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Is SHS above Criticism, Mr. President?

By its policy frame work, every Ghanaian President from 2005 and beyond, should have seen to the full implementation of the regime that demands Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) in Ghana. The FCUBE act was introduced in 1995 and duly launched in 1996.

The policy offered a ten-year (1996-2005) period within which the policy frame work, strategies and activities that will enable the country achieve Free Compulsory Basic Education or start with the policy without much inhibitions.

The search for an education policy that will suit the Ghanaian circumstance has a date in history. The National Redemption Council (NRC) military administration of General Kutu Acheampong, in 1972, appointed the Dzobo Educational Reform Committee to carve a new structure and content for education in Ghana.

The committee submitted their report titled Report of the Educational Advisory Committee on the proposed New Structure and the Content of Education to the military administration at the time; but it ended up as one of the “best documents” still dusting on the shells.

It’s been some 16 years since the FCUBE regime came into full force; yet none of the Ghanaian leaders within the period has been committed to the full implementation of the programe. It’s been piecemeal approach with each administration justifying why they chose a certain starting point.

The NDC administration of John Evans Atta Mills and John Dramani Mahama started off with what they termed “Progressive” implementation of the FCUBE concept. The justification was that they needed to put in place enough infrastructure, mainly school buildings, before they call for full implementation of the programme.

It was a major campaign promise of then candidate Akufo Addo, in the run-up to the 2016 elections. Free Senior High School (SHS) was at the tip of the heap of promises made by Nana Addo; and Ghanaians overwhelmingly endorsed his call with massive votes counts in the 2016 elections.

As his flagship programme, Nana Addo and his administration immediately went into overdrive, implementing the Free SHS concept after his inauguration as the President of the Republic. It was a too haste a decision that seemed to satisfy a campaign promise than an ideal environment for the implementation of a Free SHC idea.

The infrastructure and human capacity levels were the same as when Ghanaians complained about congestion in schools and lack of qualified teachers. Interestingly, intake almost tripled within the first year of the Free SHS and that necessitated the introduction of the double track system.

The often cited argument was that there was the need to start with the free element in the programme in order to help many distressed Ghanaian households, hoping that more infrastructure would be provided as the programme progressed.

Many Ghanaians accepted what seemed a tangible proposition by the administration. None of the three successive administrations however considered the compulsory element in the FCUBE though. And they are aware.

That explains why they always pitch their approach against one another. It’s as if to suggest that “I know I have not been able to implement fully, the FCUBE concept; yet, our approach is better than yours”.

The President’s reply to critics at the University of Cape Coast

It’s within this mindset that many NPP folks, including the President of the Republic are at daggers with anyone that raises issues with the Free SHS concept. The President considers the concept his baby, legacy and largely oiled his populist campaign wheel to power in 2016 and 2020.

That notwithstanding, many Ghanaians, including media organizations, are of the opinion that after some five years of the implementation of the Free SHS, it’s time to subject the programme to strict prove or reality check.

The content of one of such reality checks, as captured in a documentary aired by JOY FM, stated factually what their findings were, as related to the current state of the Free SHS. The JOY FM documentary hits the President and he vouched his dissatisfaction in the strongest of terms during his honorary Doctorate decoration at the University of Cape Coast, to answer his critics.

The University of Cape Coast is the country’s foremost and highest Teacher Training University and so it offers the very backbone of education in the country. On a day that was as prestigious as that many had thought the President would rather savour the occasion, than to engage in attacks on what looks an objective scrutiny of his Free SHS concept.

The President accused the Accra based Radio Station of waging a hate campaign against the government’s flagship FREE SHS policy.

Listen to the President: “Joy FM and myjoyonline are being dishonest and disingenuous. They went after the pro-poor educational programme with the ultimate intention of running it down for reasons which are more than malicious and mischievous. It was calculated attempt to run down the policy”.

Joy FM has however refuted the President’s claim, insisting that they couldn’t have done anything in isolation or as if the disputed documentary was an opinionated piece of the station.

They argue that it was a well-balanced documentary that had inputs of all major stakeholders that included the Ghana Education Service (GES), parents, guardians and other concerned Ghanaians.

The Joy documentary restricted the scope of the discussion to the novelty tracking system which to all intent and purposes is affecting many students and their concerned parents and guardians. It did not take into accounts, the holistic implementation of the Free SHS concept, which many beneficiaries are beginning to share their frustrations.

Perhaps, the President thought the fact that he is the first President to have introduced the Free SHS meant he is accorded sweeping praises without any form of scrutiny of the programme.

It’s so confusing and nebulous, the current state of the track system. This paper discovered from thorough checks, that the First Year students who went to school in late March, this year, have returned home or vacated as far back as late April.

Obviously, they needed to leave the campuses for the final Third Year students to prepare for their finals exams. Some parents and guardians are so worried about the manner their children and wards have been in and out of their schools and are wondering what they could post in their results.

Within the period, it was the families or parents that had the means who were able to organize special private classes for their children/wards at home; others managed to take their children to the mass vacation classes organized by private teachers.

The history of such vacation classes is certainly not the best. It’s often a place where students show off their mettle; engage in all manner indiscipline acts. It’s generally not a place to guarantee you much academic success because the supervision is too poor compared to that which is assured at campuses.

The very people who often, it’s argued, the Free SHS was created for seem to be the worst hit in the tracking system. Children of these regular families cannot access home tuition nor fees for the mass classes.

The most critical issue in the whole Free SHS conundrum is this hidden truth about the late release of funds to schools. The impression is being created, as if government releases funding regularly and promptly. The answer is big No, as our findings established.

Maybe, Mr. President is not aware; but that is the stark reality. So often heads of the schools conspire with parents and the old school associations to raise funds to help cater for students.

This is often done at the blind side of the Ghana Education Service.

The head mistress and masters risk losing their positions if they dare challenge or raise the issue of funding anywhere. In the latest admissions, heads of the schools made sure they raised enough funds through other extra curriculum activities to enable them sustain the academic calendar.

Some guardians have entered into an agreement with Senior High School heads to send money regularly through a special commercial Momo accounts so that their children can be fed well; and be able to go through the academic term without much problem.

These are some of the serious problems confronting the Free SHS concept that the President should know and should rather appreciate the probing than to subject them to verbal tirades. The President cannot just be emotional about what he thinks every Ghanaian sing his praise; there is are genuine problems that ought to be tackled head on and immediately. 

Content created and supplied by: RKeelson (via Opera News )

Dzobo Educational Reform Committee Educational Advisory Committee FCUBE Free Compulsory Ghanaian

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