Mr. President, I have noticed that you are very unhappy with the recent debate over the FREE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL. Please relax, ours is a democracy and so please brace yourself for more of such healthy debates. Don’t get angry that some and especially IMANI are subjecting your sudden free High school (Free SHS) announcement to analytical rigor. The last time I checked you and your political party rode on our (IMANI’s) analysis, publications and vehement advocacy against the NPP’s trumpets on free SHS in 2012. IMANI wrote 6 major reports against the policy.
The NDC instead paid for 36 very humorous media adverts against the NPP promise of Free SHS and I believe it worked. IMANI made 32 media appearances against the NPP policy much to the party’s disgust.
On costing, I noticed your Education Minister said she has no idea how you intend funding the announcement. In fact, she has been quoted in a TV3 interview she granted last week thus “I am not sure in practical ways how that funding is going to be raised. But first you need to sell the idea then you cost it and then you move on to find the money.” The deputy Minister however, was adamant that it would be funded from the education fund called GETfund. That doesn’t seem to be an alignment of thought. Anyways, you have settled the matter, so it seems, when you said the cost of the free SHS in 2015 will be approximately 71m GHS.
Here is a Math Lesson:
Assumption: 300,000 day students
Promise: Government to Spend 71m GHS to abolish fees
Calculation: Roughly 236 GHS per year per student, OR 19 GHS per month
Inference: Every Ghanaian Parent with a day student ward cannot afford 19 GHS per month, or 63 pesewas per day, for which reason government must pay for all of them.
It would seem as my colleague Bright Simons suggests, this blanket approach resembles the global goal to end hunger universally. But does it mean distribution of free food to everyone from canteens at various public agencies whether they need the food or not?
That said, I have the following questions for you, Sir.
1. Please Sir, would you know the cost of items covered by the budget in 2015?
2. Would you think the cedi would have performed better against the dollar for instance?
3. Would you know the rate of inflation in 2015?
4. Would you think this attempt to spread what I consider misery equally in education and force parents who can pay a very democratic and prudent way of spending our hard earned money?
I agree with you that every child in Ghana has a right to be educated. However, it would seem parents for wards in private and public schools and the Government of Ghana have the primary responsibility to ensure that every child has access to good quality education regardless of their economic circumstance. As the Forum for Education Reform has always maintained from available records, there is never ‘free education’, even within the public sector. The question therefore is whether we will fund it fully, and collectively do it via a tax system or through a combination of state funding and parental contribution.
I recall that for several months of last year and the beginning of this year, many schools in your home region of the North had not received any feeding grant from government. Many schools in other districts are recording 0% in basic examinations. The Ghana National Education Coalition Campaign reports that 50% of all basic pupils cannot read and write. It even gets personal when my home region, the Volta Region recorded one of the worst results in the basic certificate exams last year- ONLY 11 Candidates out of the many thousands who sat for the entrance exams had aggregate 6. YES just 11. Some schools do not have chalk or seats for their pupils.
Mr. President you are right when you say, “Ghana has no time for trivia”, but certainly you cannot say that analytical arguments about a policy you announced without recourse to the major stakeholders in education such as the National Association of Graduate Teachers are “unhelpful”. It is important to ask questions even when it seems so convincing.
Anyways, congrats on breaking grounds for the commencement of the community day schools. 50 out of 200 schools in 18 months sounds like doable. That means the first 50 will be ready in June 2015. Would you build the remaining 150 schools you promised between June 2015 and December 2016, when your first term will end? 18 months for 150 schools?. Now, I wish you good luck Sir.
Your servant, friend and a Policy Referee, Franklin Cudjoe.