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Opinions of Monday, 1 October 2012

Columnist: Kpebu, Seidu

SHS education to be privatized

… as Nana Addo sells a highly coded policy to Ghanaians and confirmed by Yaw Buabeng Asamoah

By Seidu Kpebu

“We’ll be remembered more for what we destroy than what we create” – Chuck Palahniuk

History, they say, exists to guide us so that when events are repeated we can decipher and proffer solutions to them. Privatising the Ghanaian economy and every satellite institution in Ghana has always, and indeed, will continue to be the policy and ideology of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). They are ultra capitalists who believe that Government has no ‘business being in business’ and that every institution of state must be privatized.

Paradoxically, they are proposing a ‘free’ Senior High School (SHS) education which will place quantity over quality and substance. The Deputy Communications Director of the NPP, Yaw Buabeng Asamoah, boasted on ‘Eko sii-sen’ programme on Asempa FM on Thursday September 27th that: “NPP, we are private sector party”; by extension public education will be provided through outsourcing services to the private sector.

Interestingly, the NPP, led by Nana Akufo Addo, have gone back to the same script they used in the 2000 elections where they promised to transform Ghana into an industrialized nation; they promised to build sky-scrappers for all Zongo communities; they promised to construct first class railway line to the north; turn all ‘chop bars’ into restaurants and finally promised to give every youth of this country a job: remember they failed to deliver in any of these areas. These promises were designed to affect the psyche of Ghanaians into believing that the NPP was capable of improving their lives.

A trip down memory lane will expose the mischief behind the free SHS promise of the NPP. Permit me to digress a little bit before getting back to the issue under consideration. When the NPP took over the reign of governance in 2001, and true to their ideology, they ran down state institutions and labeled them non-performing and then put them on divestiture. For instance, a proud and nationalistic Ghana Airways was ran down and sold to NPP members; a security strategic institution like Ghana Telecom was ran-down and sold to Vodafone for a pittance. Every country takes steps to protect its citizenry and a communication installation or institution manned by foreigners is a security threat to Ghana. But the NPP did not care so long as that deal satisfied the bidding of their masters. The list of institutions the NPP government ran-down and sold is tall and I won’t be able to state all, but I believe the two mentioned above will suffice.

Now back to the ‘free’ SHS education debate. The NPP is planning to reenact the same scenarios in the education sector IF they get the nod in the forth coming December 2012 elections. Decoding the ‘free’ SHS promise, one will realize that they are planning to run-down public SHS education thereby making it unattractive to parents, who will then prefer private SHS education to the public SHS. In this regards, the NPP businessmen/women will then invest in establishing more SHS to take advantage of the new opportunities in that sector.

Proprietors of private basic education argue that they cannot compete with the public sector in running SHS education in Ghana. According to one proprietor who wants to remain anonymous, the public SHS is heavily subsidized by government and therefore makes it impossible for the private sector to compete favourably with them. He believes that Nana Akufo Addo’s promise of ‘free’ SHS is designed to create opportunities for the private sector to invest in running private SHS education. NPP entrepreneurs are secretly celebrating their luck waiting for the new opportunities to be created in the event of a Nana Addo election.

Another hidden code in the ‘free’ SHS education conundrum is that, services in all SHS schools will be outsourced to the private sector. The argument the NPP will then raise is that there are challenges in the SHS education and the only way to improve the system is to bring in private investors to provide services such as accommodation, feeding, sanitation and then give subventions to individual schools to buy logistics from the open market.

Outsourcing these services will drive-up the cost of education and parents will be asked to bear the extra cost of providing quality education in the public sector. In view of this mischief, the ‘free’ SHS policy is receiving an incredible support from some private sector lobbyists who believe that private SHS education sector is a mine field for NPP entrepreneurs as they stand to make gargantuan profits on their investments. This is referred to as education for SALE.

Free education policy promulgated and implement in good faith, like Dr Kwame Nkrumah did, is what Ghanaians are asking for but not ‘free’ education well coded and with strings attached. The question is not about implementation but about trust, commitment, quality education, infrastructure and resource availability.

The private sector lobbyists have incredibly exposed the hidden code behind Nana Addo’s flagship ‘free’ SHS policy. The NPP will put an extreme pressure on the National Accreditation Board (NAB) to issues accreditations to loyalists who wish to set-up private SHS. In what they will call business enabling environment, they will ask the NAB to waiver many requirements for the award of accreditations. Many Private SHS will be established throughout the country as the education sector becomes an industry driven by profit.

Between January 2001 and January 2009, Ghana saw the proliferation of new private schools; some can best be described as mushrooms, who charge sky high fees and delivering little. The marketing strategy of these private proprietors is to maintain decent school environment and charge high fees. This trend of recklessly awarding licenses to businesses to set-up schools will be revisited under an NPP administration.

Some members of the NPP are beginning to doubt the $78 million per annum figure Nana Addo churned out when he appeared on the IEA political platform. His nephew Gabby Otchere Darko is said to have suggested that his uncle Nana Addo reviewed the figure considering the reality on the ground. This is exactly what the NPP will do IF they come to power. They will renege on this policy promise and blame others for their inability to implement it. Ghanaians who support this policy are so estranged from reality to understand the deception behind it. Such people should brace themselves for a harbinger of wicked betrayal.

In part two of this write-up I shall be seeking the views of Ghana’s development partners, including the Britton Woods institutions; that is the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), who themselves are increasing school fees in their own countries. Since our national budget is supported by donor countries, it is only fair to seek their opinion on this utopian policy.

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