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Opinions Wed, 18 Jul 2018

The Asantehene is spot on

Folks, the Asantehene (Otumfuo Osei Tutu, II) has struck a chord that I like very much, even as I want to add more to what he has told the Akufo-Addo government and to question him on his own "Otumfuo Education Fund" that he established many years ago but which hasn't been sustained (I stand for correction here, though).

The Asantehene's alert is apt (See) because it is timely and remarkable for all that it points us to so we can keep the heat on Team Akufo-Addo and move it beyond merely scratching the surface to create more problems for Ghana or to worsen the existing ones.

Although the government claims that it is implementing the free SHS education policy without hitches, the reality on the ground paints a different picture. Things are really knocking things, which Akufo-Addo has to address and stop doing cheap politics with this programme as if that is all he needs to move Ghana out of the woods.

Sooner than later, the first batch of beneficiaries of the so-called free SHS programme will graduate. (Those prevented from enjoying the benefit won't forgive the government). What becomes of the beneficiaries at the tertiary level hasn't featured in the talk-talk by Team Akufo-Addo.

Where will the failures go? (The WAEC has already published the results, showing that a huge chunk of the JHS candidates can't make it to the next level. Is there any plan for them to be "settled" so they can acquire skills for national development and achieve their dreams instead of being left in the lurch to become armed robbers and other anti-social elements?

Truth be told, it is not all of these SHS students enjoying this free tuition who will make it to the tertiary level. We can see from the results of the JSS released by the WAEC that the road is not smooth for everyone to cross over from the JSS to the SHS, let alone to the tertiary level.

This is where the lopsidedness of the Akufo-Addo team's approach to the issue emerges. Having isolated the SHS as a problematic link in the Ghanaian education system to fund, Team Akufo-Addo is harping on everything to create the impression that once the SHS sector is made free, everything else will fall in place to solve the hydra-headed problems.

It won't be so easy, which is what the Asantehene is pointing Team Akufo-Addo to. So far, it hasn't done anything to prove that it can go beyond the free SHS education programme to higher-level mechanisms for solving problems associated with high school education and its relevance to Ghana's efforts at solving the challenges of development.

Even then, it is not as if all those students pursuing higher education want to proceed to the tertiary level at the universities or polytechnics. Some are not academically endowed and will want to be helped to acquire skills to move them where they want to go.

From happenings thus far, it is clear that team Akufo-Addo is disconnected and can't handle the reality that its rash implementation of the free SHS promise entails.

What will happen to those beneficiaries of the free SHS largesse who can't make it to the next stage? What investment has Akufo-Addo made in expanding structures at the tertiary institutions and to create the congenial atmosphere for the SHS students so they can transition smoothly beyond the SHS level?

I haven't seen anything to prove that the government has put in place facilities to absorb these students. Thus, the flood of drop-outs should be expected to add more to the ugly complexion.

In that sense, then, they will move out of the free SHS hand-out scheme only to face the harsh reality that the next lap in their quest for higher education and the acquisition of requite skills for solving problems can't move them on. Frustration will set in to worsen matters.

Will this talkative Akufo-Addo team heed sound advice as coming from the Otumfuo and those of us all along damning it for using the free SHS education as a mere window dressing?

There is a lot more to raise, but it is better to let things run their natural course, especially when the government is murderously adamant and isn't willing to listen to those criticizing it over this free SHS thing. It is clear that Akufo-Addo sees the implementation of that agenda as a life-and-death matter and won't listen to reason if that reason proves him wrong and will detract from his political worth.

That explains why his supporters are persistently hailing that programme and insulting critics even when the beneficiaries themselves are complaining about constraints and their dire circumstance. It's a double-edged issue that I won't want to lose any sleep over. Those who bragged as having the magic wand to solve Ghana's problems are in charge of affairs now and should carry the burden.

I am reminded here of the late E.K. Mickson's wise crack: If somebody wants to carry the whole world on his shoulders, don't argue with him; just give him a pad and stand by to watch!! That's the import of Akufo-Addo's "try me" to Ghanaians. And he is really being tried!!

Putting everything together, we are apprehensive. The apparatus for improving standards in the education sector is still weak despite all the noise made by Akufo-Addo and Bawumia rto believe that in the first 18 months of Akufo-Addo's tenure, the rough edges would have been smoothed to move Ghana out of the woods.

Nothing confirms that claim. None is happy with Team Akufo-Addo's performance, regardless of the nauseating self-gratifying comments from them. Even, their own loquacious party/government communicators all over the country have chosen to keep their mouths shut (They know the truth and don't want to keep defending Team Akufo-Addo to be dealt with by those who feel the pinch.

The matter can't be dropped just like that to say that Akufo-Addo is excelling in this sector. Those JSS students who can't make it to the SSS level are denied the benefit of free education just as the second and third-year students who happened to be in school at the wrong time under Akufo-Addo to warrant their being discriminated against. (Don't tell me that the JSS students don't pay any fee. Or that the Free Compulsory Basic Education move made by Rawlings is working well).

Folks, there is a lot happening under Akufo-Addo that aims at a paradigm shift in Ghana to resurrect the Danquah Busia political trash. But that is a counter-productive move that will turn out to be Akufo-Addo's bitter pill to swallow at the next polls.

As Akufo-Addo continues to pick on John Mahama's administration as the cause of his woes, resulting in his inability to solve problems, he gives us much cause to laugh him to scorn. Was it not because he knew of such "incompetence" that he stuck his neck out for Ghanaians to "try" him as their leader?

The voters did not "try" him at Election 2016 as he urged. Instead, they went for him wholeheartedly as a "redeemer" to outdo Mahama. In political office, all that Akufo-Addo is doing is blaming Mahama for everything that went wrong or that he won't superintend over. The records prove him wrong, though.

He comes across as someone wanting desperately to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Mahama over the very "crimes" that he had condemned Mahama for. Is that the "grit" of a competent President? Tweeeeeeeeaa!

I shall return…

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

(E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com)

Columnist: Michael J.K. Bokor, Ph.D.