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The Free SHS and Double Track System in Ghana: A rushing afterthought?

botchway August 6, 2018

 

Richard Obeng Mensah   .

“All persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities

and with a view to achieving the full realization of that right— (a) basic education

shall be free, compulsory and available to all; (b) secondary education in its different

forms, including technical and vocational education, shall be made generally available

and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education; (c) higher education shall be made equally accessible to

all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular, by progressive introduction of free education; (d) functional literacy shall be encouraged or intensified as

far as possible; (e) the development of a system of schools with adequate facilities at all levels shall be actively pursued.” – Article 25 (1), 1992 Constitution, Ghana (Emphasis mine).

Articles 25 and 38 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana (with amendments through 1996) guarantee right to equal educational opportunities and facilities to all persons in Ghana. A closer study of the relevant provisions of the Constitution, especially articles 25, 34(2) and 38, reveals that the drafters of the Constitution tacitly acknowledged that provision of adequate educational facilities is central to enjoyment of a person’s educational rights and implementation of progressive introduction of free education at either the secondary (in its different forms) or higher levels of education or both. Articles 25(1)(e), 34(2) and 38(1) of the 1992 Constitution, for example, enjoin the Government to among other things actively pursue development of adequate facilities at all levels of education to enhance introduction of any free education policy. Although article 38(2) of the Constitution, oblige the government to, “within two years after Parliament first meets after the coming into force of this Constitution, draw up a programme for implementation within the following ten years, for the provision of free, compulsory and universal basic education” same is yet to be realised in its proper form.

It is a sad commentary that although the 1992 is currently about 25 years old, Ghana is yet to boast of easy access to free and quality education at all levels of education by its citizenry despite enviable natural and human resources at her disposal. The despicable state of affairs is due to failure of successive Governments to prioritize pursuance of development of adequate educational facilities to enhance implementation of progressive introduction of free education at the secondary and higher levels of education. Besides, parochial partisan activism by ruling political parties in Ghana since 1992 has clouded the vision of the various successive Governments to give the needed attention to formulation and implementation of holistic national education policies devoid of scoring cheap political points. Instead of treating education as a national issue with national interests at the centre of implementation of holistic, sustainable and prudent educational policies; successive Governments have resorted to adopting piecemeal approach to addressing challenges militating against the realization of easy access to free and quality education at the secondary and tertiary levels of education in Ghana. From abandoned educational projects to change in duration of secondary education or change in name of secondary education, successive governments continue to tackle challenges in the education sector with single political eye in the name of fulfilling their political promises. For instance, while the erstwhile NDC administration introduced and implemented free education policy for senior high school day students and sought to construct more educational facilities to enhance secondary education; the present NPP administration has since the 2017/2018 academic year been implementing free education policy for all new entrants at all public Senior High Schools (SHSs).

The present regime also seeks to implement a Double Track Policy in the 2018/2019 academic year to primarily deal with overcrowding at the various public senior high school campuses due to the introduction of the free secondary education policy. Under the proposed Double Track System, beneficiaries of the free secondary education policy will be in school under different track systems at different times except in few occasions where both tracks will run concurrently. The Double Track System has been designed to have a 7-year life span to enable the Government deal with infrastructural challenges within the period. The current NPP administration has vowed to implement the proposed Double Track System despite various concerns raised by different stakeholders. The concerns raised include the need for wider consultation to ensure a well-thought-out and sustainable policy, consideration of other policy alternatives and modification of the free senior high school policy. The Government seems to demonize and ignore any concern that does not conform to the proposed Double Track System in its present form and has mounted an impregnable defence against all diverging views, whether or not those views are legitimate and worth considering.

There is no gainsaying the fact that any holistic and well-thought-out free education policy will be a great asset to Ghana. Beyond improving the quality of her human resources; Ghana stands to eventually escape the occurrence of the Resource Curse Theory (which posits that resource-rich nations ultimately turn out to be poorer) in the country through a holistic and sustainable free education policy. However, the posture of the present regime in relation to the implementation of its flagship free secondary education policy is quite worrying and may erode possible gains Ghana stands to get from the policy if it is treated or implemented as a political project. The proposed Double Track System indubitably cannot be a one-stop solution to the overcrowding challenge bedevilling the free secondary education policy. Even if the Government considers it to be the best way to go; its implementation should not be rushed! Rather the Government should be opened to divergent views to garner sustainability of the free secondary education policy. It needs to be emphasised that introduction of free education in Ghana is a national aspiration. It is not a brainchild of any political party.

*The writer is a certified life and leadership coach, a legal academic, and a prolific author of 7 books and over 200 articles. Blog: www.richard-obeng-mensah.blogspot.com

Email: richardobengmensah@gmail.com

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