General News of Sun, 10 Sep 201794
Free SHS will destroy Ghana's Ivy League schools – Bentil
Policy analyst and Vice President of Imani Centre for Policy and Education says the country is putting its elite schools at risk with the implementation of Free Senior High School (SHS) policy.
Kofi Bentil says the development is bad for education in Ghana because every country needs its Ivy League schools.
"Every country needs to protect some institutions and make them institutions of excellence at every level. We should not destroy the Presecs, Wesley Girls, Mfantsipim, Holy Child, Ghana National Colleges, and their likes that produced us," he said.
Speaking on Joy FM/MultiTv’s news analysis programme, Newsfile Saturday, he said there is the need to produce more of such elite schools and not destroy them with policies such as the free SHS. He then enumerated five key elements that President Nana Akufo-Addo's flagship education policy must have to be successful.
Kofi Bentil says the Free Senior high school (SHS) policy should have a strong champion, political commitment by leaders, a competent implementation team, humility to accept errors and to make amends as well as a continuous improvement in the system.
Although the programme is scheduled to take off next week, Mr Bentil explained that the President has to champion it.
“I have sat down to discuss the policy with the President and we were not agreeing but he was forceful enough to say ‘I will do this no matter what. This is what we need in this country and I will find the resources for it’. “When you get that level of political commitment, there is hope. It is not like civil society coming up with an idea and the political leadership dancing around it, this is their own and they are unified about it to make it succeed," Mr Bentil said.
He said President Akufo-Addo's commitment must serve as a template for all political parties to use in policy implementation if they want to succeed.
Some disgruntled parents and guardians last Tuesday besieged the premises of the Education Ministry to express their frustration over the non-placement of their wards in their preferred schools.
During a visit to the Ministry, Joy News witnessed some unhappy parents with their wards making frantic efforts to get their preferred placement.
Some also complained of their inability to access the placement website. One parent accused officials of the Computerised School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) of placing his ward in a day school instead of a boarding school.
He alleged that because of the Government’s Free SHS policy, the ward was placed in a low rated school, which he is not happy about.
“People prefer to pay and send their wards to schools of their choice, we don’t want any free SHS,” another frustrated guardian said.
Some parents insisted that because the Government had already paid for the specified number of students under the policy, it placed them randomly in any school without recourse to their selected schools.
But Mr. Bentil who has been an ardent critic of the Free SHS policy said although he cannot speak to the competence of the team in charge of implementing the programme, "everything I see and hear gives me hope that they are on the right course.”
He said the attitude of the Deputy Education Minister and his humility to admit errors and the preparedness to make amends will take the policy far. According to him, the policy is important to the entire country, and not only the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
He said the policy may be fraught with problems currently, however, if policy implementers should keep working at it till they get it right. "Speaking as somebody who started criticising it, I am at a point where there are few things in this country which I will trust politicians on generally, but with Free SHS I think we have the best shot possible to get it right," he said.