For the past few weeks, I have been critically assessing the SHS politics. How free could it be, or how accessible can it be.
While I believe these must seriously be interrogated, the shared spinning also amazes me. Indeed the question of affordability or accessibility can be seen from the experiences I am going to share with you. These are personal, real life situation. A struggle I wish to put into public domain. These are issues I would have wished to keep to myself but for the purposes of the ongoing debate, I dare to put into your domain:
I have had praises as a young chap of great brilliance and intelligence- an outstanding pupil. I had been the companion of new teachers into my school, amongst the first to be called upon on any academic forum for my school and a toast of my teachers and the community alike.
As a peasant farmer’s son, I dreaded for my continuity in school. This stems from the fact that no member of my father’s children had ever been to a secondary school. Mine was, as it were, going to end in similar vein. This was my fears and I dreaded it.
My dad died when I was in class three (p3), the thought above have indeed been my growing fears. This is critical, because I have been since that period, partly a financier of my education, to my completion at the junior high school (JSS, then).
My strategy had been balancing schooling and living at a tender age by doing some cobbler (shoe maker-yes shoe shine boy!) work at market days at the expense of schooling in attempt to maintain myself in class room. At about 13 years, I labored farmland and tobacco farms (adweewa) in order to pay or buy anything necessary for my schooling. How many children can go through these and make it?
I have had strong admiration for secondary schooling, especially during their return to the villages on vacation and how ‘bobbling and enlightened’ these students seem to be. Oh how fine and gentle they appear! I actually longed to be in a secondary school. My brilliance and admiration to be like them, will indeed short live.
I had a strong qualification for a secondary school and any senior secondary school will admit me. But, knowing my background, I had prepared myself mentally and psychologically for farming, by purchasing two piglets, ready to start life and possibly marry.
Of course my intentions to farm were born out of the frustrations and the crunches I went through in an effort to pay my registration fees to sit the BECE. Little will indeed be there for me in any secondary school admission’s fee.
My big sister had come to serve a native in northern Ghana and had manage to survive and married. I had a sent to join her and possibly live my dream, by going to secondary school.
I sat on top of a cargo car, popularly called Arollglass, from a village in Kintampo South called, Ayiman, where I had walked about 22 miles from my village to join the traders of plantain and cassava for Tamale market. You can imagine hoisting myself on that cart en route Tamale
I stayed at home for another one year mobilizing, selling ice water, newspapers and other petty selling to accumulate money to start secondary schooling.
I had admission by benevolence and had to return to my village each vacation to weed people’s farms and labor to shore up my finances.
My name appeared in the northern scholarship list of my school and knowing how well I needed a grant of that sort, I had hoped for it. My name was deleted because I was not a northerner and still not a northerner.
It had been hard and a struggle for me. I felt I was marginalized as a Ghanaian child. The reason for the scholarship was to help northern children in school base on inability of parents to afford.
So how was I to be discriminated against base on same principle?
If today you read this piece and thinks it is of accessibility, my question is how is it about accessibility?
If the classroom is available, how can you access it? We can’t be Moses anymore-seeing Canaan without getting in. We should get there some and now!
In my case the schools were there, my name had appeared on admission list of two schools. But the cash to pay was not there and so it was for my other 48 class mates whom I completed JSS with.
Out of these 49 class mates, only 3 of us went to secondary school and are well advanced now. The rest are paupers at the village now. They could have been like me but for inability to pay, they are now paupers, tattered and left out forever.
Inasmuch as accessibility must be improved, it is more of cost and affordability. How will you get into the accessible classroom? Is it not by paying?
If the free SHS is possible, it should be now. All Ghanaian children will benefit.
Presently the cocoa scholarship is not actually going to the intended people and the northern scholarship is just for northerners. What about children whose parants don’t fall into any of the existing schemes?
Let us with boldness start it now!