world).

Education is a right, not a priviledge, and all ghanaian children of school going age must benefit from the free shs program, whether their parents are rich or poor. this is the only way, the oil founded by the npp in 2007 can benefit the broad masses of our people.

may god bless the npp and nana addo for such visionary leadership and may god bless Ghana.

k. lomotey sekondi