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Opinions of Saturday, 23 September 2017

Columnist: Paul Kwabena Wadie

Nana Addo's 'Free SHS' could yet prove to be the game changer!

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

I must confess that, the sheer brevity of the implementation of Nana Addo's Free SHS has completely bowled me over.

I also believe that the elation exhibited in praises by supporters of the governing party and the cacophony of condemnation by some confused opposition 'communicators' is ample evidence that Ghanaians are overwhelmed by the suddenness of the roll out of the program.

Nana Addo Confronting Conventional Wisdom.

We are used to politrickians promising lots of things in their manifestos and tarying till the dying embers of their reign before they make lame attempts to commence them.

Much as the dilly-dallying irritates, it is the call on us, by a so-called communicators-a collection of riff-raffs who struggle to appreciate the issues they are paid to comment on-to vote for a failed government to complete its projects which robs salt into our wounds.

So why should we expect something different from a new government, albeit populated by Ghanaians? Why has Nana Addo opted to ignore conventional wisdom by introducing his flagship program at the first year of his first term?

The President probably mean well. By this singular action, he has set the country on a path of enlightenment which could prove to be the paradigm shift that our armed-chair intellectuals and political commentators have been calling for.

The Policy

I would be surprised if this policy was not well designed. For over a decade, Nana Addo has been trumpeting Free SHS as his flagship program. In fact, during the 2012 electioneering campaign, education-SHS-became the main issue.

As with all political strategies, the fine details of the policy were never revealed to us. Just like masons never tell you the real cost of building your house, lest they scare you from building. So they give you a 'manageable' estimate which would climb up steadily as you move along.

So nobody was wiser even up till now who was really going to be affected, the cost, where the funding would come from, and how sustainable the policy would be.

But at least we know it is starting this year for all first year SHS students in Ghana. That apart from fees, students would eat for free and would be supplied with clothing and books, all for free.

With the cost, it is easily calculated by our 'mathematicos', and of course, we know that Nana Addo is not going to pay from his pocket. I am all for it if every penny of our oil money is used to finance this policy. After all, instead of spending all our oil money on a few of us who have 'capacity' to be built, this policy would ensure that every household has the potential to benefit from our oil money.

The Economic Implications

I thought the school trunk business was dead. Thanks to Free SHS, it is resurrected, and it's twin brother, the chop box business is also booming.

Now, if we were to direct managers of our SHS to procure the works, consumables and services locally, this policy would transform this economy.

For instance, if materials for uniforms were bought from GTP etc and the sewing were done locally, one could imagine how the impact would be. Indeed, this policy alone can drive the 'One District One Factory' policy. Let one district establish a factory to manufacture books for all the schools in a region, and one to manufacture blocks for all and yet another to process gari for all the schools in the region.

A committed implementation of the Free SHS policy could change the economic outlook of this country and since the products needed by the schools are perennial. I believe those with basic economic knowledge would appreciate my analysis however jaundiced it is.

Social Implications

About two months ago, I read about experts and politicians encouraging the citizenry to embrace family planning, as they fear the country becoming overpopulated. Much as I disagree with the notion that the country is overpopulated, I think we need to consider the quality rather than the quantity of the population.

As a student of society, I have observed that the average JHS girl gets pregnant a year after graduation. By ten years after graduation, this JHS graduate would have given birth to three to four children. Her social and economic circumstances would encumber her from educating her children to the level that she attained, which is JHS.

With the Free SHS, this girl is going to postpone her motherhood by at least three years. And with a little bit of industry, she would try to educate her children to the level she attains, which is SHS.

If what I heard is true, that about 99% of JHS graduates have been placed in SHSs this year. Then, by 2025, about 70% of the Ghanaian population would have attained SHS level of education.

This generation of Ghanaians would unconsciously practice family planning without anybody's prompting. Ultimately, the population of Ghana would be more quality than quantity.

And that, to me, is the core of the Free SHS Policy! I rested my case!