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Give our children a Free SHS.

Every Government must have a flagship policy by which it is defined. The Convention Peoples Party (CPP) under Kwame Nkrumah had free, compulsory primary education and night schools. The Progress Party (PP) under Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia had its rural development policy. Jerry Rawlings had his disastrous Economic Recovery Programme beginning in 1983.

The ERP devastated the economy and removed all vestiges of a welfare state including some elements of a free education. Come the NDC. It is almost too much of a task to understand what defines the National Democratic Congress (NDC) governments but I am sure the Mahama administration would like to be remembered for its schools infrastructure.

Come the Nana Akufo Ado and his New Patriotic Party Government and its many election promises. Now as a Government in power and as President, His Excellency Nana Akufo Ado is trying to implement some of his many promises: Free SHS, One District-One Factory, Zongo Development, and so on. Many Ghanaians were enamoured by many of those promises.

As September approaches, many parents are looking forward to a FREE SHS in our educational system. Undoudtedly, this will relieve many parents of the hardships they face trying to education their children and relatives.

However, there are many spoilers to a party. As if to pour sand in our gari soakings, a former Minister of Education, one Spio Garbah wades in to say that Free SHS is not necessary. To quote him: “There can never be free education because parents must have some responsibility for their children’s education. Total freedom is not desirable and that explains the NDC, the NPP and the CPP past government’s inability to provide free education.” First, this statement is not true.

The CPP government provided free total education. The Kutu Acheampong government also restored the free University education, and yes, parents still had responsibility for their children’s education. To think otherwise, is not only churlish, but a deliberate misunderstanding of the Government’s free SHS policy.

Yes, some people do not need free SHS; they can afford to send their children to the best schools in Ghana,  UK, US, South Africa, and so on. However, many parents in Ghana, the great majority, need this free SHS policy to work. Public Agenda associates itself with this policy.

To be in opposition does not mean one has to question, criticise and throw sand at everything the ruling government in power does, even if the policy is in the best interest of citizens and the Republic. To do that exposes a certain shallow, greedy, primitive and anti-people attitude and thinking. That is what I see in this case. Since the December 2016 election, there has been a creeping tendency by some opposition politicians to question everything the NPP Government does.

The free SHS policy is the policy, among others, that will define the Akuffo Addo government. More than that, it provides relief for poor parents. Allows children to gain education and become responsible citizens. Public Agenda would have liked the catchment area to include JHS (Junior High Schools).

The Presidential and parliamentary elections in 2020 will define pro-poor parties and those who think about themselves and not beyond their own greedy limits and lack of empathy for the poor people of this great rich country.

Come 2020, will Ghanaians vote for candidates with a progressive mindset on issues ranging from women’s rights to free education or will they chose those throwing sand in our gari?

For now, the NPP’s free SHS policy is a welcome reversal of all the bad foreign imposed education policies that we have seen since 1983. Public Agenda wants and supports free SHS. Let a thousand Free SHS schools bloom.

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