Feature: Naana’s Free SHS Actually Translates To Classrooms Without Chalk

It is becoming crystal clear that things are falling apart in the political party that the late Jerry Rawlings bequeathed to the nation after his military misadventure of June 4, 1979 and December 31, 1981.

After eleven and a half years of totalitarian rule that consigned hundreds of Ghanaians into their shallow graves and left as many as 300 bona fide citizens listed as missing, the man who was worshipped by the Cadres as Junior Jesus, converted his Provisional National Defence Council (P)NDC) into the National Democratic Congress, in other words, PNDC without the P.

In the beginning, the NDC was without peers; commanding resources with absolute power. After nearly eight years out of office, it is beginning to look like the centre cannot hold at the Adabraka head office of the party.

Now, men and women who once shook the centre of the earth with authority are beginning to look vulnerable. As we meander our way towards the December 7elections, the one-time electoral machine is struggling on the campaign trail.

The other day, I saw a key member of presidential candidate John Mahama’s kitchen cabinet complaining on a video clip that the New Patriotic Party had destroyed the party’s flagship project. One needs no ghost to pontificate that the 24-hour Economy is dead at birth.

Apparently, the lack of clear cut message to convince the electorate about the suitability of the come-back kid, is forcing party gurus to eat back the phlegm they so arrogantly spat out.

Now, the Free Senior High School they despised so much and disparaged sitting President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo about, has become the cornerstone for the fight to get to the Jubilee House.

How the NDC warmed its way to love the Free SHS concept is the tenth wonder of the world. Now, not only is it a welcome idea, it is the only concept that leads to descent education in Ghana.

The despised Free SHS is now being floated on the campaign trail as an important jig-saw puzzle in educating the Ghanaian child. NDC officials are claiming that the moribund administration of scandal-soaked Mahama pioneered the concept in this land of our birth.

The practicing Muslim will scream ALLAHU AKBAR! God is Great. For me as a social commentator, nothing really is strange in this new development. My only worry is that Prof. Naana Jane Opoku Agyeman is also caught among the lying and deceitful brigade.

I decided, the moment the Professor and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast was named running mate to the NDC Presidential candidate in the run-up to the 2020 Presidential elections, not to criticize her.

Two reasons influenced my decision to forgive her trespasses. The first is out of respect for her elder sister, the immaculate Elaine Sam, formerly Mrs. Kwame. She tells the story of nobility in motion. Elaine was my senior at the Ghana Institute of Journalism. She was also ahead of me at the Ghanaian Times, where we all went for our first employment as newsmen.

Secondly, I was in awe of the Professor, who rose to head the University of Cape Coast, the first woman in this country to become Vice-Chancellor of a public tertiary institution. Even when she headed the Ministry of Education with a number of negative issues surrounding her leadership, I restrained myself as a social commentator, from subjecting her to any inquisition.

I am afraid I have been compelled to review that stand, as a result of palpable lies and pure propaganda she is peddling without any sense of shame in her second coming as a vice-presidential candidate.

On a campaign visit to Tafo, in the Abuakwa North Constituency of the Eastern Region, where Mr. Victor Smith, one-time special aide to party founder and junta head, is the manor of NDC politics, Mrs. Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman officially outdoored her own plethora of lies.

The former Vice-Chancellor and a Scholar of English Literature became the squealer of NDC politics (my apologies to George Orwell, author of Animal Farm). She looked Ghanaians in the face and pronounced that it was the party she now represents as deputy leader that pioneered Free Senior High School education in the Republic of Ghana.

“Free SHS, Yen Na Yede Bae,” meaning the NDC brought Free SHS, she emphatically pronounced in Twi, at Tafo.

At the time she opened her mouth, she knew or ought to have known that she was spewing lies. Free SHS is the brain-child of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his New Patriotic Party. No one can take that honour from the sitting President.

When Nana Akufo-Addo first proposed the idea in the run-up to the 2008 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, he was ridiculed as a desperate politician throwing dust into the eyes of the people for power.

The NDC, led by the Bole Landlord, have up to date sponsored about 40 advertisements on radio, television and the social media in opposition to the Free SHS.

Former President John Dramani Mahama behaved like a man possessed by demons anytime the topic was raised in national politics. He ran down the idea and subjected the originators to public ridicule. “Ghana must not introduce Free SHS on the whimsical promise of a desperate politician,” he charged.

Even when it was officially introduced and was receiving wide acclaim, Mr. Mahama went to Cape Coast as opposition leader and attacked the policy, calling it a drain on national resources. He told his audience that if he had two billion cedis, he would not waste it on free SHS.

General Secretary of the party Jerry Rawlings signed into existence with his blood, Fifi Fiavi Kwetey, for several years head of the propaganda kingdom of the NDC was even more acidic in his attack on the concept.

“Nana Akufo-Addo and the NPP are going round the country promising Free SHS. Free SHS…That is what we call ‘All lie be lie,” screamed Fifi, who is now General Secretary of the party.

With all these attacks on the concept, why is the leadership of the NDC claiming ownership of Free SHS? The answer is simple, dear reader. With their 24-hour Economy dead in the water, NDC officials are desperate for a message that would resonate with the voter.

They have been in their bunker all this while as Ghanaians embraced Free SHS as a game changer in national politics. Without any sense of shame, officials of the Congress, operating as a political party in this country, believe gullible Ghanaians would be taken in by their lies and consequently bail them out as we head for the polls.

That, from all indications, would not work as people reflect on the performance of the NDC administration the last time they were in office. In those days, when the Bole Landlord strode national politics with sloganeering and little substance, Prof, Jane Naana Opoku Agyeman was Minister of Education. Under her watch, newly recruited teachers were paid three months wages for three years of work. Statutory bills at the ministry were piled up without payment.

If the good old Professor would look back, things got so bad that teachers were without chalk in the classroom. There was this infamous interaction between teachers in the Eastern Regional town of Kukurantumi and the then Second Lady, Mrs. Eunice Amissah-Arthur, wife of the late Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, who was Vice-President at the time.

The Second Lady had gone for an official function at Kukurantumi, a twin town of Tafo, where Naana stood and made her infamous FREE SHS; YEN NA YEDE BAE declaration.

In those days of shortages of every conceivable item, classrooms were without chalk. A number of teachers approached the Second Lady and pleaded with her to take their concerns to the appropriate authorities. Without any prompting, Mrs. Amissah-Arthur yelled back in Fante: Yeremma Hom Chalk Nde, Yeremma Hom Okyena. We will not give you chalk today, we won’t give you chalk tomorrow.

For me as a social commentator, when Naana talks of the NDC pioneering Free SHS, she must be reminiscing over her failure as Education Minister and particularly the situation in this country, under her watch, when our classrooms were without something as basic as chalk.

I shall Return!

Ebo Quansah in Accra


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