Nana Ama Tima writes: The implementation of the Free SHS policy has not been without challenges but the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
There are conversations around the quality of teaching and learning but does it not count for anything that in the 2020 WASSCE, the first batch of Free SHS students performed well both locally and internationally.
All three students who picked all the top 2020 WASSCE awards are Ghanaian and beneficiaries of the Free SHS Policy. On top of that, a total of 411 out of the 465 candidates who scored grade A in all subjects at the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), were students from Ghana. This was examination written by over 2 million candidates in five countries.
I have seen firsthand how several students who had been home for years after their BECE can now access secondary education. Does it not count that in 2017, we had about 800,000 students in SHS but we're currently inching very close to 1,300,000 students? Does it not count, that a certain Thomas Amoani, who had no hope of moving up the academic ladder after JHS not only got the opportunity to climb but also clocked 8As in the WASSCE? Is the school Thomas attended, Presby SHS, Adeiso, the land of milk and honey? Or we will now say Thomas is the outlier? Louis Faith, who had dropped out of JHS and gone on to have three children is currently in her final year at Mawuli School, working on achieving her dream of becoming a midwife, Maa Afia, a widow who spoke about how she had 3 of her children in SHS last year, Akosombo Textiles Limited, which was on the verge of collapse has been revived, all because of this policy. These are not anonymous callers into a radio station. The videos were put out and are still on Free SHS Ghana for all to see.
There are some parents who can afford to pay, no doubt, if we want to do a means testing to decide who pays and who doesn't, let us have that conversation as a country but let us not bastardized the entire policy. Would we rather we limit intake, so some students stay home? Would we rather the policy is scrapped so those who cannot afford SHS education ‘go to hell’?
As my boss Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh would say, Ghana is not only Accra and Kumasi, and we need to have a nationwide outlook if we’re to have a meaningful discussion.
Staff at the Free SHS Secretariat have at times had to pitch in to help students buy personal effects because for some, even after they have been placed, they still cannot afford the chopbox and trunk.
You would think that with all the criticisms heaped on the policy, private SHS would be filled to the brim. Conversely, we have had complaints from owners of the private schools that their schools are empty due to this policy. Urban, middle class dwellers are complaining that due to this policy, it has become difficult to get house helps since children who were previously performing these jobs have mostly been enrolled in school.
I appreciate the calls for reviews but please, let it be known that the policy is constantly being reviewed. Initially, 20% of the feeding budget was remitted to schools for the purchase of perishable food items. That has now been changed to 30%, after dialogue with CHASS.
We definitely need to have a discussion but let it be devoid of outright lies and exaggerations.
NB. A moment of silence all of us who were caned, prevented from writing exams and sent out of school for non-payment of fees, we remember! It’s not as if we had taken the money and ‘chopped’ it oh, our parents just didn’t have it. May the generations ahead not experience what we went through!
Source: Nana Ama Tima
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