Founder of Ashesi University, Dr. Patrick Awuah, screeched to a halt to prevent him from calling government’s implementation of the free SHS policy, rushed.
It was sudden, a sudden move, yes. Things happened very quickly, yes. But he wouldn’t call it “rushed”.
Introduced in September 2017 about nine months in the tenure of newly elected President, Akufo-Addo, the policy has seen many changes in Ghana’s education system. There was upshot in enrollment. In the first year of implementation, 424,092 SHS, vocational and technical students qualified for the policy.
It soon has forced government to split classes into two streams – Yellow and Gold – which some have criticised as confusing.
It is a barrier-removing policy that has happened because the President cared “deeply about” and he “wanted to make happen in his first term and he has made it happen very quickly”
The policy has seen a 43% increase in enrolment which clearly gives a chance for teenagers who would have most likely dropped out of school at the most formative years of their lives.
And this is a good thing, he praised.
The free SHS boat has sailed, Dr. Patrick Awuah told Daniel Dadzie on the Joy FM Super Morning Show, Monday.
What needs to happen is that Ghanaians should “stop the arguments” he said, unfolding his arms in a rare moment to add some bodily umph and emphasis to his point
While the Ghana Education Service must “execute with excellence and execute with intent to succeed”.
“Right now, the focus should be how do we make it work extremely well,” the celebrated education innovator who left Microsoft to build the most innovative education system in Ghana, said.
Here are some things Dr. Patrick Awuah would do if he were to manage the free SHS programme.
Dr. Awuah, while supporting the need to remove financial barriers to Senior High School education, said that barrier does not exist for some parents.
Rather than a wholesale absorption of tuition and boarding fees, government should have identified those who could not pay, those who could not pay everything and leave those who can, to foot the bill.
“That’s what I would have done,” he said and added, that’s what is done at Ashesi University.
A quarter of the students pay “zero” fees, some “20 to 25%” pay partial fees, he explained.
Free SHS now takes a massive chunk of government expenditure with over 98% of the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) for the education priority area for 2018, used to finance it.
Questions about the sustainability have been raised not only by the opposition NDC but also by educationists. The President has said, this is a sacrifice he wants his government to make for the benefit of Ghana’s youth irrespective of one’s background.
With Ghana’s second cycle education predominantly a boarding school system, government under the policy is paying for feeding, housing and maintenance.
That is a “massive” cost to government, Dr. Awuah said and the innovator confessed observing, this innovation is strange.
“I don’t know of any country that has free boarding school for all citizens.”
Should boarding school be scrapped? No, the man, who described himself as “a bit uncomfortable with sudden moves,” said.
He would advise that government, going forward, builds smaller schools close to communities to make the trip to and fro convenient. But certainly no more boarding schools. If a new SHS is to be built, it should be close to a JHS, he said.
The Mahama government had emphasized the importance of Community Day schools, building 46 by 2016 out of a projected 200. Several of them are however not in use.