I was young and I am now getting old and one thing I learnt from my father is to call what is wrong, wrong and what is right, right. I have been trained and educated enough to know that when you build a house on a weak foundation, that house will not stand the test of time and the vagaries of the weather.
The headlines have been abashed with the news of the sod cutting ceremony by President John Dramani Mahama to begin the construction of 50 of the 200 Community Senior High Schools (SHS), the National Democratic Congress (NDC), promised Ghanaians in the run up to the 2012 election.
Before I proceed to make my point, I want to state unequivocally that I Abdul Razak Bawa, do not believe that the time has come for this country to offer free SHS, not because it is worth considering, but because we are simply not ready. I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that that we do not have the resources, i.e. financial, human and the logistics to make this promise any good for our children, brothers and sisters.
I believe that although it is a noble idea conceived by the framers of our Constitution, this is not the time to implement it in any form or shape that was why they did not give any time limit. We will get there one day, but certainly not in 2015 as promised by the President, when he delivered his State of the Nation address to Parliament.
We always quote our first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, for initiating fee free education in the Northern part of the country in the First Republic.
The decision was informed by a lot of factors, factors which are still relevant today as they were 50 or so years ago. The people of the Northern extraction were marginalized, they were the hewers of wood and drawers of water and so Dr. Nkrumah thought that the best way to bridge the gap between the South and North was to get them educated by offering them free education.
The question, we should ask ourselves is, how well have we done with that and was his aim achieved?
Every term, students in the three Northern Regions, have to stay home for weeks, sometimes even months, because Government have delayed in releasing funds to the schools and now we are thinking of making it national? I hope this is not another mistake that will come back to haunt us in the near future.
I disagreed with Nana Addo and the NPP in the run-up to the 2012 elections, when they promised free SHS; I wrote articles upon articles, as well as editorials to challenge the feasibility of such a venture and my opinion is still the same today as it was yesterday. I do not support the policy.
Maybe, I am not seeing the picture everybody is seeing, but I am a realist, who does not live on hope and conjecture, I analyze before coming to any meaningful conclusion. We are talking about here and money we don’t have.
All the countries around us, which tried introducing free SHS, decided along the way to give up and reverse to what used to be the case. Education is expensive, which is why it is said that if you think education is expensive try ignorance. The responsibility of providing for your wards education is entirely the responsibility of parents.
Sadly, the road we are trying to traverse will at the end of the day only make private SHS more sought after, thereby making education more expensive, a situation, we are trying to avoid.
If you want quality education, you pay; this is what is happening with the basic education. We have left that entirely into the hands of the private sector and some of them are charging exorbitant and ridiculous prices. Funny enough, nobody is regulating them, sooner or later public SHS will become unattractive. Parents will prefer to take their children to private SHS, instead of public ones.
Aside money, are we training enough teachers to occupy the schools and teach the children, are we thinking of building or expanding the existing Training Colleges, to be able to churn out enough Teachers to cater for the increasing number of students?
Free comes with increase in enrolment. It is my hope that we don’t get caught off guard, but that every I will be dotted and the T’s crossed to ensure that the free education we are touting does not come with the deterioration of our education.
We must as a country, learn to walk before we run. First things must definitely come first. I subscribe to the idea espoused by Pastor Mensah Otabil, General Overseer of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) that pay me well and let me have the joy of paying for my wards education.
Is Government sure that when the 50 schools are completed in August, everything, including Teachers will be available to absorb students who will be entering in September?
When does the Computerization placement begins and ends?
Education can never be free. The best Government can do is to grow and expand the economy, so that Ghanaians can earn decent living and then they will not look to Government for freebies, especially educaton.
Our public basic education is in tatters, because Government introduced Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE). Enrolment increased and supervision became difficult. Not enough research and consultation was done to access the viability of such a noble venture. What became of our basic public education, the rest as we say is history.
President John Dramani Mahama is fulfilling a campaign promise, a promise he made to Ghanaians when he went to them for their votes in 2012.
The promise was without the aspect of free SHS, that was the promise made by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the Presidential candidate of the New
Patriotic Party (NPP). All well-meaning Ghanaians who heard Nana Addo and the NPP, based on the circumstances we find ourselves kicked against the proposal.
Now the President and his team are confident that they can implement the free SHS in the next academic year (2015/2016). It is said that when a blind man says, he will throw a stone at you, he knows what he is standing on.
I am not by this article questioning Government’s ability to see through this promise. I am only raising and outlining reasons why, I do not support this promise. I think we will get there, but just not now.