Free SHS – The Threat

When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor. Elon Reeve Musk (Business Magnate and founder of Space X)

In Ghana today, with the exception of attempts being made by the NPP government to revive the ailing economy, nothing is so important to many Ghanaians than the survival of the Free Senior High School (FSHS) programme. It is therefore not surprising that many radio stations in the country continue to engage myriads of Ghanaians in the discourse of this subject. And with the opening of schools in September, the discussions and criticisms have obviously intensified. However, the views of the critics against the implementation of FSHS make me feel angry, disappointed and sometimes sorry and sad for my dear country.

To some Ghanaians, the relief of not paying school fees seems to be the only important issue but to me there are other issues as well. I see the relief as an effort to spread the national cake to benefit everyone in the country as against emptying the national coffers the “Woyome way” or purchasing of Land Cruisers as gifts to undeserving Ghanaians. I also see it as a timely intervention to avert a national disaster. Can anyone imagine what this nation would become if millions of our youth are allowed to roam the streets as illiterates, unemployed and consumers of tramadol? This country would breed armed robbers, prostitutes, criminals and many other evils I dread to think of. This threat could have been minimized or eliminated nine and a half years ago if the 2012 elections had not been rigged by the National Democratic Congress (NDC), supported by the Electoral Commission headed by Dr.Kwadwo Afari Gyan and endorsed by the Supreme Court verdict. Today, the threat has become real and magnified to the level of a national crisis that requires emergency measures to deal with but the critics lack the foresight to understand.

Therefore, the FSHS should be seen as an attempt to avert an impending catastrophe in the form of social upheavals which await the nation. Today, we are being told that out of 490,514 who are eligible for FSHS, 428,134 have secured admissions. The urgency of the matter is the sheer number of students that need to be educated – the numbers increase year after year because of our demographic chart. To my mind, any attempt that seeks to delay the process is untenable, disastrous and myopic. The NDC promised to build 200 senior high schools but sadly by the end of their eight years reign, President Mahama and his government had completed only 47. Mathematically, that means the NDC needed 24 more years to complete the remaining buildings before introducing their version of FSHS. This strategy, the main point of NDC‘s criticisms, is a recipe for disaster because by the time the infrastructure is completed, millions of students waiting to be educated would have become parents.

The NDC’s opposition to the FSHS is not surprising and not motivated by any patriotism but envy, political chicanery, lack of foresight and panic. In 2012 elections, the NDC, having observed the popularity of the FSHS policy of the NPP, countered it by firstly arguing that President Akufo-Addo cannot claim FSHS as his baby since the policy is enshrined in the Constitution but gave no reasons why past administrations of the NDC had failed to implement it. Secondly, to confuse the minds of Ghanaians the more, they advocated “quality education” and the building of the necessary infrastructure before implementing the policy. Ghanaians were left to dream about and imagine the kind of “quality education” being advocated. The fallacy of the policy of creating the necessary infrastructure before implementation has badly exposed the NDC as lacking foresight, courage and political will to meet the challenges of the programme.

The NDC’s fight against the FSHS should not surprise anyone because it’s embedded in their psyche. When the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) strategically metamorphosed into a political party (NDC), it pledged to follow the objectives of the revolution and consequently the disastrous path of deceit, propaganda, corruption, greed, etc. was pursued like a ritual. The PNDC and NDC have rained havoc in the country’s administration for almost three decades and continue to deceive and confuse some Ghanaians especially its followers because of IGNORANCE. Many “grassroots” supporters of this party come from rural communities who are prone to lies and deceit and the party had found it convenient to continue to poison their minds only to harvest their votes during elections. If one follows the lies that are spewed on supporters during past election campaigns for their votes, the point on ignorance would be more appreciated.

The introduction of FSHS is therefore seen as a major threat because the ignorance of these citizens will soon disappear and the massive votes they regularly obtained from them during elections will whittle away. If this is not the motive behind NDC’s criticisms, then I can’t find one. To reduce the exploitation of these unfortunate citizens, liberate them from poverty and offer them the opportunity to improve their livelihood, education is the key. The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has therefore put his reputation on the line and had introduced the FSHS but to the NDC, the liberation of one’s conscience must not be allowed to succeed.

Introducing the policy, the president did not hide the fact that the country would face many challenges in its implementation. The major challenges are mainly the large numbers of students, the infrastructural requirements, teachers and huge sums of money required to execute the programme .These challenges are not different from the challenges our first President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah encountered when he recognized the importance of education in developing Ghana and consequently introduced in 1961, the Education Act and the principle of “free and compulsory primary education”. President Nkrumah pursued his policy in the midst of these difficulties and in the absence of infrastructure and the desire for education “schools under trees” emerged and continue to exist today despite NDC’s lies of having eliminated them during the reign of President Mills. The FSHS is similar to President Nkrumah’s educational “revolution” and it must be supported to succeed rather than aborting it as the NDC has promised to do when they “accidentally” come to power.

In financing education of children/relations, many Ghanaians continue to deny themselves their personal comfort to invest in the education of their children in local and foreign institutions at great cost without complaining. Many stories abound in our society of how some parents/relations have had to sell their personal belongings, clothing, jewelries, properties, etc. to finance the education of children and other relations. Similarly, on infrastructure, many Ghanaians who have managed to build their own houses would acknowledge the difficulties they encountered in achieving their objectives simply because many did not have the bulk money needed to undertake the projects. If it has not been easy for individuals to educate their children or build their own houses, how easy is it going to be for the nation/government to educate its people with the necessary infrastructure? Ghanaians should empathize with the government rather than condemning it. Simply put, the implementation of FSHS is not going to be easy today or tomorrow but it can be done if we all put our shoulders to the wheel. This is one hell of an effort to emancipate and rejuvenate the country and it is the responsibility of all citizens to ensure its success.

In implementing such laudable programmes, suggestions are very necessary but the mentality of critics is so negative that good suggestions are simply bastardized. The minister of finance shares his views on reducing the financial burden of FSHS on the economy and he is taken to the cleaners. To compensate for classrooms, the Ministry of Education has introduced the “Double Track” system to cope up with the numbers as a temporary measure and critics are having a field day. To my mind, the double-track system is better than ‘schools under trees’ and similarly ‘school under trees’ is better than no school at all because graduates, doctors, engineers, etc. have been produced by ‘schools under trees’. What is wrong with us? We criticize everything; talk too much as a people and do very little; hence our lack of development. Some hosts on radio stations who are always being commended by their listeners for doing some good jobs are to my mind “nation wreckers” because they have championed some of the negative criticisms and are doing the dirty work of the NDC. Some of the questions they ask are nothing to write home about and I think some stations have outlived their usefulness.

As a people, we must remember that good things don’t come cheap and the noise being made about FSHS is unnecessary and we must give the government a break!

By Brig-Gen J. Odei