FREE SHS POLICY: A VISIT TO MY ALMA MATA

Benjamin Afful & Old School Mates

A visit to my Alma Mata in recent times compelled me to examine the FREE SHS policy introduced by President Nana Akuffo – Addo in September 2017. The policy which seeks to make secondary school education accessible to all Ghanaians must be acknowledged to be progressive and nationalistic in nature. According to Ghana Education Service, 110,000 qualified students fail to enter secondary schools over the past five years because of financial constraints. This data may imply that the nation is failing to achieve its objective as far as the 1992 Constitution of the Republic is concerned.

The educational objectives of the country, under the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution directs that, the State shall, subject to the availability of resources provide equal and balanced secondary school education to all citizens. If history has taught us anything, a nation is as
efficient as its work force. It is no secret the current political chaos in our country is largely due to low literacy rate. In a data published by UNESCO in 2017, a study on literacy in Ghana in 2010 showed that 87.5 % of the youth (15 – 24 years) can read and write, understand simple sentences
and perform basic arithmetic. 71.5% of the adults (25 years and over) were literates whereas 34.9% of the elderly population could read and write. This data shows the need to channel resources into making sure more citizens are literate in order to secure the future of the next generation. A literate
nation will encourage better decision making and accountability.
It was obvious when I got to my Alma Mata that infrastructure will play a vital role in the FREE SHS policy. Most of the buildings were dilapidated due to lack of maintenance and the increase in number of students. First time in the history of Ghana, secondary school students were on a double
track program.

Interview with a staffer proved that low funds were coming from Government towards maintenance and one could sense lack of motivation among both teachers and students. Not to be mistaken, my Alma Mata is one of the best second cycle institutions in the country in
terms of facilities and infrastructure so I was sadden thinking about the others who do not have the privilege of Old Students who give generously towards developments in their schools. Teaching boards were worn out, furniture was inadequate and you have classrooms looking worse than the
inside of ‘trotros’ at Tema Station.

It is delusional for policy makers at this moment to think the state needs to pay for the secondary school education of its citizens. Most students who enter schools such as Adisadel College,
Mfanstipim School, Achimota School, Wesley Girls High School etc., have been paying huge amounts of monies in their various basic schools and the State is not helping them by refusing to charge them any fee just to go and study in unfavourable environments compared to where they studied earlier on. The principle of equal opportunity for all only makes sense when the State creates a scholarship scheme to allow underprivileged students gain access to such schools.

At the investiture of the first female Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Mary Chinery-Hesse, Mr. Nana Akuffo Addo tasked public universities to brace for an astronomical increase in prospective students. It is quite unfortunate the President did not brace himself for the realities of the FREE SHS Policy. In as much as policy makers don’t want fees to be a barrier to gain secondary school education they must equally be prepared to equip students with proper infrastructure.

I believe now is the time to engage and utilize the various old students associations to support infrastructural developments in their Alma Mata. If this public policy is to realize its full potential, citizens must be willing to sacrifice and donate generously towards infrastructure. The policy maker
is in hurry and we the people cannot afford to lose the quality of our second cycle institutions.

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