Education is a powerful agent. It is one of the most important investments a country can make in her people and her future. These investments translate into improved health, infrastructure development, the growth of the economy and general living conditions.
Education contributes to social stability and drives long-term economic growth. Education is also essential to the success of each one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Any country or society that does not take education seriously shall remain dead to the future.
Over the years, successive governments have done their best in contributing to the promotion, development, sustenance and viability of Ghana’s educational system.
However, the current campaign promises by President Akufo-Addo defies what has already been stipulated in Ghana’s constitution as far as “free education” is concerned. It is quite obvious that the “Free SHS” programme introduced by the Akufo-Addo-led government is causing damage to the QUALITY of Ghana’s educational system and if something urgent is not done to contain the situation, especially in the area of infrastructure, a serious catastrophe awaits us.
The journey started with the framers of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, who made provisions for basic educational rights. Article 25 Clause 1 (a) and (b) clearly state that (i) basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all. When did free education start in Ghana? Certainly, not the brain child of Nana Akufo-Addo and the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Ghana introduced free compulsory education at the primary and junior high school levels in 1995 as required by the Constitution, but implementation took time. It wasn’t until 2014 that the World Bank said Ghana had achieved near-universal access at the primary level.
“The Government of Ghana launched Progressively Free Senior High School education in September 2015, and an amount of GH¢ 12,178,544.00 ($ 2,744, 334) was released to the Ministry of Education for the first term of 2015/2016 academic year to fund the policy” (MOE, 2015).
This prompted the then government under His Excellency, John Dramani Mahama to take critical actions which saw the building of E-Block schools across the country. This was to prepare the grounds for the take-off of the Free SHS programme, and to increase room for access in the event of increased enrollment.
The above action was not fully actualised before the change of government in 2016. In view of the above details, it is not true that President Akufo-Addo was the first to introduce free senior high school education in Ghana.
Furthermore, President Akufo-Addo’s “Free SHS Education” was a mere campaign promise which was made on a weak foundation and was not well thought through in the sense that facilities/infrastructure that must have been put in place to accommodate any future eventualities were not sorted out satisfactorily and, above all, the financial capacity to implement this promise was unavailable.
By Cyril Duodu