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Opinions of Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Columnist: Akoto, Akwasi A. Afrifa

The Five Pillars of Nana's EducationPolicy.

Section 252 of the 1992 Constitution ensures the existence of the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF). This has enabled the country to set aside a constant percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to fund DACF. The initial percentage, based on a formulae approved by parliament was pegged at 5%. It was increased to 7% under President Kufour. In 2000, An Act of Parliament (Act 581) established the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) with 21/2% of VAT receipts every fiscal year. Nana says, it is about time to "up the ante"; Nana says, let us raise the stakes for education. Nana says, when elected, he 'll set aside a percentage of the GDP to fund education.

Of the five points that Nana has so far proposed as the foundation of his education policy, the GDP fund, in my estimation, is the most important of the equally important pillars.

In two major speeches this year, one in Hamburg and the most recent, the Liberty Lectures, Nana gave Ghanaians a glimpse of the policies that he had been working on in his manifesto.

In the former, Nana outlined the first two pillars of his educational policy: Teachers First policy and the GDP Fund. And at the recent Liberty Lectures, he unveiled the other three: current SSS system - 3 or 4 year - to remain untouched; first exit point for students at the SSS level and Free education for Post JSS.

At the Liberty Lectures, Nana made an important promise to Ghanaians that " First, the next NPP administration will NOT, repeat, NOT seek to change the current JSS-SSS format for at least 4 years," .......and that he 'll not play "political football" with the education system. As we are all aware, the 4 year SSS system expires this year. To fulfil a misplaced manisfesto promise, the P-ndc, when they took power immediately set about to reverse the system back to 3 years. This has created an atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety among parents and students and citizens in general. Nana understands the need to maintain a sense of stability in the educational system. The confidence of the nation, he knows, need to be re established. Although Nana - and the NPP -may still prefer the 4 year system, he believes that continuity in this instance is paramount. Thus Nana's promise is refreshing. It is in the right direction, for the forseable future.

The second point, the second pillar Nana touched on was the need to establish the SSS as the first exist point for students. Currently, the point of exit is the JSS level. Presently, the majority of our adolescents are thrown out of school, each year and onto the "streets", ill prepared and without an extensive and a decent education. Statistics are heart breaking. They are still young then and very immature. The temptations of illicit behavior and juvenile delinquency doubles. Selling dog chains and sakawa replace Biology and History in their curreculum. Their citizenship unbringing stalls, their intellectual development retards and their future prospects diminish - wasted human resources.

In this state, Ghana can't compete in the global market which requries a little more than the "ABC." But with Nana's plan, this negative trend can be reversed. The third point in the Liberty Lectures speech was the need to make the SSS level easily accessible and incentive laden (aka FREE) - especially when it is to becomes the first exist point. This way the condition which directly creates the negative effects discussed in the second point. So Nana proposes post -JSS free education.

Once structures have been put in place to keep our children in school, then the focus shifts to tutelage, quality tutelage. That is why the first point Nana brought up in his Hamburg speech - and the fourth pillar - was the Teachers First policy. In that speech, Nana said "The future is for quality education. This means that at the heart of our education policy will be what we have called, 'Teacher First'. We are determined to put the needs of the teacher and hence the quality of tuition for our children first. Quality education will be at the very heart of the next NPP policy on education."

He then moved onto the fifth and most important pillar, " We intend to enhance quality of education.....in our overriding goal of building a new society of opportunities by committing, by legislation, a significant and constant percentage of our GDP to education. The current situation, which has seen the percentage of GDP devoted to education decreasing gradually since 2009......suffering cuts do not show a nation serious about its future."

Without money, every dream is a pipe dream. And because of money, many have been snickering behind his back, with many more taunting him openly that, his education policy is unachievable and highly infeasible. To silence his critics, Nana has shown them the magic wand. Like the DACFund, Nana says, when elected, a percentage of the GDP will be set aside with an Act of Parliament to fund education.

Backed by the GETFund and other source of funding - which the NPP has shown over the years that it can acquire, raise and contract and as evidenced by the establishment of the Capitation Grant, School feeding program, etc - plus OIL money, Nana's "Five Pillars," as of yet, is the best policy ever envisioned in the Fourth Republic. It is the best possible foundation on which the future of the country can be build.

And as Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo - Addo rightly observed, "education translates into jobs, jobs and jobs. Or we can put it the other way, ladies and gentlemen, to get jobs, we need education, education and educaction."

Akwasi A. Afrifa Akoto.