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Opinions of Monday, 30 July 2018

Columnist: Kwaku Badu

The double track system isn’t the NDC’s headache, the Free SHS is!

My pal Jesus (not Jesus Christ of Nazareth, but Jesus of Hayes in West London) was absolutely right when he opined that the NDC operatives, who ironically pride themselves as the social democrats, are not in the business of promoting the welfare of the masses, but they are rather on a mission to advance their parochial interests by relentlessly manipulating the unsuspecting voters to gain electoral advantage.

In the past, the NDC operatives opposed social interventions that were proposed by the NPP government such as the Free Maternal Care, the NHIS, the Metro Mass Transport, the School Feeding Programme, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), and the Free SHS, amongst others.

So it is not out of the ordinary if the NDC operatives put up fierce resistance against the innovative double track Senior High School system being proposed by the Akufo-Addo’s government.

There is no denying the fact that the NDC operatives vehemently campaigned and voted against the poverty reduction Free SHS policy with unabashed disgust during the 2016 election albeit unsuccessful.

Education, as a matter of fact, drives the development of a nation, and therefore the judicious and pragmatic approach to improving accessibility and quality is not through mere political rhetoric and gimmicks, but through well-thought through policies.

Considering the enormous benefits therein education, it is, indeed, prudent and somewhat forward-thinking for the Akufo-Addo’s government to seek to bridge the ever widening social inequalities gap through rational distribution of national resources in the form of Free SHS.

It is, therefore, quite disheartening that in spite of the associated benefits, the so-called social democrats would persistently rebuke the New Patriotic Party for allegedly implementing the Free SHS policy at the expense of other developmental projects; (See: ‘Free SHS crippling other sectors-Mahama, classfmonline.com/ghanaweb.com, 24/02/2018).

I am not seeking to engage in needless political equalisation, far from it, however, it is important to note that during their tenure in office, the NDC government did not spend a pesewa on Free SHS, and yet they left huge arrears amidst unpaid salaries, crippling NHIS, malfunctioned School Feeding programme, amongst others. Does former President Mahama then want to tell discerning Ghanaians that he rather misused the funds, and hence his inability to manage those sectors efficiently?

Considering the fact that the erstwhile ambivalent and largely phlegmatic Mahama administration wilfully left behind a huge debt amidst economic meltdown, it is, indeed, estimable for Akufo-Addo’s government to afford to implement the seemingly admirable, albeit costly social intervention such as Free SHS.

Let us face it, the opposition NDC’s incessant and needless protestations against the Free SHS implementation are becoming extremely nauseating, so to speak.

How on earth would a supposedly responsible opposition persistently play down the seemingly expedient Free SHS policy?

It is, therefore, fair to stress that NDC does not fancy the Free SHS, and hence moving heaven and earth to bring down the obvious advantageous poverty alleviation policy.

Let us however be honest, the Free SHS scheme could only be sustained under the aegis of a serious, a committed and a prudent leadership, but not through an apathetic leadership.

After all, didn’t the erstwhile NDC government run down the crucial social interventions to the dismay of discerning Ghanaians?

You would think that individuals who pride themselves as social democrats will be extremely empathetic to the needs of the masses, but this is not the case with the NDC apparatchiks.

Bizarrely, though, they only sing along the social democratic rendition and then spurn the masses. It is an illustrative case of social democrats who do not know how to initiate and manage social interventions.

Given the circumstances, I bet should Ghanaians make a calamitous mistake and hand over the poverty alleviation Free SHS programme back to NDC in the near future, the supposedly social democrats will most likely suspend the programme.

The NDC naysayers must however realise that by implementing the Free SHS policy, Akufo-Addo has graciously upheld the international human rights provision on free universal secondary education, which is encapsulated in Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights.

Frankly speaking, in spite of the initial challenges, the Free SHS will suffice. So the endless attacks and unfair criticisms will not and cannot bring the scheme down.

But in the long run, the Free SHS policy will rather bring enormous benefits to the students, parents and the nation as a whole.

It is absolutely true that the universal free education has been introduced in a number of jurisdictions across our own continent, Africa. Suffice it to stress that in spite of the initial exigencies, the policy has sufficed in those jurisdictions. So, why not in Ghana?

Take, for example, in 2007, Uganda became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to introduce free universal secondary education. Under the secondary scheme, students who get specific grades in each of the four primary school-leaving exams study free in public schools and participating private schools.

The government of Kenya, in 2002, declared a universal free primary school, and followed it up with a free secondary schooling education programme in 2008.

In Namibia, a former South African colony under apartheid, primary education was declared free in 2012, while secondary education became free from 2016.

K. Badu, UK.

k.badu2011@gmail.com