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Opinions of Sunday, 20 October 2019

Columnist: Sam Jerome

The expected impacts of free SHS have been eroded by Nana Addo's bad economic policies

Education, in general, is one single investment which has multiple benefits not limited to the educated person alone, but even to the country where the person hails from. Formal education as in schooling has become of much imperative in the development of all nations across the globe. It is believed that nations with weaker education system and low level of formal education are the poorest.

This is so because that nation will be lagging behind in terms of present-day technology which has been spearheading the development of nations. In this regard, almost all nations have resorted to investing in high informal education.

Ghana as a nation can't be left out in this regard as well. Knowing how imperative education is, as even entrenched in our constitution, the Education Ministry has been receiving the highest amount of Ghana's budget since the inception of the fourth Republic. It is believed that the introduction of the *Progressive Free SHS* by former President Mahama and the rendition of President Akufo Addo's free SHS has further shot the budget of the Education Ministry higher.

The introduction of free SHS by Nana Addo and his government has the following objects;

*1 To relieve parents from the burden of paying fees thereby saving them some money*

*2 Givimg opportunity to pupils who couldn't have gone to school due to poverty*

Emphasising on these objects, one would ideally praise the government but interestingly, this hasn't been the case.

Dealing with the first point which seek to bring relieve to parents and saving them money, the Nana Addo government has failed. This has been so due to some ill thought policies of the Nana Addo government. Let us take into consideration the case of the *cocoa farmer at Sefwi Wiawso*.

The cocoa farmer until the Nana Addo government was receiving free fertilizers for his cocoa though was paying fees. For every one acre of cocoa, one requires three bags of fertilizers for the whole year which means that the cocoa farmer will require thirty(30) bags of fertilizers for ten acres of cocoa. Knowing that one bag of fertilizers is sold at Ghc80 under Nana Addo, the NDC government under President Mahama was given away a substantial amount of *Ghc2400* freely to the cocoa who was even paying a boarding fees of maximum *Ghc350* per term and *Ghc1050* per year. This means that there will still be savings of *Ghc1350.*

Calculation. *Ghc80×30 bags = Ghc2400* for the fertilizer.

*Ghc350×3 =Ghc1050* for the yearly school fees for the boarder. *Ghc2400-1050 = Ghc1350* as savings as a result of the free fertilizer distribution by former President Mahama and the NDC.

With the introduction of free SHS, the farmer was expected to enjoy his or her full savings of *Ghc2400* since there wouldn't be the payment of any school fees. But this has not been the case. Due to Nana Addo's policy to sell fertilizer to the farmers at *Ghc80*, the same farmer who was even saving *Ghc1350* per year when paying fees, is now incurring a total cost of *Ghc2400* per year under free SHS of Nana Addo. This can't be said to be of a relieve to the farmer at all.

Let again use the taxi driver as an example. A taxi driver who is driving a Toyota Corolla and was filling his tank with 14 gallons of petrol at *Ghc15* during the time of John Mahama and NDC with a total cost of *Ghc210* every two days is now incurring additional *Ghc10* cost of purchasing same one gallon of petrol which is now *Ghc25* under Nana Addo through SHS is free.

Simple arithmetics. Let assume the driver under Mahama after filling his car at a cost of *Ghc210* will use it for two days which means *Ghc105* per day. Multiply Ghc105×365 days which will give you Ghc38,325 per year. Now add the terminal boarding fees of his ward which is Ghc350×3 = Ghc1050 per year. Now add 38,325+1050 = Ghc39,375. This will be the total expenditure of the taxi driver who was buying fuel at Ghc15 and paying SHS boarding fees under Mahama and the NDC.

Ideally, this should be lesser under Nana Addo because of free SHS where the driver isn't paying any more boarding fees but this isn't the case. Now same one gallon of fuel is sold at Ghc25 so the driver who was filling his car at the cost Ghc210 at peak with 14 gallons will incur additional Ghc140 totalling Ghc350. Let assume that the driver again uses it for two days so Ghc175 per day. 175×365 =Ghc63,875which is far higher than what he was incurring under John Mahama whilst paying SHS fees in addition. Ghc63,875-39,375 = Ghc24,500.This clearly means that the taxi driver is incurring additional Ghc24,500under Nana Addo and his free SHS policy. This defeat the object of saving the poor citizenry some cash due to free SHS implementation.

On the second object which is to provide opportunity for pupils which hitherto the free SHS couldn't go to school due to poverty, this I must is true. The implementation of the free SHS has increased the number of enrolment at the SHS level but with no corresponding effect in quality of education. It is an undeniable fact that the quality of Ghana's education especially at the second cycle level has been compromised. This isn't fictitious but true as it has even been reported by the

World Bank Human Capital Index 2019 which was published by Graphic Online on the 18th June, 2019 edition.

According to the World bank, Ghana was among the five last Africa countries which scored lowest mark in the rating. They continued that there isn't any quality in our second cycle education though enrolment has gone up.

This is indeed not good for our educational system and the beneficiary students as well. What will become of them after spending three years of quantitative education without quality? This amounts to nothing I must say.

The next NDC government under President Mahama will ensure the following so the full benefits of free SHS will be realised by all parties.

1. President Mahama will restore free distribution of fertilizer to farmers in other to cut down their cost and expenditure in addition to given to them quality free SHS.

2. ESLA will be adjusted to cause fuel prices to go down so drivers will be relieved and enjoy the full benefits of free SHS.

3. Quality education will be assured by which enough classrooms and general infrastructure will be provided to enhance teaching and learning at the second cycle level.

I wish to implore all Ghanaians to think through and know that Nana Addo and his government didn't come for their good and gains but rather to worsen their situation.

God bless our homeland Ghana.