To win political power hinges on many factors. Some of the common influential factors are a person’s political affiliation, the state of the nation’s economy, the security situation in the country, and the messages of a political party in question.
All the strategies adopted by a political party or candidates in an election must be able to influence the electorate in their choices.
Aside these factors, Education Reforms in Ghana has now been identified as a critical factor that can influence whom the Ghanaian electorate should vote for since education development connects to various facets of the nation’s economy.
The switch factor
During the 2012 and 2016 general elections, the then Presidential candidate for the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, announced to the nation, that should he be elected as President, he will introduce a policy called the “Free Senior High School” (FSHS) which would allow children from all over the country to access Senior High School as well as Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) schools free of charge.
The announcement of the FSHS initiative fetched the NPP thousands of votes during 2012 and 2016 leading to the party winning the general election in 2016 and retaining power same during the 2020 general election.
The large number of votes the NPP garnered in the last three general elections was because many Ghanaians especially parents understood the benefits parents and the nation could derive from the policy.
Looking at how potent and acceptable the FSHS initiative is, many political opponents of the NPP targeted the concept making sure that they painted it black in the eyes of the Ghanaian populace, especially the electorate.
To ensure that the FSHS “Gospel” did not fly, money and other resources were invested by political opponents of the NPP which forcefully worked to sell the policy as the worst thing that has ever happened in the country.
Notwithstanding the various educational policies and reforms that have been introduced by successive governments over the years, the Akufo-Addo-led government has affirmed its commitment to prudent policies and reforms geared towards transforming the nation’s economy through education.
NPP education reforms
The FSHS policy stands tall amongst the numerous innovative initiatives introduced by the Akufo-Addo government. Over 1.3 million students have since enrolled onto the SHS/TVET institutions and this has led to equity among students from hard-to-reach areas getting access to schools in the urban areas of their choice depending on their pass marks made at the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
Some of the other education reform under operation are the double-track system which serves as a leapfrogging strategy,
Revamping of TVET institutions both at the SHS and Tertiary level,
Introduction of Pre-Engineering Course,
Revamping of STEM education at all levels of education in the country,
Establishment of new STEM institutions across the country,
Upgrading of Colleges of Education to Degree awarding institutions,
Introduction of Robotics and Engineering into SHS level,
Revamping the activities of Centre for National Distance and Open School (CENDLOS).
Establishment of the National Education Learning Institute (NELI),
Re-introduction of Nurses’ and teachers’ allowances,
Operationalization of five STEM Senior High Schools and adoption of two existing schools to provide STEM education.
The introduction of the Ghana Accountability for Learning Outcomes Project (GALOP) which is focused on the 10,000 lowest performing Basic Schools (Kindergarten, Primary and Junior High Schools) and all 28 special schools. It also focuses on strengthening the accountability of the entire education system.
Operationalization of the Ghana Education Outcomes Projects (GEOP) which aims at getting all children educated through support to schools and communities.
Others are the No Guarantor Students Loan System launched in June 2022 in furtherance for FSHS graduates to get support for their tertiary education, and the Gross Tertiary Enrolment Ration, which has improved from 18 per cent in 2017 to 20 per cent in 2022.
It is also heart-warming to know that there has been a great improvement in English Reading Proficiency in the country. An assessment in Early Grade Reading Assessment which took place in 2015 showed a score of only two per cent.
The story has however changed as the National Standardized Test (NST) conducted by the Education Ministry in 2022 revealed a 38 per cent score in Literacy across the country. This follows an aggressive effort to change the state of literacy and numeracy in the country.
The latest innovation being introduced by the government is the announcement to replace textbooks in SHS with laptops for students to ensure that students leverage IT to promote their learning.
Strong IMF backing
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff report, 2023 stated that “Ghana’s Free SHS has helped to increase enrolment, but poorly targeted”. This attests to the fact that it is not the government of Ghana alone that holds high the FSHS initiative, but the international community as well.
It is no secret that many African countries have contacted Ghana’s Education Ministry over the past three years to understudy the FSHS and other reforms currently going on in the country.
Calls for review
After a few years of the FSHS initiatives in the country, it has brought to the fore some teething challenges that have led to many parents and other stakeholders adding their voices to the government to consider reviewing the initiatives to resolve the challenges that have been associated with it.
This, the government has not taken lightly. But the question is, would the government listen to the call for the review of the policy as it is being suggested by various stakeholders including the opposition NDC?.
Apart from the NDC, many faith-based organizations and civil society organizations have added their voices for a review of the FSHS but whether the NPP administration would do that depends on time.
The NDC’s focus
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) on the other hand does not have much to show when it comes to education reforms in the country within the past 10 years.
Notable among the reforms brought by the NDC from 2008 to 2016 was the cancellation of Teachers and Nursing Trainees allowances which might have contributed to the party’s losses in previous general elections.
The flagbearer of the NDC, Mr John Dramani Mahama and other members of the party have on countless occasions spoken about their desire to review the FSHS initiative when granted the opportunity to serve the nation again.
After cancelling the teacher and nurses training allowances, Mr Mahama’s administration introduced the extension of student loans to Colleges of Education to replace the training allowances.
This, according to him was due to the fact that he believed that once one qualifies to be in the tertiary institution, then that person qualifies for a student loan and not an allowance.
The NPP administration has since 2017 cancelled the student loan to Colleges of Education after re-introducing the teacher training allowances.
One other reform Ghanaian teachers in the country would remember Mr Mahama’s administration and the NDC for is the introduction of the “three-month arrears” policy whereby the government only paid for three months of arrears after being promoted or when they start receiving their salary after their recruitment irrespective of how long it takes before being paid their first salary.
The NDC can also boost of its flagship education programme which was the introduction of the Community Day School (CDS) initiative. The Mahama-led administration promised to build 200 CDS at selected locations across the country.
The party however could only complete 47 out of the targeted 200 of the projects. The Nana Akufo-Addo-led administration has been able to increase the number of completed CDS to almost 75 as it has been able to add boarding facilities to some of them which are located in hard-to-reach areas making it very difficult for students to patronise.
Election campaign message
The 2024 Parliamentary and Presidential elections would soon bring about various candidates and political parties unveiling their manifestos. The manifestos usually provide a tall list of policies and initiatives they intend to execute when voted for.
As of now, I might not be wrong to say that the political parties are seriously working on their refined manifestos and strategies they would like to help communicate them to the electorates when the time comes.
The writer is Felix Asrachie
A Freelance Journalist