On Mahama’s second coming: Why Free SHS could be under serious threat

President John Mahama Former President John Dramani Mahama

Sun, 2 Sep 2018 Source: Kwaku Badu

There is no denying or hiding the fact that the NDC faithful blissfully campaigned and voted against the poverty reduction Free SHS policy with unabashed disgust during the 2016 election.

In fact, it would only take a disputatious character to contend that education does not drive the development of a nation.

Considering the crucial role of education in the nation building, the judicious approach to improving accessibility and quality is not through mere political rhetoric and gimmicks, but through well-thought through policies such as the Akufo-Addo’s Free SHS policy.

Thus, it is, indeed, prudent and somewhat forward-thinking for Akufo-Addo’s government to seek to bridge the ever widening social inequalities gap through rational distribution of national resources in the form of Free SHS.

It is therefore quite disheartening that despite the enormous benefits in education, Ex-President Mahama and his NDC apologists could castigate the New Patriotic Party for allegedly implementing the Free SHS policy at the expense of other developmental projects; (See: ‘Free SHS crippling other sectors-Mahama, classfmonline.com/ghanaweb.com, 24/02/2018).

Former President Mahama is reported to have said during one of the NDC’s controversial unity health walks: “The problem this government is facing and it is in their own interest, is that, Free Senior High School is absorbing all the fiscal space they have and so almost every money you have, you are having to put it into Free Senior High School. So you can’t pay District Assemblies Common Fund, you can’t pay NHIS (National Health Insurance Scheme), you can’t pay GET Fund (Ghana Education Trust Fund), you can’t pay other salaries and things because all your money is going into Free Senior High School.”

Let us be honest, Ex-President Mahama’s assessment of the situation does not add up. It is indeed weird and to some large extent oxymoronic, in the sense that the Free SHS programme has its own allocated budgetary funds, independent of the other sectors.

I am not seeking to engage in any political equalisation, far from it, however, it is important to note that during his tenure in office, former President Mahama did not spend a pesewa on Free SHS, and yet he left huge arrears amidst unpaid salaries, crippling NHIS, malfunctioned School Feeding programme, amongst others. Does former President Mahama then want to tell discerning Ghanaians that he rather misused the funds, and hence his inability to manage those sectors efficiently?

Considering the fact that the erstwhile ambivalent Mahama administration willfully left behind a huge debt amidst economic meltdown, it is, indeed, estimable for Akufo-Addo’s government to afford to implement the seemingly admirable, albeit costly social intervention such as Free SHS.

Verily, the opposition NDC’s incessant and needless protestations against the Free SHS implementation have been extremely nauseating, so to speak.

It is, therefore, fair to stress that NDC does not fancy the Free SHS, and hence moving heaven and earth to bring down the seemingly advantageous poverty alleviation policy.

Let us however be honest, the Free SHS scheme could only be sustained under the aegis of a serious, a committed and a prudent leadership, but not through an apathetic leadership.

After all, didn’t the erstwhile Mahama government run down the crucial social interventions to the dismay of discerning Ghanaians?

You would think that individuals who pride themselves as social democrats will be extremely empathetic to the needs of the masses, but this is not the case with the NDC apparatchiks.

Unfortunately, though, they only sing along the social democratic rendition and then turn their back on the masses. It is an illustrative case of social democrats who do not know how to initiate and manage social interventions.

Given the circumstances, I bet should Ghanaians make a calamitous mistake and hand over the poverty alleviation Free SHS programme back to NDC government in the near future, the supposedly social democrats will most likely suspend the programme.

The NDC naysayers must however realise that by implementing the Free SHS policy, Akufo-Addo has graciously upheld the international human rights provision on free universal secondary education, which is encapsulated in Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights.

Frankly speaking, in spite of the initial challenges, the Free SHS will suffice. So the endless attacks and unfair criticisms will not and cannot bring the scheme down.

In a grand scheme of things, the process of development – human development – in the form of Akufo-Addo’s Free SHS, should at least create an environment for people, individually and collectively, to develop to their full potential and to have a reasonable chance of leading productive and creative lives that they value.

Columnist: Kwaku Badu
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