By GODFRIED K. ARHIN-KUMI
(Advocate against cheating and of peaceful co-existence)
The Free SHS has come to stay – Challenges not Permanent
The Director of St. Andrews Senior High School (SHS), Dr. Richard Asiedu, has embarked on a journey of constructive criticisms against the implementation of the free SHS policy by President Akufo-Addo.
Delivering the keynote address at this year’s Heroes of Distinction Conference and Awards, which took place on Friday February 22, 2019, Dr. Asiedu was reported to have observed that “the free SHS programme has been covered with political cloak, and any criticisms from educational players were considered anathema to the running of the programme.
“The real test of the free SHS does not lie in the number and savings to parents, but in results the students will achieve at the end of their third year.
“The free SHS is likely to promote situations where parents who cannot afford schools that operated the trimester system will send their children to such schools to give them what they consider as better education, and in the end, we will be perpetuating the class system where children of the affluent will continue to be the ones in control.
“Indeed, the 1992 Constitution makes provisions for this policy. What was needed was a bold effort to implement it, and this government has taken the bull by the horns, but the problem has been the manner of implementation…”
These are the type of constructive criticisms the authorities may need to improve the free SHS programme, and Dr. Asiedu must be highly commended.
What I, however, fail to agree with him on his observation that the free SHS programme has been cloaked in political colours and that, those who criticise it have stoked the fire of taboo.
This is not the case at all. The fact is the implementation of the free SHS programme has earned the government high commendation both nationally and internationally. This, in turn, is expected to increase votes in presidential and parliamentary elections, and this is what frightens some political rivals of the government, to the extent that they even attack the personality of the initiator of the programme, President Akufo-Addo, instead of constructively advising him on how to overcome some of the challenges plaguing it.
This pull-him-down syndrome is true in life. Some people just don’t like others to succeed, especially, in areas where the former wishes to succeed, but cannot; this is common in politics.
Yes, Dr. Richard Asiedu’s other observation is true – the real test of the SHS lies in the results the students will achieve at the end of their third year.
Undoubtedly, however, the other benefits – the number and savings to parents – are equally important, judging by the huge number of students reportedly recorded when the free SHS programme was put into execution in September 2017. It was obvious that it was due to most parents’ inability to get money to finance their wards’ SHS education that kept the young ones at home to be at the mercy of the saying that “the devil finds work for idle hands.”
Dr. Richard Asiedu admitted the fact “the 1992 Constitution makes provision for the free SHS policy, and that what was needed was a bold effort to implement it, and this government has taken the bull by the horns, but the problem has been [the] manner of implementation.”
This makes President Akufo-Addo a hero, for doing what Napoleon could not do. The policy in the Constitution of 1992 was like the imaginary ‘kaakaamotobi’ that frightens children out of their wits.
Thus, successive heads of state of the country kept avoiding it till the arrival of a courageous visionary, who ruthlessly attacked it, certainly aware of the challenges that must go with it.
The situation gives credence to the adage that “a boy who says I will try, climbs to the hill’s top” while his colleague will remain at the foot of the hill scratching his dry coconut-like head, taking solace in wishful thinking.
It must be remembered that success in any venture is not possible without teething problems. It is even when one becomes bold in starting a venture that one becomes aware of possible problems to be solved for the eventual success.
Dr. Richard Asiedu should be commended for his constructive suggestions, but he should discard the idea that “any criticism from educational players is considered as anathema…” It is the way and manner such criticisms are made that may not be acceptable. For instance, criticisms tinged with naked insults against the personality of President Akufo-Addo are sure to be resisted.
At this juncture, PERISCOPE urges the Ministry of Education to initiate a programme under which members of the public, especially experienced educationists, can give suggestions for the improvement of the free SHS programme, since ideas are like noses, with everybody having one.
Meanwhile, this column also seriously suggests that politicians in Ghana should start to understudy President Akufo-Addo, regarding his mode of governance, pregnant with his genuine and relentless efforts to saturate the country with industries and other development projects, guard the national purse, eradicate corruption, improve health care, and stop the further degradation of our water bodies and forests by illegal miners, etc.
Our constitution does not allow him stay on indefinitely. Our politicians should, therefore, be able to continue from where he will leave off to consolidate his achievements and gains to the Glory of God, who has indeed chosen him. We should be careful not to dispose of the bath water with the baby.
Periscope’s observation is that, like all challenges associated with new ventures which are not permanent, the challenges being currently experienced in the implementation of the free SHS are not permanent.
Let all of us exercise restraint and allow the government to solve the challenges, of course, with the help of genuine, responsible and constructive criticisms from well-meaning and knowledgeable personalities, since two heads are better than one – Etire baako ntu agyina” as the Akan saying goes.