Feature Article of Mon, 20 Mar 201726
President Akufo-Addo must reconsider the Free SHS policy
By: Abdulai, Iddrisu
I say reconsider and then consider suspending or revoking the Free SHS Policy. Politics or campaigning to win power differs significantly from governance. Mr President, you are neither the first nor the last to distant yourself from a campaign promise.
A prize example comes from the United States, whose Constitution and Presidents are models for Ghana and Ghanaian Presidents including you (President Akufo-Addo). Then Candidate Trump promised banning Muslims from entering the US; that was politics. Now President Trump issued an executive order to that effect. And what happened? The executive order, and not the Muslims, was banned.
Trump conceded defeat in a sterile modest manner but re-issued another executive order with the same intent. The second order was even (temporarily) banned before it was to take effect. The reason is that politics and governance differ from each other.
My first argument that cost (= payment of schoolfees) is not one of the pressing factors militating against Ghana’s Education is the cry, lamentation or regret by the headmaster of Adisadel College in Cape Coast. Last week (12/03/2017), the headmaster Mr Kusi Yeboah announced that the College will reduce admissions for 2017/18 by 50 %. Last year, the College admitted 423 SHS 1 students instead of 920 as it did in the previous year. That is, the school reduced its admission for the last academic year by 54 %.
Concerned teachers and parents such as this writer are happy that the Hon. Samuel Atta Akyea (Minister for Works and Housing) was the guest speaker to hear that well-timed cry from the headmaster. Two important points of about the headmaster’s cry are worth noting. First, Mr William Kusi cried on behalf of all other headmasters in Ghana. Second, Hon. Atta Akyea heard the headmaster clearly on behalf of the President.
What does the cry from the headmaster mean to us (concerned parents and teachers)? Adisadel College is one of the best secondary schools in Ghana. That is, nearly all students who enrol in that school proceed to tertiary institutions. So, if good schools such as Adisadel College are reducing their intake by 50 % or more, we are concerned about where those rejected students will go to.
My dear reader, assume that you are the President of Ghana. You are told that Adisadel College alone will reject about 500 out 920 students placed by GES. Will you allocate money for the College to create (makeshift) structures to enable it admit the extra 500 students or you will allocate money to pay for all the fees of only the 400 students to be admitted? If you choose the first option, which we expect the President to consider, then you are the People’s President. Contrastingly, if you choose the second option, you are a political president and therefore discriminatory.
Then, why didn’t the parents withdraw their children from our school to the public sector? The parents want to educate their children and they know that education in the 21st Century comes at cost, which they are SACRIFACING TO PAY FOR. Their motivations are several.
One of the motivations is that placement into secondary schools is based on cut-off points. Therefore, their children are almost assured of placement in Category A SHSs if they (the parents) sacrifice and educate them in private schools such as Cosmos Schools. Conversely, the pupils from most public JHSs perform poorly at BECE and are often admitted into deprived and/or less endowed SHSs.
The medium- and long-term effect is that the students from the ‘expensive’ private schools, who usually gain admission into Category A SHSs, pass WASSCE so well and thereafter gain admissions into universities. Conversely, most pupils from the free basic schools, who usually end up in the less endowed SHSs, fail at WASSCE and must resit for the examinations or have their education terminated.
From the resit or series of resits, the REAL cost of education is higher for those from the free basic schools. As at now, the cost of attending classes and registering privately for one to three subjects at WASSCE in a remedial school in Accra is almost equal to the total cost of the secondary education in the public sector.
Accordingly, all the education interventions such as the Capitation Grant, the School Feeding Programme, the extension of SHS to 4 years, the reversal of SHS back to 3 years and the Free SHS Policy are political intrusions that solve no educational problem in Ghana. That is, the blindness of GES allows political parties to use their manifestos to amend our educational policies. Therefore, when political parties lose power, their educational policies are either modified or abolished. No serious country runs educational policies that are aligned to political regimes. As at now, it remains unknown whether this Government may re-reverse SHS back to 4 years.
What are real problems or challenges of Ghana’s education? The key challenges are three:
1. Inappropriate teacher training programmes and lack of teacher motivation
2. Incompetent and corrupt Ghana Education Service
Long live practising teachers!
By: Abdulai, Iddrisu
Graduate School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences
Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC)
PO Box LG 80
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