In every country, there are norms or the best fit model for the management of ministries or sectors.
Although a well-intended policy, Free Senior High School (SHS) is a negative deviation from the norm. For millennia, the world has been managed by the creation of social classes.
Here in Ghana and across the globe, there are similar social classes or segregations that run across ministries and agencies. Free SHS even though a positive idea, the form in which it is being implemented is not in tandem with the economic realities of our ability as a country. This policy will continue to have an agonizing effect on Ghana if it is not immediately reviewed because government alone cannot bear the entire cost of education at the SHS level.
In fact, the existence of social classes or segregations where government alone does not bear the responsibility of providing a solution to a ministry/sector is evident in all our ministries. If the segregations that exists in all governmental sectors are to be analysed statistically, both locally and globally, the Free SHS model will be an outlier.
The concept is therefore illogical at this stage of our development. Outliers can occur as a result of wrong estimation among others. This is evident in the case of our President’s initiative. It is evident that we did not know precisely how much the Free SHS was going to cost us. A recap of the interview between Stephen Sackur of BBC about how much it will cost the government to implement Free SHS says it all. It is unfortunate the IMF at this critical stage has not been bold enough to request a review of the policy, but why should they? The reason for the existence of IMF is to develop programmes for mismanaged economies. If economies are well managed by leaders, IMF may cease to exist.
Let us consider the social classes in a few sectors locally and globally to properly situate this analysis. The transportation sector has established segregation both locally and globally. Here in Ghana, levels include small buses (trotro), taxis, uber, bolt, private cars, big buses (Ayalolo, STC, VIP etc) and hiring vehicles.
In the aviation industry, these segregations exist and I believe his Excellency is exceptionally knowledgeable about this. From different airlines, direct flights, transit flights, private jets and classes of tickets. Even transport from Accra to Kumasi offers a unique form of segregation. All these levels of transportation come with the ability to pay and therefore create a certain convenience for the poor, average earner and the rich. These levels of segregation cannot be avoided in any country, besides it helps take pressure off governments to provide cheaper means of transportation for citizens.
Let us consider another sector, health care. It is the responsibility of government to provide affordable health care for all citizens. But the reality is that within the health care sector, there are well established segregations ranging from CHPS compounds, private and public clinics to private and government hospitals. These segregations are very critical because they are able to satisfy the needs and preferences of all citizens in addition to reducing pressure at government health care facilities.
The existence of social classes in all sectors of an economy enables governments to save revenue to develop other sectors of an economy that are underdeveloped. The education sector in Ghana has this segregation predominantly in the urban centres, and at the preschool, primary, JHS, and University levels. At the SHS level, this segregation is not well developed. Even in the urban centres there are very few SHS and this explains why the free SHS is overburdening government.
What then are the possible remedies? The first option is inevitable. No matter how long we run away from it or delay, it shall come to pass either in this form that I have presented or in a polished form. My advice is to implement it now because it will help speed up our development.
Quickly propagate social classes within the SHS sector. This can be achieved by restoring all the missionary affiliated schools back to those mission schools and letting them operate as private schools. This will take a lot of pressure off government and save a lot of money. Even though most of these mission schools are category A schools, they are not the only category A schools we have so there is no cause for alarm. As long as the Old Student’s Associations remain vibrant in our second cycle schools, it will be almost impossible for the standards to decline in the rest of the schools that will be managed solely by government.
In addition, all pupils in boarding houses must pay boarding fees. This will generate additional revenue and government will then be in the position to properly feed pupils. The community day schools are still very critical in this option. Government should quickly complete all uncompleted community day schools because the model is a very great concept that can produce better results than the boarding system if the model is improved. We must rather be innovative in improving the community day schools because it offers a better option for improving upon our educational system. I can provide inputs into the community day school model that we can test. It is very critical we develop long term educational policies that we can all stick to. Furthermore, as part of this option, private individuals should be encouraged to establish more SHS.
The second option will require that we stop providing free food for pupils and pupils in boarding houses to pay for their accommodation. This will ease the pressure on government while we work towards the first option. Targeting parents who can afford to pay may pose serious challenges within the informal sector.
The third option will be to revert to what was prevailing in 2017. Quickly complete the uncompleted community day schools, add more as quickly as possible and work towards the first option with as much alacrity as possible. Even though this option may seem politically incorrect, it shows marks of great leadership, patriotism and will significantly enhance our democracy.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said this during President Joe Biden’s recent visit “What happens in the political campaign generally doesn’t survive the reality of being in office. President Trump said things about Saudi Arabia during the campaign, but then when he was in office we had a great relationship with him. What happens in campaigns, is what I call happenings during the silly season”.
Let us also be reminded that President Biden called the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salma a “Pariah” during his 2019 presidential campaign and just a couple of weeks back President Biden indicated that he was not going to meet the Crown Prince during his visit to the Middle East, but here we are, he did. This is what great leaders do. They swallow their self-importance for the sake of their people.
The Senior High School of our educational system has suffered too many political interferences and experiments. It is time we engage all stakeholders within and out of the educational system, especially our political parties to develop a long term model that fits the Ghanaian child.
When our best science SHS pupils from the National Science and Math Quiz went on a tour in Dubai their ineptness practically was exposed. An indication that our educational system is practically defective and needs investment urgently.
This is what needs to be urgently fixed and it can easily be fixed using what we have. Let us develop IDEAs that best fit our economic and socio-cultural status. It is only then that we can make gigantic strides in our developmental agenda.
The author of the article, Prince Buertey Kpentey is a PhD student at West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement of University of Ghana (WACCI, UG). He can be reached (email@example.com).
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