Social commentator, Sydney Casely-Hayford, feels the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is proving to be on the wrong side of history when it comes to the implementation of the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy.
Speaking on The Big Issue, he said the NDC did not foresee the impact of the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) Free SHS policy.
“Politically, I can only say that I think the NDC gambled wrongly because they didn’t see that Free SHS could be a game changer.”
The NDC is yet to warm up to the policy as it enters its second year. The opposition party has criticized the policy as being unsustainable from the very beginning.
But Mr. Casely-Hayford said this is costing the opposition party in the public eye.
“In the public discussion that we are having, it seems like the NDC is trying to discredit everything that is being done and the opportunity, and I think by doing that, they are losing marks as we go forward.”
Plea to NDC, NPP
Bearing in mind the infrastructure deficit that is preventing the smooth implementation of the policy, Mr. Casely-Hayford said “it would be better if they [NDC and NPP] came together to work on the quality.”
In his view, education is such “an important part of our lives that they should at least put aside their adversarial politics just for once and come up with a system that will fix this education problem once and for all.”
“In the interest of our children, they should just come together and sort it out. You don’t lose any marks by coming together and cooperating with your adversary or your opposition.”
Call for consultations
The NDC has called for some consultation on the implementation of the Free SHS.
Former President John Mahama held that widely reported problems with the Akufo-Addo government’s Free SHS bore down to a lack of preparation and consultation.
“For the National Health Insurance Scheme, we underwent a long period of consultations before Kufuor established National Health Insurance. So when you are bringing something like Free SHS what do you do? You do broad consultations,” Mr. Mahama said in 2017.
“They needed to do some broad consultations [on the Free SHS]. They need a stakeholder’s conference where they bring people with experience within the education sector for input so all Ghanaians can decide on the way to implement the free SHS.”
The Akufo-Addo government wasted no time in implementing the Free SHS programme after winning power in the 2016 elections.
The policy was a promise the party had trumpeted as far back as 2008.
It took only seven months for Free SHS education to begin, with the first years, numbering about 400,000 starting school in the 2017/18 academic year.
The policy saw the government absorb the full cost of public secondary education, with beneficiaries not having to pay admission fees, examination fees, and utility fees, among others.
A year down the line, the infrastructure problems that were predicted prompted the implementation of the double-track system for secondary schools.
In the NPP’s time in opposition, the Mahama administration in 2014, started what it called the progressive introduction of free secondary education after consultations with stakeholders, and this brand of free education was to start with only day students.