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Arthur Kennedy writes on Free SHS

Arthur Kennedy K Arthur Kennedy

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 Source: Arthur Kennedy

Ghana has begun implementation of one of the NPP government's key campaign pledges; the introduction of free SHS education!

According to the government, it has disbursed 280 million Ghana cedis (about 70 million USD), for the education of nearly 440 thousand students. There has never been this much excitement since the early days of the Nkrumah regime. A song has been released in celebration.

As usual, the reactions have taken on PARTISAN colours. Some members of the opposition National Democratic Congress are already attacking the new policy and its implementation.

The respected and normally measured Professor Adam Bodomo of University of Vienna has questioned the commitment of the governing right of center NPP to the policy as well as its ability to implement it on ideological grounds.

To begin with, the right of every citizen to education, together with the obligation of every government to provide the same, is enshrined in article 25 of the 1992 constitution.

Thus governments have been derelict in not providing it. Furthermore, as President Akufo-Addo stated, "The policy is not about NPP or NDC; the beneficiaries will not only be NPP sympathisers; they will be Ghanaians".

And the provision of free education is firmly grounded in conservatism-- education increases productivity, profitability and GDP. And it reduces poverty-- big time. Helping to mitigate poverty is at the core of the biblical injunction to care for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Liberals can of course come to the same point by looking at empowerment and equality. As Richard Nixon stated after reading Jenkin's biography of Disreali, "It is Tory men with liberal principles who change the world".

That is why Nixon started the Environmental Protection Agency and reached out to China. That is also why Kufuor introduced NHIS and School Feeding. To be fair, the introduction of a policy, as good as Free SHS does not equal success.

However, given how much we lose to corruption, this policy and the government which introduced it deserve support. The NDC must help this policy to succeed, so that we can set the pace in tackling Africa's educational challenges.

Amongst these are inadequate access and poor quality at the primary level. As Bill Gates stated while on a tour to promote school lunch, "School lunch in particular is about education; getting kids to come so that they are energetic enough to really learn while they are there". He is right.

According to the Learning barometer by Brookings institute, in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Zambia, half of children do NOT learn basic skills by the end of primary school. This trend exist all over the continent.

At the tertiary level, while enrollment doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to Harvard Business Review, African Universities are "decoupled from societies or markets".

No wonder that of the 10 million graduates from African Universities who graduated 2 years ago, half are still unemployed. The article suggested that African Universities should focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

Unfortunately, even Science universities produce more arts graduates than science graduates. As educationists at every level, without commensurate resource investments in infrastructure and personnel, improved access may reduce quality.

Meanwhile, despite having 46% of the world's arable land, in 2016, Africa spent 35 billion USD importing food.

Add to these brain-drain and adult illiteracy and the scope of Africa's problem is clear.

We should commend the GHANA government and urge others to emulate them instead of criticising them. Ideology should not matter. As Deng Xiaping said, "It does not matter whether a cat is white or black as long as it catches mice". Let Africa move forward on education.

Arthur K Email: arkoke@aol.com

Columnist: Arthur Kennedy
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