Interestingly, the most wickedly attacked and skeptical policy by the New Patriotic Party, the Free SHS, finally became a reality in September, 2017. Although several Ghanaian children are currently benefiting from this unique and modernised government scholarship, what has touched my heart so much is the over 90,000 kids who would have stayed on the streets had the free SHS not been implemented are in school acquiring knowledge and skills.
As a matter of fact, some of the would-be street kids could have probably ended up as prostitutes, armed robbers, thieves, and would have engaged in all forms of social vices or even lost their precious lives. Again, if this negative trend had continued for just five years, an average of 500,000 kids could have choked our prisons. This would probably force the government to spend the little financial resources in expanding our prison and court facilities, train more police officers, acquire more ammunitions to fight crime, not forgetting upsurge of teenage pregnancy in our communities at the expense of other developmental projects. Thus, the social cost of leaving our kids on the streets would have been very difficult for the government to bear.
According to Victor Hugo; “He who opens a school door, closes a prison door”. Hugo’s statement is in line with the ratio of population of graduate prisoners to those who do not have formal education or dropped out from school. In this sense, it must be pointed out to the ‘Doubting Thomases’ and the ‘saboteurs’ of the policy that, these kids, apart from acquiring knowledge to make them become critical thinkers, would also enable them gain employable skills to make a living and pay taxes to the government in return.
I therefore see all those vehemently kicking against the Free SHS policy as not only unpatriotic, but also, wicked, selfish and somehow ignorant. Yes, criticism of a policy, if positive is not out of place, but to state that the policy must be scrapped because somebody believes it is an electoral weapon for the NPP to stay in power for long is neither here nor there.
I am a beneficiary parent and know the significance of the policy with regard to my finances. His Excellency, President Akufo-Addo, together with his government has shown commitment. The Hon. Minister of Education, Hon. Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh, with his team has not relented in his efforts to see the success of the flagship programme.
It is time for other stakeholders – traditional authorities, community members, teachers, suppliers, NGOs, District Assembly, PTA, etc to honour their share of the responsibility. As a headmaster/teacher, what are you supposed to do? Do you manage your school well by ensuring that there is an improvement in discipline and academics? As a parent, do you supply other needs of your ward?
For me, if all other stakeholders showed the same commitment as demonstrated by the Akufo-Addo-led NPP government, Ghana would become an educational icon in the comity of nations. If other scholarships – Cocobod, Northern Scholarship Scheme, Hardship Scholarships, etc succeeded in producing presidents, vice presidents, MPs, and ministers in the past, why doubt the free SHS that covers 1000s of Ghanaian kids? Your guess is as good as mine.
Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang – 0202471070
(A Strong Advocate for the Free SHS Policy)