The free Senior High School (SHS) policy being championed by the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) has apparently caused confusion in the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) campaign as majority of its campaign adverts are dedicated to discrediting the free SHS policy.
On the last count, DAILY GUIDE can confirm that about 37 different anti-free SHS adverts have been designed and aired by the NDC on various television and radio platforms, forgetting that President John Mahama benefitted from free education over 30 years ago.
These media adverts, which run several times a day on local electronic media at extremely huge expenses, curiously lack cohesion as several messages in them conflict with one another, making it difficult to know the party’s position.
In one breath, the advertisements which deploy a generous use of school children to condemn the free SHS indicate that free SHS is not possible; in another, the NDC tried to argue that free SHS can only be possible several decades away.
In another instance, the NDC indicates that free basic education (including free SHS) is a right enshrined in the constitution of the Republic of Ghana and hence not necessarily an NPP idea.
In other adverts, the NDC claims that the free SHS can only be possible in about two decades.
Essentially, all the different adverts including Pastor Mensa Otabil’s voice try to dismiss the veracity of the NPP’s free education.
The NDC says free education should be made progressively free over time.
The ruling party says emphasis should rather be placed on improving the infrastructure and quality of education, forgetting that when President Mahama had free education, there were only a few schools in the north.
The NDC is also arguing that improving access to basic education is more important than making it free for all school going pupils.
The University of Cape Coast (UCC) branch of NDC youth wing Tertiary Education Information Network (TEIN) has described the free Senior High School (SHS) education promise by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) as “a mere political gimmick”.
Since the NPP’s Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo outdoored his free education policy, political analysts concluded that that policy alone had the potential to upset the balance of power in the country.
Independent organizations such as the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) and the National Commission on Civil Education (NCCE) at various points conducted surveys whose results concluded that education was the paramount consideration of the electorate in this year’s presidential elections.
This realization has sent the ruling NDC scampering to deflect the effects of the policy, hence the aggressive campaign against the policy.
The opposition NPP has dismissed what it describes as a pessimistic attitude of the NDC towards the prospect of free basic education.
The party cites several highly successful businessmen and politicians who have benefitted from free education in the northern part of the country since the 1950s, including more than 14 members of the NDC’s cabinet.
The President and some of his cabinet members of northern extracts enjoyed free education.
But Bede Zeiding, a National Executive Committee (NEC) of the NDC, has contested the notion of the existence of free education in the north of Ghana.
“Indeed, all northern students are fee paying students just like students attending senior high school in southern Ghana,” Bede Zeiding was quoted in the media on Monday.
“It is not true that the northern students are enjoying free education and that is the reason why President Mahama is denying the southerners. Indeed, all students in Ghana are enjoying some level of free education and that all students in Ghana enjoy free tuition, whether from southern or northern Ghana,” said Mr. Zeiding.
But President Mahama, in his book, ‘My First Coup d’état’, said he enjoyed free education when his father, a former minister in the Nkrumah regime, pulled him out from fee paying Achimota School to Tamale where he had free education.
In the heat of the free education banter, the Minister of Education, Lee Ocran, was quoted as saying Ghana did not have the capacity to fund free education and that if it was possible, Nkrumah would have done it.
He estimated that the country would only be able to fund free education in about 20 years.
Yet, a few weeks afterwards, when President Mahama mounted the platform of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Presidential campaign, he said he was all for free education because it was a directive and right enshrined in the Ghanaian constitution.
Analysts wonder why the NDC wants to postpone it to 20 years, when someone is ready to implement it immediately.
By Raphael Ofori-Adeniran