CHILD RIGHTS International, a child-centred organisation, has called on government to maintain its Free Senior High School (FSHS) programme, in spite of calls by some politicians recently to have it scrapped.
In a press release issued in Accra, signed by Bright Appiah, Executive Director, Child Rights International insisted that since the introduction of the Free SHS programme by government in September 2017, over 1.6 million students have benefitted from the initiative irrespective of their geographical location, status, sex or religion.
“The initiative is a truly laudable one which has had far-reaching socio-economic benefits and impact, especially within rural areas and communities in the country where financial constraints, accessibility and other factors prevented students from accessing secondary education,” it highlighted.
Touching on recent plans by government to review some social intervention policy programmes, including the Free SHS programme, the NGO called for government, policy makers and stakeholders to be “held accountable to the best interest of children whenever decisions are being taken on matters that have a direct or indirect impact on them.”
It continued, “As stakeholders are drawn to the drawing table, we would plead by stating the cautionary tale that government must ensure that all intended reviews made in regards to the Free SHS must not change any of its core mandates, philosophy and the idea of universal reach irrespective of geographical location or status.”
Furthermore, it said the education sector has experienced many policy changes over the past 10 years, rendering it unstable; therefore, Ghanaians are not new to the constant upheavals and changes within the education sector in the country.
“However, this has resulted in several inconsistencies in the educational sector. In policy formulation, one of the key principles is that, when citizens are settled in the application of a policy, change to the policy disturbs its outcomes on the environment, teachers, students and parents,” Child Rights International noted, adding there were numerous examples such as the three to four years, and then a change to the four to three years senior high school period policy change, which all happened within a five-year space.
“Again, in recent years, students and parents have had to adjust to the double-track system, the introduction of the semester cycle and then its reversal in schools, the development of a new curriculum that has not been fully integrated into the system, with complaints of the lack of teaching materials to support this new curriculum. The changes have been many and the impact profound.
“There is no policy implementation without challenges; however, where the system has experienced consistency in its application, altering its core mandate becomes problematic. “We are hopeful that reviews of the programme would seek to address and rectify administrative issues, delaying provision of services within the programme rather than altering the idea, philosophy and core mandate. The aim is to see a system molded and perfected to serve its purpose, to provide free, accessible and quality education to all senior high school students within the country,” it opined.
BY Ernest Kofi Adu