The Free Senior High School programme is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, socio-political policy under the fourth republic.
The announcement of this policy was applauded by both citizens and non-citizens of Ghana.
Even the National Democratic conress (NDC), which happens to be the biggest opposition party was in support of this idea only that they believed it should have been rolled out more progressively, in other words, more systematically.
It has been almost four years since the programme commenced and Ghanaians are very much aware of the problems confronting it; headmasters are complaining of delayed funds from government, students and teachers are complaining about the unavailability of textbooks, in fact the problems are varied.
In spite of all these confrontations, two powerful interventions are sure to revive the programme for government to win back the confidence of the citizenry.1. Due to the high cost of running the programme, Free SHS should be enjoyed by only students in their second and final years in school.
The programme should be like a scholarship scheme that is enjoyed on merit. Free SHS, in my view, should not be for all students, at least for now.
The programme should only be enjoyed by students who excel academically in their first year so that they will be enrolled on the programme when they get to second year.
Students who fail to excel in their first year should be made to pay school fees in their second year.
This will achieve two major feats;
a. First year students will take their studies serious in order to enjoy free SHS in their second year. There will also be a drastic reduction in incidences of absenteeism, lateness and unhealthy relationships between opposite sexes.
b. There will be less burden on the government and so the scanty financial resources will be able to run the programme more smoothly and efficiently.
c. Parents in a bid to get some financial relief will ensure their wards study hard.
2. Free SHS should not be a one-time premium.
The programme should be arranged such that students who fail to excel academically will lose their status from non-fee-paying to fee-paying in their second and final year.
It is good for government to be willing to think about the future of these students but the students must also show some will.
It should not be as if government is forcing students to go to school to study free of charge. Students should be made to express their acceptance of the programme by means of high academic outputs.
So it is quite simple; parents pay their wards' fees in first year, their wards get the Free SHS scholarship in their second year based on their performance in first year. If they fail to perform in their first year they must pay school fees in their second year as well.
If they pay fees in second year and excel this time around they will enjoy the Free SHS in third year.
However, if students who excelled in their first year and enjoyed the scholarship in second year fail to perform in second year, they will be taken off the scholarship so that they pay fees in their final year(the third year)The programme should be motivational and enjoyed on merit.
The indiscipline in our schools these days is unbearable, to the extent where a student picks a phone, records a video and insults the president of the land. The students should be made to understand that any form of gross indiscipline will make them lose their status on the scheme(from non-fee-paying to fee-paying).
Free SHS should be something that encourages students to learn hard and exhibit high levels of discipline. It should not merely be enjoyed as a birth right.
This will motivate the majority of students to take the right path.
My suggestions will exclude some students from the programme but it is clear that qualitu is better than quantity.
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