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Opinions of Friday, 2 October 2015

Columnist: Amoah, Anthony Kwaku

Running free education, upholding quality

By Anthony Kwaku Amoah
The content and relevance of the policy of free education is still being argued in Ghana. There are speckled schools of thought on this policy. As some see it as stuff for only politicians to fight over, others think it is a constitutional affair for all well-meaning citizens to behold.
The inputs of parents, educationists and stakeholders are necessary for the successful execution of free education. This writer, thus, thinks it should be a free-for-all topic for discussion since the task of providing good quality education is a shared one.
It is gratifying to discern that governments and most political actors have put premium on education and have made attempts to give it some boosts. The implementation of the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) with its accoutrements, such as capitation grant, school feeding and free distribution of exercise books, despite some recorded mishaps, is an archetype of the love that our governments have for education.
This piece of writing salutes framers of our Constitution when they said in Article 25 (b), “Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational education, shall be generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by progressive introduction of free education”.
Records have it that in April this year, Minister of Education Professor Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang inaugurated a committee of some heads of senior high schools and directors of the Ghana Education Service (GES) to help the Ministry of Education to roll out a progressively free secondary education as being requested by President John Mahama. The terms of reference were for members to use their expertise to fashion out ways of reducing any perceived extraneous cost of education, eliminating suspected barriers to education and suggesting effective budget for enhanced access and quality of the policy.
President Mahama sparked the free secondary education policy into full operation this academic year during the commissioning of the newly built Atta-Mills Community Day Senior High School at Ekumfi Otuam in the Central Region last Thursday. The trust has been that issues bordering on admission processes, communication, data verification and policy monitoring would be tackled with the utmost professionalism and tact that they deserve. It is true that any free thing without responsibility is prone to abuse.
More than 300,000 day students in over 500 public senior high schools in the country are expected to benefit from free GHC12, 178,000 covering their expenditure on examination, library, Students’ Representative Council, entertainment, science development, science and mathematics quiz, sports and culture, and internet study for the first term of the 2015/2016 academic year. Our understanding is that the fund is now with the Ministry of Education for disbursement to the target spots very soon. Ours is to pray for it to happen.
Any discussion on free accessible and quality education without reference to effective stakeholder support is flawed. Parents, traditional authorities, NGOs, corporate bodies and philanthropists must continue to help. Heads of schools should connect their schools well to the public for possible support. Nothing debars them from using their lobbying skills correctly to seek stakeholder support for items like beds and pieces of furniture for their students.
Parent teacher associations, school management committees, old student groups, circuit supervisors, directors of education, unit committee and assembly members, district chief executives and others that matter in providing education must work hard. The GES would also keep on using its councils, boards, divisions and units to effectively implement all educational policies and programmes for the benefit of the nation and all of us.
This article extols the chief of Amanakpo in the Ningo-Prampram District of the Greater Accra Region, Nene Tawiah Sodjah, for his relentless support to education and the Amanakpo State Primary School for that matter.
The writer is a staff of the Public Relations Unit of the Ghana Education Service.