This week, Free SHS has taken center stage of Media discussions once again, not because of the serious bottlenecks in the implementation of the Policy but a needless debate on who will sustain it and who will abolish it.
Now it is clear that the NPP Government has claimed the bonafide ownership of the policy and is determined to keep it close to its chest as elections 2020 draws near.
That is not a problem if you ask me, afterall it is the NPP government that commenced the implementation of Free SHS on a wholesale basis.
But when it comes to the appropriation of the originality of the Free Education Concept, the NPP cannot claim bonafide ownership…and am sure you are wondering why….!
You see, on the inception of the fourth Republic, there was a 258 Member Consultative Assembly formed with district representatives and Civil Organisations charged with the responsibility of drafting the 1992 Constitution.
This was to gather the thoughts and aspirations of Ghanaians on what should be in the now famous 1992 Constitution.
And I dare reveal that the NPP and its Members boycotted the Consultative Assembly.
They took absolutely no part in drafting the 1992 Constitution, so the 1992 Constitution(which promulgated the Free Education Concept) had no input from the NPP or their members as far as the Consultative Assembly is concerned.
So if we had Free Education in our Constitution as far back as 1992, the idea did not emanate from the NPP or any other Political Party but Ghanaians!
The originality of the Free Education Concept which includes Universal Access to Free Compulsory Basic Education and the continuous Cost elimination at the Secondary School level until it becomes absolutely free was the desire and aspirations of Ghanaians during the drafting of the Constitution.
(But which government/Party supervised it?….don’t answer me yet)
We can give credit to the NPP for popularising it, by making it a campaign message in 2008, and for drawing the whole Country’s attention to the fact that there is a provision in our Constitution that embinds us to provide zero cost barrier education for our children.
So No Government can actually abolish Free Education or Free SHS unless you want to say they will change the Constitution or repeal the Free Education provisions in our laws which is absurd and very unlikely.
But every Government will have the liberty to decide how they want to implement this Constitutionally binding Free Education Policy…! whether they want a wholesale implementation without any clear cut funding source(putting extreme pressure on the domestic economy), with no resources to expand infrastructure for unlimited access (thereby introducing a shift system) and no policy Guideline to even identify the implementation bottlenecks and deal with them head on or whether they want a Free SHS that start with progressive cost elimination whiles working assiduously to find a sustainable funding base for the Policy and at the same time improving and expanding infrastructure for unlimited access?
So the Politicians must sit back and stop this back and forth banter and allow Ghanaians who are the originators of the Free SHS concept to decide whether they want a Free SHS with a double track system where their children sits at home for almost 5 months in an academic year doing nothing or paying exorbitant classes fees or they want a Free SHS without a double track system with a focus on quality education and expanding access.
That is for Ghanaians to decide!, Not the President and definitely not my good friend Matthew Opoku
Executive Director ASEPA