Pay for Your Child’s Education if

Tue, 4 Sep 2012 Source: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku

... You Object to Fee-Free SHS Policy!

I am constantly being troubled by the display of insensitivity on the part of government functionaries with regard to the current debate on fee-free secondary education. The flag-bearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has been vilified by his political opponents for reasons only understood by these ‘enemies of progress’. The pronouncements from members of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) seem to portray the proposed policy as a prohibited item. Even though the message has been well-received by all manner of people – “Kayayes” (head potters), truck pushers, street children, market women, commercial drivers etc, the very people who are the custodians of the national purse are trying hard to thwart Nana Addo’s genuine effort. In any serious country where much value is put on education, this simple but useful Campaign message could easily win the Presidential Slot for any Presidential Candidate. But what do we see in our case? May be December 7 will prove to the world how serious and ready we are as a nation to move our beloved country to another level of her developmental agenda.

For Nana Akufo-Addo, the positive impact of formal education on his life and that of his family can never be underestimated. He would not allow his own conscience to haunt him and find him guilty when children sell dog chains on road sides. As a responsible father, he can’t gloss over the predicament of over 180,000 graduates who go astray every year under his presidency. As a great thinker, Nana Addo does not understand why Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) should be a point of exit, and more seriously determine a child’s destiny. As a visionary, he foresees the potential threat the current situation poses to our survival as humans. As an economist, businessman, and astute politician, Akufo-Addo does not see the sense in making poverty a barrier to a child’s progress and Ghana’s economic independence. In view of the above, he has vowed to provide free secondary education for every Ghanaian child, if given the mandate on December 7. What else do we want to hear from this man and what is Akufo-Addo’s crime?

With this touching message from a Presidential Aspirant, the pessimists, mostly from the NDC are of the opinion that Ghana in her present circumstance is not financially capable to make this educational investment a reality. However, instead of coming out with meaningful ideas on how to implement, fund, and sustain the programme, certain people in ministerial positions are insisting that fee-free SHS could compound the existing unemployment problem in the country. But are these ministers without jobs after acquiring basic, secondary, and tertiary levels of education during their time? May be we need to wait for answers from the likes of Nunoo Mensah, Tony Aidoo, and Kwadwo Adu Asare. Even in their current comfortable positions, James Agyenim Boateng and other deputy ministers have had time to further their education at the expense of the taxpayer.

What is so pathetic about the phenomenon is the stance taken by the “Youthful” President, John Dramani Mahama. It is on record that that John Mahama’s late father paid absolutely nothing towards all his 19 children’s education, even though as former minister of state in the 1st Republic he had the means to do so. If free education has made John Mahama a Member of Parliament, Minister of State, Vice President, and now a “Caretaker” President, then the Ghanaian child would like to know why free education has suddenly become an “evil commodity” under his transitional presidency. Again, why should John Mahama vehemently oppose the same educational policy when he knows that other Ghanaian children could either be like him or be better than him in the near future, given the same opportunity? Is John Mahama not guilty of his own conscience or he is objecting to the policy because the idea is coming from his main political opponent?

I hope John Mahama is listening attentively to the voices of millions of poverty-stricken Ghanaians and will have a second thought on fee-free SHS. If John Mahama’s own brother has made history as the first ever Ghanaian to own a private jet, if free education in the 3 Northern Regions has produced the likes of Martin Amidu, Dr. Bawumia, Haruna Iddrisu, Alban Bagbin, the late Dr. Limann, among others, then it is only morally appropriate and socio-economically sensible to do the same for the kids of other taxpayers since they are also Ghanaians. What is good for goose, they say, is equally good for the gander. If free secondary education is not possible in our present circumstance, then all those enjoying it now should be made to pay for it until such a time that the policy would be extended to cover all the 10 regions.

