Free SHS-1? What about SHS-2 & SHS-3 and the 80% who never get there?

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 Source: Nii-Allotey Brew-Hammond

The Free SHS-1 initiative recently announced by President Akuffo-Addo's NPP administration is inadequate and insufficient to address the dire circumstances of the Ghanaian youth and the nation at large.

It ignores the SHS-2 and SHS-3 students currently struggling to pay their school fees and ignores the fact that 80% of the Ghanaian youth are dropouts long before they are scheduled to write their BECE.

For a true game-changing educational reform in Ghana to become manifest, all Ghanaian children immediately need to be guaranteed 13 years of free, compulsory, basic education.

During the campaigns leading to the December 2012 & 2016 General Elections, the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) consistently argued for the abolition of the currently administered Basic Education Certificate Examination, popularly referred to as BECE, as a lead up to the introduction of a 13-year Compulsory Basic Education from Kindergarten to the end of Senior High School.

The PPP promised the people of Ghana that on a January 7th Inauguration Day Presidential Address at the Black Star Square, a President Papa Kwesi Nduom would assure the Nation in the Inaugural Speech with the following statement:

“The PPP will provide Quality Education for Every Ghanaian Child beginning with the September academic year. Consequently, there will be no BECE in June to transition pupils from Grade-9 to Grade-10 of the 12-year Basic Education Cycle. We will begin to standardize school facilities from kindergarten to the Senior High, with libraries, toilets, classrooms, kitchen, housing for teachers, play-ground, etc.; and ensure Free and Compulsory Quality Education (including ICT training) in Public Schools from Kindergarten to Senior. We will deploy an “Education Police” starting in September to enforce the compulsory aspect of our policy. An integral part of this objective will be an objective to significantly increase vocational and technical training so that all school leavers gain employable skills.”

Meanwhile, in both the 2012 and 2016 election campaigns, the NDC promised “increasing access to SHS” while the NPP persisted with “free SHS”. The mainstream media promoted the “free SHS” as “free education” – misleading the public as it ignored the youth who are not in SHS.

In any case and unfortunately for Ghana, while the “increasing access” pledge by Ex-President John Mahama turned out to be a mirage under the NDC administration, today we have “free SHS”, the flagship policy of the President Nana Akufo-Addo-led NPP, recently out-doored with some pomp and pageantry for pupils entering SHS-1 but curiously leaving out SHS-2 & SHS-3 students to dry in the heat.

Maybe the AkufoAddo-led NPP has not heard of the COMPULSORY EDUCATION practiced in the advanced or advancing countries and how the compulsion, while guaranteeing equal opportunity for all, continues to sustain economic growth even in this 21st Century.

Today in Ghana, A young typical 6-year old Ghanaian citizen has only a 20% chance to complete a 12-year Primary & Secondary basic education. In other words, this unfortunate individual has an 80% chance of NOT completing a Secondary education or being classified as a failure. Could this be described as change in Ghana?

Where in the advanced or advancing world is the sole responsibility of a young citizen completing 12-Grades of Basic Education that of the parents? And yet that is what the AkufoAddo-led NPP is asking Ghanaian parents and telling the Nation will guarantee "free SHS" for the poor 20% citizen. As for those currently in SHS-2 & SHS-3, they are on their own. God help them.

Incredible isn't it, in this 21st Century where knowledge is power (Scientia est Potentia) and the amount of education is crucial in determining future earnings, having 80% of your work-force or citizenry with no basic skills, totally unqualified and hopelessly ill-equipped to deal in any meaningful venture, must pose a threat to the development of integrity, competence and character in the country.

Japan, Germany, and the United States can boast of having the highest retention rates in the world: with over 87% of their children who begin First Grade completing Twelfth Grade to receive a High School Diploma or a General Equivalency Diploma.

And then we say there are no jobs. But how do the jobs appear when 80% of your youth (under 24-year-olds) lack the basic skills and are therefore unemployable? Isn't that suppressing national development and productivity for all?

Compulsory education was not even unheard of in ancient times and should therefore guide our modern day government to assume responsibility of ensuring quality basic education for all as other developed nations have done.

1.Plato, in his Republic, articulated that an ideal Nation would require ideal individuals, and ideal individuals would require an ideal education.

2.Formal Jewish education in the 1st century AD instituted schools in every town and made formal education compulsory from age 6-7.

3.The Aztec Triple Alliance, which ruled from 1428 to 1521 in what is now central Mexico, implemented a system of universal compulsory education.

4. Martin Luther’s seminal text to Councilors of Towns in German Countries in 1524 called for establishing compulsory schooling so that all parishioners would be able to read the Bible by themselves.

5. In Scotland, the School Establishment Act of 1616 commanded every parish to establish a school for everyone. In England and Wales, the Elementary Education Act of 1870 paved the way for compulsory education. The Education Act of 1996 made it an obligation on parents to require children to have a full-time education from age 5 to 16.

6. In Japan, compulsory education was established in 1868

Every advanced and advancing society has required compulsory education to progress. It's the only way to even the playing field distorted by class division and exclusion, create opportunity for all, and sustain economic growth.

We are not ungrateful for the 20% that have today been promised "free SHS education" in Ghana. But we must stand up and cry from the rooftops for the 80% who may be relegated to a wretched living standard – live in ghettos, respond to nature's call in the bushes, deal with preventable diseases, and compete with the goats and cows for access to untreated drinking water.

Man cannot live by inhaling air (mframa) alone, which even in Ghana is funky – ‘scent noooo, agye be biaa.'

Let us guarantee opportunity for every Ghanaian child to reach his/her potential and leave no child (18 years and below) behind.

The future is certainly in their hands as the youth and, coming with it the provision of a nutritious meal a day under the school feeding program will, am sure, guarantee a progressive mind capable of steering the state machinery positively forward into the next century and beyond.

For it is only when we leave no child behind that "Free SHS" will truly be free. That should be the "Ghanaian Dream" today.



Columnist: Nii-Allotey Brew-Hammond