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Opinions of Friday, 19 June 2020

Columnist: Kweku Mensah Amponsah

The Free SHS implementation by Nana Akufo Addo - policy or politics


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The dernier cri in Ghana political scene today has been the two major political parties NPP and NDC, bragging about their policy initiatives and implementations and priding themselves with these as their remarkable achievements. Whiles the advent of these bragging has created a competition in performance in governance, the horrible side of it has been how policies are initiated and implemented without consulting further logic as to whether some of these policies are not going to be injurious, hurtful and unsustainable in both the short run and long run. For the purposes of this work, policy will mean any plans, strategies or decisions aimed at addressing problems whiles “Politics” will denote the opposite of policy which will mean any plans, actions or decisions with the topmost aim of winning votes.

This write up discusses the free SHS implementation by his Excellency Nana Akufo Addo, weighing it logically after testing it with growth and developmental litmus variables such poverty reduction, Illiteracy reduction etc.

The formulation of the free SHS policy is not a magic done by his president Akufo Addo. In other words, the idea that senior high Schools should be feeless was not worked out by the brains of Nana Addo or his NPP. The origin of free SHS can be traced to Article 25 of the 1992 constitution which, in summary, states that Ghana should introduce free education in all forms of the second cycle such vocational, technical and senior, in a progressive manner. In fact, even article 25 has it that Ghana should make tertiary education free in a progressive manner. A simple research about who drafted the 1992 constitution will give one information about who and who are the brains behind the formulation of free SHS policy.

One thing the constitution is silent about with respect to free second cycle education is on the time frame to implement the policy and the circumstances and conditions to cause such implementation. The Constitution does not point out where the free second cycle education should begin i.e, whether from technical, vocational or senior or is to be implemented at a goal to cover all the second cycle sectors. The free SHS policy started achieving its fame in 2008 electioneering campaigns when Nana Akufo Addo used the policy as his campaign mantra, reciting it on every single political platform he staged. Since then the Free SHS has be part and parcel of the Nana ADDO and the NPP campaigns even today as I speak.

The implementation of the Free SHS began under the watch of John Dramani Mahama as the president of Ghana. John Mahama limited his implementation to the provisions of article 25 of the 1992 constitution, which prescribed that the free SHS policy should be implemented in a progressive manner. The word progressive was key to him because it represented and preserved the essence of quality of education whiles increasing enrolment. He began the implementation of the policy by scrubbing the tuition fees whiles expanding infrastructures in existing but less endowed SHS in the country.

He also planned on expanding the number of senior high Schools in the country by starting the establishment of 123 out of 200 promised community SHS across the country. He also envisaged the need to increase the number of tertiary institutions in Ghana. In my candid opinion, John Mahama failed to sigh warning to headmasters of senior high Schools to deter them from taking unauthorized fees from the students, but it happened so the free was not felt.

Nana Akufo Addo implemented the free SHS in the year 2017 without ifs or buts. He scrubbed the fees away and adopted the double track system to cater for high enrolment. Without answering the question of quality, President Akufo Addo's government has been explaining that better we start the implementation now and solve the problems with it later. Also, if we delay what happens to those who cannot afford to pay for their way through? The rationale behind Nana Addo led government implementation of free SHS is to clear the finance barrier so that there will be equal access to senior high education by both the rich and the poor.

To be a policy and as a policy, the essence right away from the 1992 Constitution, of the free SHS was conceived to solve multiple problems but the two major problems are high rate of poverty and its associated problems and high illiteracy rate and its associated problems.

High rate of poverty: it is an undeniable fact that most people in Ghana are poor and that they find it difficult to pay for the fees of their children at the secondary School level. The issue of failing to further their education at the second level becomes harmful when considering females for instance, because for such a failure and coupled with high financial difficulties in the home, they end up marrying at the unexpected ages and by ages 35 to 42, they produce abnormal number of babies and spread the same hardship to the next generation and increases the population of the country.

So, what must be done?

