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Opinions of Monday, 21 September 2015

Columnist: Adofo, Rockson

Re: Free SHS not for Irresponsible Parents – Minister

From a publication read on Ghanaweb under its General News of Friday, 18 September 2015 titled, "Free SHS not for irresponsible parents – Minister", any discerning Ghanaian not wearing opaque partisan lenses will agree with me on the following:

Firstly, reading deeper down into the statements made by the Minister of Education, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, on the government's about-to-be introduced Free Senior High School (SHS) education, one can correctly conclude that the intervention is not free after all. Reading between the lines, it is a half-baked scheme rushed out by the Mahama government for the purposes of deceiving Ghanaians to vote for him and his party in 2016 elections. He will immediately comfortably then retreat into his zonally cluelessness and incompetence, sits and nonchalantly watch with his arms folded around the chest while the scheme collapses like a pack of cards same as he has done to the otherwise successful interventions handed over to him by former President Kufuor's NPP-led administration – NHIS Scheme, Free School Meals, Government Mass Transport, Mass Cocoa Spraying, Free Maternal Care, etc.

The Minister of Education said before the chiefs and people of Ekumfi Otuam in the Central region on Thursday 17 September 2015 while commissioning a 24-classroom Community day Secondary School that, "We are also aware of parents who wish to support their dependents but they are honestly unable to do so. This intervention is for them. It is not for those who wilfully decide to be irresponsible"

For the seriousness I attach to the Free SHS education, the brainchild of Nana Akufo Addo, to better the human resource base of Ghana in this competitively technological global world, and how President Mahama wants to joke with it playing his usual clueless political gimmicks, I shall as usual define certain words and terms I employ to make my views more understandable to the ordinary Ghanaian reader and their worldwide sympathisers and international friends.

· Read between lines infers an unexpressed meaning
· A half-baked idea is a plan that has not been considered carefully enough
· Wilful means unreasonably stubborn or headstrong or intentionally
· Irresponsible means careless or not showing or done with due care for the consequences of one's actions

Amid her statements, the one quoted above clearly signifies that it is not every Ghanaian child of SHS-going age that will benefit from the scheme although the government claims it is free. What then is the definition of free? Free by Cambridge dictionaries is defined as "costing nothing, or not needing to be paid for". If this is so, why did she say, "We are aware of parents who can financially support their children and we urge them to continue to do so and we are also aware of those who even go on to support other children – we want to express our gratitude for this key kind intervention" and then continues to slap down other parents with her "irresponsible" tag?

As usual, permit me to define "Slap down". It simply means to criticize someone or something severely, usually in public. Why should she criticise those parents she perceives to be rich but who may still choose to avail themselves of the opportunities that the Free SHS scheme/intervention will offer them? Why are such parents tagged as being irresponsible if indeed the SHS education is free for all as the government is making Ghanaians understand? From the Minister's unfortunate comment, do we not read the possibility of there being a hidden catch in the government's hastily implemented Free SHS scheme?

In most, or all of the European countries I know of, when they classify public school education to a certain level as free, all pupils or students regardless of their background – rich or poor, do enjoy the services on equal basis. They do not require those from the rich families to pay fees while those from other backgrounds don't.

The rich families rather mostly, if not normally, send their children to private schools where they think to secure them comparatively better education at a cost. Therefore, the Minister of Education, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang had better get her facts right.

She was the nation's first woman to become a Vice-Chancellor of a University in Ghana – University of Cape Coast (UCC). She is academically brilliant but her comment paints her in a different picture. Being academically intelligent does not mean one is wise. Being supportive of a political party does not mean one should not tell the truth?

I will only at this stage give her the benefit of the doubt. However, I request of her unreserved apology to Ghanaian parents for insulting their intelligence by her comment deemed unfortunate. Failing to apologise, I shall not hesitate to publish an open letter to her in which I shall express my heartfelt views about the issue without any reservation.

Rockson Adofo