General News of Monday, 20 February 2017
With the perceived confusion over funding for the government’s free senior high school (SHS) education policy dominating the news, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government needs to outline to citizens its priority areas for development, the Operations Director of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), Nana Ofori Owusu, has stated.
There was a suggestion from the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, that the government would consider reviewing the Petroleum Revenue Management Act to allow for the use of the Heritage Fund to finance the free SHS policy.
But the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, refuted the suggestion, saying the government would be financing the free SHS policy without touching the Heritage Fund.
Speaking on an Accra-based radio station last Saturday, Mr Owusu viewed this as symptomatic of the lack of engagement and clarity with stakeholders on the part of the government.
“You have a limited allocation of resources and in the limited allocation of resources, you must give us the priority areas, and with the priority areas, there is the allocation thereof in pursuit of that. Government must give us its priority areas. Government must give us a road map. If you don’t give a road map for citizens to understand where you want to go, and for us to also create a culture to support where you want to go, you will have problems,” Mr Owusu stated.
With this in mind, Mr Owusu said the discussion on funding for the Free SHS policy would be mute if it was not tied to an overarching policy of development.
“For me, the issue of SHS is just a tiny drop in the bucket of the total reformation process of our education. To me, the focus should not be on a Heritage Fund per se. The focus should be on what the total reformation policy of government is and what is the road-map to achieving that particular policy,” he added.
Free SHS a political gimmick
Mr Owusu also expressed some cynicism with what he called the politicisation of education, as he suggested that the promise of Free High school education was only a ploy for votes.
“Do you know why people talk about SHS? It is because they think SHS people can vote. You see how politicians have taken education and politicised it. They are looking at SHS students because they think that if they make it free for SHS students, some of them aged 18 and 19 can vote.”
“So it is a voting mindset that we are using to fix an education system that begins at pre-school. If you have 1.5 million young people on the street as a result of not passing the BECE exams, I don’t see how the free SHS will solve the problem. It is for those who pass,” he stated.