To make education free because of poverty in the short run, you should also think of ending the poverty in the long run by implementing the policy that will seek to help the person from the second cycle up to the period of securing employment so as to give meaning of tackling the issue of poverty, high fertility, unemployment.

On the issue of high illiteracy, there is high illiteracy rate which also affect the country. Your personal observation will tell you that areas in Accra where the people are elite have good sanitation than where the majority are illiterate. The issue of illiteracy has to do with mental capital needed to use modern technology to increase output in all sectors of the Economy, and also knowing the consequences of our actions and inactions on the environment and how they tend to affect our lives reciprocally.

The issue of high illiterate vis a vis the issue of high poverty rate provides other issues such as poor sanitation, low productivity, unemployment, low economic growth etc.

Now, by tackling these issues the free education as a good policy should have tackled issues from the technical and vocational institutions where not only mental skills are giving but also practical knowledge on certain jobs are given so that graduate could be employed by someone or could employ themselves. In other words, the policy should have been implemented in the technical and vocational sector of the second cycle with the motive of easing financial burdens on poor people in accessing secondary education in the short run whiles reducing poverty in the long run since upon graduation one could employ himself or could be employed. With the issue of illiteracy, the provision such technical and vocational education just like the senior high education will provide the same solution.

A critical look at the Free SHS implementation by Nana Akufo-Addo led government indicates a failure in solving these problems as a country.

It appears to be solving the issue of high illiteracy and its associated problems but the hasty implementation of the policy without adequate preparation has birthed the double track system which has posed a serious threat to the quality of human resourced graduates needed to transform their knowledge into solving these problems.
The reduction of contact hours by the double track system has disrupted the quality of education and will probably lead to producing educated illiterates in the country.

It also appears that, the implementation of free SHS by Nana Akufo Addo led government offers no solution to reducing unemployment which has been pulling the legs of our country from attaining development status over years. The trend of theory-based education is known for producing graduates whom have been chasing the government and the few private entities for jobs and over the years the number of these graduates have escalated more than normal. The rise in high level of graduate unemployment has even led to interventions like NABCO where graduates are offered undeserved salaries at the end of the month and upon all these, the same government has implemented a programme which will, in the long run, produce more graduates from the same trend of liberal education and compound the unemployment rate.

From the high level of unemployment that will be recorded in the long run, the associated problems would include perpetuating poverty of these people and their family in the long run.

From the same unemployment, the implementation would pose a security threat to our economy. At the current unemployment rate borne out by this liberal education, we have witnessed high robbery cases, scamming and fraud in our country. Popular is the mobile money fraud where intellectuals, in fact educated people impersonate themselves as officials of our telecommunication networks, speaking English like these Telecom workers and dubbing people huge sums of money. We have also witnessed educated people channelling their knowledge into scamming others here in Ghana and beyond. In the long run, the policy will push more of these graduates into these kinds of uncharacteristic professions and posing security threat to our beloved country.

Few of these graduates will make meaningful life out this policy implementation and most of them will not benefit from the policy in the long run. The analysis follows and follow to eternity.

My expectations: The government should finish establishment of the E-blocks to abolish the double track system to ensure the quality of the free SHS.

The government should maintain the status quo at the senior high schools but should introduce a grade quota and at the same time extend the free education to technical and vocational sector from the second cycle to tertiary level to divert students attention from liberal education which has been injurious to both families and the country. By this, we can tackle the multiple problems at family level and the problems of the country at a goal.

Conclusion: a clear indication of the analysis above shows that the free SHS implementation by Nana Akufo Addo fails to fit into the essence of the meaning of the word “policy” by failing to tackle multiple problems in both short run and long run, for that reason it is only motivated by winning the votes of the masses and not to address practical problems elaborated above. It is worth noting that, partial financing of the implementation of this programme is through borrowing, which also poses a threat to a developing country, which economically does not make sense.
For this reason, the free SHS by Nana Akufo can only be described as popular but hurtful policy and thus it’s politics and not a policy.

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