Diasporian News of Thursday, 18 October 2012

Source: Sam, Osborne K.

NPP How Free Is Your Free Secondary Education? -NDC US

In many democracies the concept of a politician who will say just about anything to get elected is a phenomenon which many voters are very familiar with. In Ghana the NPP’s promise of free secondary education as promulgated by Nana Akuffo Addo, the party’s flagbearer falls squarely into this category. Ghanaians both at home and around the world were dismayed when during an interview on BBC’s Hardtalk program; a few months ago Mr. Addo was unable to elaborate on how his free secondary school program will be implemented. He was unable to give an estimate of how much the program, a key feature in his campaign would cost annually. Indeed he was at the time unable to explain how the financing for his program will be achieved. In recent times the New Patriotic Party’s has indicated the policy would cost only $72 million, a figure which has proved so woefully inadequate and unrealistic in the light of a revelation from the current minister of education that the country has at least seven hundred and twenty thousand senior high school students. The arithmetic just doesn’t add up. Given the current population of Senior High School students, the NPP is by their estimate telling Ghanaians that it will cost only one hundred dollars per student to make their education absolutely free. But this is not the greatest weakness with NPP’s wild approach to education. The great secret about their promise is what they cut in order to even come near something close to their promise. Will they stop the NDC program of ensuring that all schools which have no buildings are afforded physical structures for schooling to take place? Most of these schools are in elementary education, so what is the true cost of NPP’s free education policy? Is it schemed to deprive many in basic education a fitting education, so they can make free secondary education to fewer Ghanaians? After all you cannot benefit from free secondary education if you do not have basic education. In recent times the NPP running mate has promised to build universities, the question is how do their numbers add up?

A recurring occurrence in emerging democracies is politicians who propagate policies that by all objective assessments are premature and unattainable because such policies are what they believe the masses want to hear. The gamble of such politicians has been that it is better to say anything at all that wins you accolades and votes, and worry about the details of how such promises will actually be made manifest later. As can be expected these promises only serve to create unrealistic expectations on the part of the general populace, whilst politicians resort to all manner of trickery and equivocation to explain their inability to fulfill these promises when they are indeed elected into power. How does the New Patriotic Party intend to make Senior High School free, when notwithstanding the Herculean efforts of the National Democratic Congress about two thousand elementary schools in country still unfortunately meet under trees? The NDC notwithstanding its real efforts has been able to reduce schools that meet under trees by close to fifty percent of what existed before they assumed the reins of power in 2008. How does a political leader talk about making senior secondary schooling absolutely free, when the same country has been unable to make available structures for basic education for all of its students in elementary institutions? Is it fair that some are completely unable to start the educational process, or even if they do they have to contend with school that study under trees and a presidential candidate and indeed his whole party choose to shout on all roof tops about how they intend to make senior secondary education free?

It is our contention that the Mahama administration’s approach as stated in the Better Ghana Agenda is the correct one. It addresses the key problems that have bedeviled the educational sector of Ghana. It seeks to make available physical structures that will make schooling possible in all basic, secondary and tertiary education. It has already substantially succeeded in building a lot of schools and as result made education accessible for all Ghanaians of school going age. Additionally, the administration continues to increase remuneration for teachers towards the end of encouraging more qualified Ghanaians to take up the teaching profession. With time and in a sustainable fashion the cost of education as borne by parents and students in all sectors of education will be whittled to naught as Ghana continues to witness unprecedented economic growth as happened in the past few years under the NDC led administration.

Nana Akuffo Addo’s electoral promises on secondary education reminds me of a friend who told a lady he was trying to woo of how his father owned the Accra International Conference Center, and Ghana’s main airport, he tried to convince the lady that his uncle was the owner of Ghana Airways (of course at this time Ghana’s airliner was proudly flying across the oceans). The State Transport Corporation was for his elder brother he continued. If the lady agreed to a relationship with him he promised they would travel to Paris for shopping since his mother was the owner of the Ghana Commercial Bank. Ghanaian voters should beware of Nana Akuffo Addo and those like him who will promise heaven and only deliver hell. Does Ghana’s education need improvement? We believe it does. Are school fees a difficulty parents of second cycle schools face indeed this is the case. But what is the state of the free schools in Ghana? Why do so many prefer to educate the children in private schools which are not free, instead of the public schools which are free? Because when you pay a reasonable fee for good education it is a better arrangement, than paying nothing for crappy education. Ghana’s Secondary schools may cost parents some fees which help assuage the cost of running the schools but on the average they offer good education, NPP’s policy of free secondary education is a slogan they have adopted only for political gain! Education is more important than who is in power.


Picture: Newly completed classroom block at Ndewura, Upper East Region