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Opinions of Monday, 21 September 2015

Columnist: Klinsman

NDC has a short memory indeed...free SHS ? Shut up

President John Dramani Mahama at the time said the
free-SHS policy was going to destroy the educational
system in Ghana. And he was right. President
Mahama at the time said there were serious issues at
the basic level and said we should first consider
improving the quality and accessibility before we
start talking about making the Senior High School
free.

In November 2012, President Mahama said at Okere
in the Eastern Region that the free SHS system was
being practiced in Kenya but was failing due to
inadequate funds to support the system.
"If you rush to do something in life, you will not
succeed. In Africa, there are two countries which
have started this free Senior High School; Kenya and
Uganda. But now, Kenya has launched an appeal for
international assistance to help them with the free
SHS idea because they can't pay for it," President
Mahama said.

He added that there were serious infrastructural
constraints, poor teacher to student ratio and a
booming student population that needed to be
considered. The option of free SHS, in his opinion,
therefore meant an imminent collapse of the system.
"If they had thought about it, they would have used
the funds which were pumped into the establishment
of the free SHS to expanding their infrastructure."
So what has changed? Students still study under
trees. Those who have roofs over their heads are
forced to learn under life-threatening structures and
leaky roofs. The teacher-student ratio is widening for
rural students. President Mahama promised to build
200 community day schools in his first tenure but, as
we speak, less than 10 have been completed. And he
has a little over a year to end that tenure.
The basic level is my biggest worry. Many students
who go to public basic schools cannot read and write
after school. The only means some can get past the
basic level is to cheat in the Basic Education
Certificate Education. Basic education is collapsing in
Ghana, so why would we fail to recruit and train
teachers and expand infrastructure before thinking
about populist Free-SHS policy?

What has changed so drastically that Mahama has to
make a U-turn? If this is not a way to cripple Akufo-
Addo's ill-fated campaign message, then what logic
can explain this?

The Minister of Education, Lee Ocran, on Monday,
10th September, 2012, held a press conference
where he described the NPP's policy of free senior
high school education as not feasible. He said any
such policy would be feasible in after 20 years.
So what has changed after two years? But we don't
have to go far to find the reason for this policy. I
know why. And you should know. This is the reason.
Recently, President Mahama had a photo opportunity
when he presented sandals to some basic school
children. It was part of his promise to provide 10,000
sandals to basic school kids. We have more than
5,000,000 basic school kids. So this number is
extremely insignificant. But that is not the end of the
matter. Apart from the few sandals which the
president distributed, no one has followed up to
ensure that the 10,000 has been given out. Yesterday,
when Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa was speaking on Joy
FM's Newsnight, he mentioned the "free distribution
of sandals" as one of the policies that have increased
enrolment in basic schools.

Are we that dumb as a people to accept this? We
have done propaganda with everything, now we are
collapsing the educational system as well. All of this
is to add up to the number of paid campaign
commercials that will soon flood our media ahead of
the 2016 elections.

DJ SOURCES KLINSMANN

LONDON

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