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Opinions of Thursday, 28 September 2017

Columnist: Joe Kingsley Eyiah

Now that Free SHS is a reality in Ghana, let’s make it succeed!

The Free SHS was officially launched on September 12 by President Nana Akufo-Addo The Free SHS was officially launched on September 12 by President Nana Akufo-Addo

“At long last the battle is ended and our beloved country, Ghana, is free forever.” That was how our first President Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah put it in his famous speech on the day that Ghana attained her independence (March 6, 1957) from British colonial rule! Now with the arrival of the free SHS in Ghana, we can say, “At long last the promise has become a reality and free SHS is here forever.”

Free SHS has been the dream of many a president of Ghana since the early 2000s in the light of affordable secondary school education to ALL CHILDREN in the country. I therefore personally congratulate Nana Akufo Addo for his political courage and financial commitment to making SHS free in Ghana at long last. To those who doubted his readiness to implement the free SHS this school year, put away your pessimistic thinking and help make the free SHS program succeed! Both the Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 4) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (articles 2 and 13) “require that States undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures to the maximum extent of their available resources for the implementation of education rights. There will always be ?scal constraints, but it is possible to manoeuvre to better allocate resources.” (2000) Obviously, education is the biggest enterprise in any civilized society.

Granted the fact that education is one of the most important tool for national development it becomes the responsibility of any progressive government anywhere to provide and promote sound educational policies as well as infrastructure that will help its people to acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes that enable them to develop their potentials. The founding President of Ghana, Dr. Nkrumah understood this very well. He therefore expanded the opportunities for all Ghanaians to have some education. There was the mass education for adult Ghanaians who were above school-going age. More importantly, the formal sector of education in Ghana then saw rapid development under President Nkrumah.

Since independence, we have had Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s Accelerated Development Plan of Education, which sought to expand rapidly recruitment into basic and secondary schools; the Prof. Alex Kwapong Education Review Committee, which brought about continuation schools in 1966, the Professor Dzobo Review Committee of 1974, which introduced the comprehensive junior secondary school (JSS) concept, and reform which began in 1987 as well as Kufour’s 2007 reform (the latest major changes in education) which sought to expose children to literacy and numeracy, from the kindergarten level. The country has had to struggle with the duration of senior high school (SHS) education from 3 years policy of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to 4 years policy of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and back to 3 years (NDC).

The NPP and NDC are the two political parties which have been governing Ghana one after the other for the past twenty-four years. However their different political ideologies to education in particular have denied Ghana a stable national policy in that sector of our national development.

The truth is that there are a lot of leaders who do not govern in the interests of their nations. Indeed, the education sector has suffered unnecessary at the expense of politics in most African countries. Some African leaders loot their countries' resources instead of managing those resources effectively to improve their education system. Also, the laxity in the Ghana Education Service has often created loopholes for looters in that sector. Hope Nana Addoh’s government will tighten up screws there!

I refer my readers to my “Open Letter to President Nana Akufo Addo” which was published on Ghanaweb on March 31, 2017. In that letter I specifically mentioned some “little foxes” in Ghana’s educational system as he was ready to implement his free SHS and restore allowances to teachers in training: “Oh, lest I forget! Mr. President, I think to make our free SHS more meaningful to the student, I would like to see more attention paid to the student at the primary school level to effectively lay a strong and formidable foundation for the student’s learning journey to the high school and beyond. Good! Do I hear you say yes? And that the teacher who facilitates learning in the classroom is more important here?

This brings me to the issue of allowances for teachers in training. I am afraid the allowance might attract ‘wrong’ people who love money more than teaching into the teaching professional. I am talking from experience as a former teacher-trainer in Ghana. Why not make loans and scholarships (from District Assemblies) accessible to teacher-trainees and put more money rather into the salaries of teachers to enable trainees who successfully complete their teacher education to comfortably pay back their loans or work in the districts which supported them during their training?

Also, we need to ensure that candidates with the necessary entry requirements are picked by our Principals for the Teacher Training Colleges. Let us cut the ‘goldfields’ in the admission of teacher-trainees to our Colleges where allowances become baits for insincerity and corrupt practices. Ouch! I did not mean to hurt anybody, however, the true at sometimes hurt. Sorry!”

Unfortunately, some heads of SHS have been already caught and apprehended for exploiting parents even with advent of the free SHS. We need to be more vigilant! There should not be playing of politics with this major policy in education. The nation stands to benefit greatly if the free SHS program is properly managed, sustained in the years to come and supported by all good-willing Ghanaians.

By Joe Kingsley Eyiah, Toronto-Canada