Former Education Minister, Professor Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang, has asked government to, as a matter of urgency, tackle the numerous challenges confronting the Free Senior High School policy.
Her call comes after reports of a list of challenges marring the government’s flagship programme which has been able to enroll almost 400,000 students in 2018.
Speaking to Omanbapa Mugabe on ‘Inside Politics’ on Radio XYZ 93.1 Monday, October 15, 2018, the former Minister said the implementation of the Free SHS was rushed without taking into consideration the data to use to provide schools with what they need.
Currently, the policy is ran on a shift system known as ‘double-track’ school calendar system. The new programme creates a calendar of two semesters in a year for the SHS 1 class containing 81 days per each semester and 41 days of vacation for a sandwich class.
Government has said the double track is to absorb more students who hitherto would not have had access to senior high school education for lack of adequate logistics.
However, Professor Opoku Agyemang believes the Free SHS policy is not at its best hence “creating panic” among parents, guardians and the students due to the lack of infrastructure and other logistics.
“Last year, nobody envisaged these [challenges],” she said as she pointed to the challenges associated with the double track system.
“What is education?...The students shouldn’t be frightened, their parents should not be worried, teachers should not come out to say ‘we don’t understand the policy’ and fear for their positions after talking about the challenges,” she said.
When told many Ghanaians were happy with the fact that their wards were enrolled without paying fees, the former vice chancellor of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) said the condition of the students enrolled on the double track system was terrible, adding that the quality of education in such schools risk being compromised, a total deviation from what education stands for.
“If it is the best, why are private schools advertising that they are not doing it [double track] in their schools?,” Prof. Opoku Agyemang quizzed.
To her, it was for the impending challenges that the erstwhile John Mahama administration rather started the “progressively free education” which, she said, took care of the major fees parents were billed with.
Touching on infrastructure, she said the previous NDC government did not want to compromise on the quality of education, the reason government started putting up community day schools which were intended to reduce congestion and improve on the quality of education in the country.
She said before government commenced the progressively free education, it had already conducted a research into the needs of the various schools and the students who needed government support unlike rolling students en mass onto the programme.
The former minister is not the first to point out to the government that all is not well with the Free SHS policy.
In July this year, the Upper Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana called on government to consider an evaluation of the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme to address its challenges.
As a partner in development, the church, in a communique, added that accommodation, furniture, inadequate classrooms and delay in the release of funds for feeding had to be fixed.
The communique which was read at a news conference by Reverend Emmanuel Atami, Chairman of the Upper Presbytery at the end of its eighth Presbytery Session held in Garu, in the Garu District of the Upper East Region, commended the government for the pro-poor policy, but hastened that its numerous challenges needed to be attended to.
Managing News Editor of the New Crusading Guide, Abdul-Malik Kwaku Baako, is one of the journalists who have pointed out to the government that there are serious challenges confronting the Free SHS policy.