Feature Article of Friday, 17 August 2012

Columnist: Kuseh, Jerome Wematu

Free SHS Education vs Increased Access: What is NUGS stance?

One of the flagship promises of the leader of the opposition, Nana Akufo Addo, is to provide free senior high school education if he is given the opportunity to be president of this country. This promise has been the subject of much debate, especially after his March 5 2012 interview on BBC's HardTalk programme where he told host Stephen Sackur that the costing of the proposed policy was underway and that he will make it known to Ghanaians before disclosing it on that platform. Contrasting this is the promise by the ruling party to increase access to senior high schools by providing non-boarding SHSs to communities across the country.

I believe this is one of the few policy issues in which the approaches by the two major political parties are markedly different. It is clear that they have different ideas about what the priority in SHS education is. While policy think-tanks such as IMANI have waded into the debate, the deafening silence from the largest student body in Ghana: the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) is worrying.

My article might be ill-timed considering the current crisis in NUGS, but I believe the students of Ghana cannot sit and watch major education policies being proposed and not have their voice heard on the matter. The union owes it a duty to its constituents to place pressing issues above pettiness and power play. The general elections are barely four months away and it is time for NUGS to exhibit its clout on the political scene.

NUGS can invite political parties to submit comprehensive documents detailing their proposals for the perusal of students. The union can also make suggestions to the political parties based on its own belief about the priorities in education. It is time we understand that as students we account for a large chunk of the educated vote; we cannot allow our votes to be taken for granted. The political parties must be seen to be lobbying for our votes by tabling credible policies targeted at improving our lot.

NUGS as a union has never been far from controversy. I understand that there is an attempt by the leadership of NUGS to appear non-partisan. This is in the right direction considering the recent troubled history of the union. However, the leadership must know that we students look up to them to advocate for our best interests first, and to be diplomatic second.

Aluta Continua! Victoria Ascerta!

Jerome Wematu Kuseh