Free SHS cautioner is not a Doomsayer

The Free SHS is about to begin this September and we all pray it starts successfully. That notwithstanding, there are few issues we must discuss dispassionately to scrutinize to unearth some of the possible hitches the system may encounter. Undoubtedly, the last administration implemented certain prudent policies in the education sector with the introduction of a number of new policies, building of new schools, renovation of dilapidated buildings, supply of free text books, special training for our teachers, support for the “girl-child”, supply of laptops, building of libraries etc.

Government has still not furnished Ghanaians with a deliberate system of principles which are going to guide decisions. We’ve not been told how the programme is going to be funded, welfare policy for the teachers and other relevant facts about the programme. What we must know is that many good things can become bad and destructive. I am happy some renowned educationists have started asking questions and offering technical advise. We cannot afford to allow the free SHS programme go wrong and become a hindrance to development. The issue demands dispassionate attention and and vigilance, the productivity of the policy must critically be evaluated. We must know how much of our taxes will go into funding the programme and where alternative funding would be generated from.

We must look at the capacity of our tertiary institutions to accommodate graduates from our secondary schools. Already, huge percentage of our younger population, irrespective of their meritorious performance in the BECE exams fail to secure a university place and already the unemployment “danger” bell is ringing across the country. This is because the products of education are becoming a burden to the country through unemployment. We must avoid the situation where the politicians will start blaming teachers for problems their reckless and unplanned programmes may bring. Teachers’ welfare issues must also be considered seriously to avoid a situation where our teachers will start saying goodbye due to inappropriate job prospects or reasonable standard of living. If we don’t handle issues about our teachers well, we shall surely see them cry for help in the media, on our political platforms and may end up on our streets with their placards. If we do not bury our partisan positions and start seeking for the relevant answers our education may end up in shambles and will only groom more passive citizens.

The end result would be continuation of the old phenomenon. The state universities will become a national burden with little productivity. Politicisation of our education and lack of funding can inflict fatal injury to our education. The issue lack of standard will surely come to light and will show in the conduct of exams and may follow in the universities if no act is taken.

We must prevent re-occurrence of what happened to the Getfund and other statutory funds in the past where government will divert funds for the programme into other areas as a result of poor returns from implementation of white elephant projects such as monkey sanctuary, massive public toilets combined with steadily increasing government burden on loan repayments. If we hastily implement the programme, government will have no option but to spend less and less on modernisation of education, its upliftment and training of teachers. Few details the government has announced suggest that it will squeeze on spending which may automatically affect student facilities and teachers welfare and in the end, make life unpleasant for the students and school authorities. We must look beyond the political jargon so that we don’t end up producing student population who are insecure of their future, less focused, politicised and violent. It should not become a throttle instituted by politicians against the nation.

Corruption tag and issues about education have become potent political message and weapon but discerning citizens must openly denounce political parties that are not wholeheartedly committed to promote education. This government’s commitment is limited to some words its posture and activities do not suggest genuine interest in enhancing education and indeed, a political party without a strong and leading policy on its own SHS programme has nothing much to offer this nation.

Source: Ohenenana Obonti Krow

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