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Opinions of Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Columnist: Kwaku Badu

How lucky parents could well pocket around GHC16598.49 from Free SHS

The vast majority of Ghanaian parents will most likely benefit from the Free SHS policy, including my maternal uncle, Oliver, who has been needlessly criticising the apparent poverty alleviation Free SHS.

But despite my uncle Oliver’s needless and never ending pessimism, he is likely to reap tremendous benefits in the long run.

Credible sources have it that the NPP government is spending a staggering amount of GH5532.83 over a period of three years on each student.

So, my uncle Oliver, who is going to have three of his children in SHS by 2019/2020 academic year, will be pocketing not less than GH16598.49 over three years.

Well, if Uncle Oliver is so excited with the huge savings from the Free SHS, then let us extol President Akufo-Addo for his exemplary leadership.

It is quite unfortunate to observe how some Ghanaians could easily give in to the manipulating politicians vague rhetoric and vile propaganda designed to advance their vested interests.

I recall prior to the 2016 election, I turned down my maternal uncle’s incessant appeals for some help towards the payment of his children school fees.

The seemingly harsh decision was based on the fact that my maternal uncle bizarrely rejected Nana Addo’s 2012 Free SHS offer and went ahead and voted against such an advantageous policy.

I must however admit that back then, I never thought I violated any accepted moral standards for rejecting my uncle’s appeal for help to pay for his children school fees after turning his back on a handsome offer of Free SHS.

But who says that my maternal uncle repented from his sins during the 2016 election?

My maternal uncle, in fact, was amongst the millions of impoverished Ghanaians who were brainwashed by the cunning and manipulating politicians to reject the expedient Free SHS offer during the 2016 electioneering campaign.

Astonishingly, after campaigning and voting against the apparent poverty alleviation such as the Free SHS during the 2016 election, my maternal uncle now has the temerity to complain about the mode of implementing the scheme.

My uncle has bizarrely turned into Oliver Twist; he is asking for more on top of his two children who are currently benefiting from the scheme. Apparently, he is aggrieved that the policy did not cover his two older children who were in forms 2 and 3 when the scheme took off. How bizarre?

Well, if everybody had voted the same way as Uncle Oliver did, I am not sure his two children would have benefited from any free SHS.

I should not be surprised anyway, as my maternal uncle is at his squalling and grouching best.

I remember leading to the 2016 general elections, my uncle lodged a complaint with my mother for turning my back on his fund raising appeals towards the payment of his children school fees.

And, in her attempt to resolve the simmering dissonance between my uncle and me, my mother arranged a crisis meeting.

It was during the meeting that I informed my mother that my decision was based on the fact that her brother needlessly refused to accept the offer of free SHS by Nana Addo during the 2012 electioneering campaign.

“Well, but your uncle has never voted for NPP”, my mother retorted.

“Oh, so even if NPP came up with an advantageous policy that could be beneficial to him, he must still turn his back on such a policy because of unbridled devoted attachment?” I quizzed.

I proceeded: “Where is the justification for your brother to turn down such a handsome offer of free ‘SHS?”

My uncle then responded: “But where was the evidence that NPP was going to implement the free SHS policy?”

“You don’t have to look far for the evidence uncle”, I responded.

I continued: “Didn’t the previous NPP government deliver on its campaign promises by introducing social interventions such as the free Maternal Care, the School Feeding Programme, the National Health Insurance Scheme, the Mass Transport System, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), the National Youth Employment Programme, now known as GYEDA, and many other social interventions?”

“Well, my nephew, I think you are making sense but there is nothing we could do over the spilt milk”, my uncle responded.

“You are right to some extent uncle, but we could put it right going forward”, I retorted.

“For we should not and must not ever vote on narrow party lines, but we must rather vote according to campaign messages, competence, experience, ability, skills, knowledge and the integrity of the candidates”.

“Well, my son, your uncle has obviously simmered down and shown remorse, so go ahead and pay for his children school fees”, my mother proposed.

“It is too late mum; I would not be able to pay for his children school fees as I have other equally important responsibilities”, I replied.

I continued by beseeching all and sundry to embrace Nana Addo’s 2016 campaign message of free SHS, one district one factory and one constituency one million dollars.

I maintained that if they refused to accept Nana Addo’s offer of free SHS, I would not entertain any future appeals for financial assistance from anyone to pay school fees.

Gratifyingly, my uncle and my mother promised wholeheartedly to scrutinise future campaign messages of all political parties before settling on their preferred candidate or party.

Indeed, I was over the moon because I thought I had managed to bring my mother and my uncle from darkness into the light.

Consequently, I engaged in a carefully considered deliberation and went ahead and paid my maternal uncle’s children school fees.

Regrettably, however, my maternal uncle did not heed to my earlier advice, as he went back to his old ways.

Ironically, however, my maternal uncle was spotted wearing the NDC’s party T shirt and campaigning vigorously against the Free SHS.

Dearest reader, isn’t it then bizarre that my maternal uncle who campaigned vehemently against the Free SHS policy is now turning around and asking for more?

In any case, I, for one, do not anticipate Uncle Oliver benefiting from the Free SHS policy should Ghanaians make a terrible mistake and hand over the poverty alleviation Free SHS programme back to the NDC government futuristically.

My fears stem from the fact that since the implementation of the Free SHS policy by the NPP government, the minority NDC operatives have gathered momentum and called uncountable press conferences with the view to discrediting the implementation of the policy.

Somehow, the minority NDC operatives prefer “progressively free” (whatever that means) to NPP’s comprehensively free.

We are also well aware that as part of their progressively free policy, the NDC government was supposed to pay every student GH38.00. In fact, unless I come across as the worst performer in mathematics, I cannot fathom how and why GH38 per student is better than GH1500 per student.

Let me however be honest: the minority NDC operatives would have gained my unflinching support if they had based their argument on quality education instead.

In as much as developing people’s abilities and giving them a chance to improve upon their lives is necessary and extremely crucial, it will be no good if important steps are not taken to advance their aspirations.

Educating a large number of children, in fact, would somehow build their skills, but it will be little or no use, if they are denied access to jobs, or do not have the right skills for the local labour market.

Take, for instance, in Ghana today, it is pretty normal for many young people to come out of higher institutions without superlative employable skills that can improve their chances of securing a desirable employment that will help them realise their potential and enter the social mobility pipeline.

Disappointingly, however, we have arrived at this unfortunate situation because the successive governments failed miserably to provide the necessities for quality education.