The much trumpeted NPP flagship policy of free Secondary School Education was launched last week. Foe me, it is a very laudable initiative and I commend the Akufo Addo led government for having the balls to begin the process of implementing this concept.
Before I carry on, may I point out to the readership that free SHS is not a new idea. In the days of our first president, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah of blessed memory, the CPP government had a comprehensive education programme that included free education from primary school to university and part of university fees were subsidized by the Nkrumah led CPP government.
This initiative by Nkrumah made Ghana one of the most educated populations in the world and Ghana had by far the best education system in Afrika.
Sadly after the CIA orchestrated coup of 1966, subsequent governments abandoned the idea of free comprehensive education including free SHS and allowed market forces to rule the roost as far as the provision of education was concerned .
As s result Ghana saw the explosion of private SHS schools in the country as subsequent governments post 1966 failed in their responsibility to provide free education and adequate resources for the masses of the people.
In principle the free SHS is a brilliant concept because it allows ALL children whatever their background equal opportunity to access education and in Afrika where often times girl children are often overlooked, free SHS is a necessity.
Now there are some commentators in Ghana including members of the opposition who cast doubt on the ability of the government to pay for free SHS.
The reality is that YES Ghana can afford the free SHS education programme. Well let me cite the following cases of corruption:
- In the 2015 Auditor General’s report that over US$1.2 Billion was stolen by government officials as a result of mass corruption,
- In a feature that appeared in Ghana web stated that Ghana lost in 2016 US$7 Billion in illegal mining by Chinese and Indian nationals.
- There was the US$7 million that was lost due to sabotage relating to the fire at the Central Medical Store.
- In 2014 the CEO of the State Transport Company (STC) allegedly took a US$30 million loan from SSNIT to buy a fleet of buses for the company – to date STC are unable to account for this loan or even the buses that were supposed to have been bought
In addition to these cases of corruption in the system, another reason why Ghana can afford the free SHS is our resources. Ghana has Gold, Diamonds, Timber, Oil and many many other precious resources.
However at the moment Ghana is not benefitting from these resources in terms of the royalties and taxation it is getting from these resources. For example Ghana only receives a pathetic 3% royalty rate despite nearly a million ounces of gold mined in 2016 and the price for gold is at least US$1,100 an ounce.
In terms of oil Ghana also receives only 13% of oil the revenue proceeds that come from oil receipts despite more than 200,000 barrels of oil a day being pumped from the various oil wells in the country.
Therefore if the Government of Ghana can re-negotiate these gold and oil contracts as the current government of Tanzania under the leadership of John Magufuli is doing then Ghana will earn a lot more revenue from its resources and will be more than capable of paying for the free SHS education policy.
Also if the government of Ghana can prosecute and retrieve ALL the billions of Ghana cedis in wicked acts of corruption then Ghana will have all the money it needs to fund the free SHS.
Education is a right and not a privilege and so it is essential for national development and social cohesion that ALL children in Ghana are given the opportunity of going to secondary school.
Dr Kwame Osei