Unless the NDC comes out to state categorically that the contributions of Dr. Hilla Limann, Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni, Dr. Edward Mahama, Cletus Avoka, Dr. Benjamin Kumbuor etc are of no significance to the development of our dear nation; unless they are able to declare the sources of funding for government’s developmental projects – dams, roads, hospitals, stadia etc; and unless they set the record straight on how our tax revenue, loans, grants, export revenue are utilised, they should stay away from Nana Addo’s resolve to make life better for the ordinary people.

If the government of Ghana, under the NDC has been able to make Ghana, a “debt free” nation by paying all dubious judgement debts from Nkrumah’s era, then it is incumbent upon the same government to find money for a similar, if not more important cause. Problems are created to be solved and it only takes a critical mind to do that. God in His infinite wisdom, as John Mahama would say, gave human beings wisdom in order to differentiate us from other animals. And having gone through formal education over a period, mankind has added more value to such a natural gift. Therefore, if we cannot maximise our natural wisdom and intellectual wisdom to solve problems created by ourselves, including our educational problems, then how different are we from animals, trees, and stones? If our policy makers are convinced that they cannot critically think to solve the myriad of problems confronting our nation, then I suggest we expand the Mental Hospital in Ankaful to accommodate them.

“No problem in the world can withstand a sustained assault of thinking” and this the simple advice Voltaire gives to people who have cemented their brains with mortar. And to this, Prophet Bob Marley would say; “when there is a will, there is always a way”. The time to free our minds from mental slavery is long overdue. Let’s engage our minds and see how this policy could see the light. Education has proven to be the only weapon to kill the socio-economic enemies of poverty, diseases, and ignorance. If Ghana needs to fill her man-power gaps through the provision of qualified teachers, nurses, doctors, and other professionals, then we should be aware that the secondary level of education cannot be thrown overboard. We can’t jump our JHS graduates from basic education level to the tertiary level. These young graduates need to pass through the secondary stage and this gives a clear indication as to how critical secondary education is to our country’s development. It is thus imperative for every child to enjoy this fundamental and constitutional right, the cost notwithstanding.

The benefits of fee-free SHS override the cost in every aspect. Even if the explicit cost of secondary education is high, we should have the capacity to manage the cost, and prioritise the public expenditure to ensure that all the educational stakeholders – teachers, government, students, parents etc mutually benefit. We should not allow the NDC to bastardise free secondary education, when as a ruling party, its own P/NDC had introduced Non-formal education for our illiterate adults. Did the P/NDC anticipate the products of Non-formal education to fill our classrooms, hospitals, lecture rooms as professionals? If not, what was the motive behind its establishment and why is the government spending so much on the programme as of now?

It is the belief of Nana Akufo-Addo and the NPP that investing in child’s education is less expensive than throwing them onto the streets. The country cannot continue to use its meagre resources to fight armed robbery and other social vices. We cannot continue to expend so much on maintaining our prisons due to our negligence. We need to open a school door for every child which will automatically close a prison gate to him/her. The time has come for Ghana as an oil-producing country, the 2nd largest producer of cocoa, and the only country to have built the largest man-made lake in the world, to take a giant step in educational matters. Our children are endowed with many talents and it only takes a visionary and transformational leader to unearth them to make their lives better. Nana Akufo-Addo and the NPP need our votes on December 7 to make this possible. This will give Ghanaians the chance to see the intellectual differences between John Mahama and Nana Akufo-Addo, as far as the management of the country’s resources are concerned. Free SHS is not a killer disease; free SHS is not war; and free SHS is not a natural or artificial disaster. Free SHS will take children out of the streets and refine them, if even they are jobless in the short-run. Therefore, those opposing it should do mother Ghana a favour by paying for their children’s education and allow those of us who cannot pay to welcome and support this noble idea.

God bless Ghana! God bless the NPP!! God bless Kufuor!!!

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Enfield. London.

A native of Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri

Official blog (www.katakyie.com) katakyienpp@yahoo.co.uk 07577626433

“Vision, coupled with persistency, results in true success”

Columnist: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku