The free Senior High School policy is a government of Ghana initiative introduced in September 2017. This policy was a major campaign policy of the New Patriotic Party prior to the 2016 elections.
Some Ghanaians think the policy is probably the greatest gift to Ghanaians; some also see it as a threat to quality education. This policy has raised lots of political battles when it was launched in 2017 by the Akofu Addo led government with different parties having a bite as they pleased.
One major problem of the Ghanaian citizen is that their opinion depends on the opinion of others, in a sense that we do not review matters for ourselves before making a verdict. We deny ourselves the duty of looking into issues with an unbiased mindset but we always tend to see things from the politician’s point of view and continue to fight for the same people who are bleeding us of our livelihoods.
I have said a lot about this policy when it was first introduced, and at this moment, I still stand by some of the things I said whiles remounting my opinion on some base on what I have seen so far as a student intern. I have a whole new conviction of the entire policy after seeing the effect of the policy on the ground as an intern, a real-life experience lots of Ghanaians lack, but most of these people are the ones leading the charge for or against the free Senior High School education policy.
Anyone who has neutrally observed what is happening on the ground will assert that there is silver and sore part to the whole policy, only if we can put our political lenses down for a minute and see things from an open-minded perspective.
This is exactly what I’m trying to do with this piece, to tell you per my observations what is really happening.
Anyone who says there is no good in the introduction of the free Senior High School policy needs a face wash. The policy came with lots of perks, from widening access to education which turns out to be free to lifting some financial burdens on parents. This presents an opportunity for Ghanaian school children to enter the Senior High School for free and come out with skills and knowledge they can use to contribute not only to the development of this nation but to also provide for themselves.
I have seen the effect of free education on the ground and have also seen how parents with financial disadvantage are taking hold of the opportunity. And in some wild ways, it is making sense to me now that before.
Even though the policy came to relief and we can attest to the fact that it is really helping, there are lots of loose ends to this policy and if care is not taken, the good the policy was intended to do will burn us right in the face.
To some points, it seems the ugly side of the policy outweighs the good and the result it will bring to our doorsteps may leave the country in a big mess.
We know by the virtue of the policy that student enrollment has increased which means more workload for teachers. And here is the case we have two tracks. I know you learnt the government promised to increase staffs to accommodate the numbers to make teaching and learning easy but that is not the case on the ground. Even if the government did try to increase teachers to compensate the enrollment, it is not near enough, leaving the same teachers to take on the increase with the little pay they receive each month. Where will that lead us?
As an intern, I have 13 hours each week, which means I take 13 hours every week excluding the time to write lesson notes and prepare teaching and learning materials for each lesson. Each of these classes has at least 30-40 students which means that after giving classwork, I will spend hours marking every week. And the truth is it wears me down.
And here is the case I have 13 hours as an intern, how many hours do you think permanent teachers have? The least I know of in the I.C.T. department is 20, 20 hours every week excluding the hours used in planning and preparing for the course to giving and marking assignments. This is a direct hit on the quality of our education.
This also means that the populations our schools will be receiving each year will put our inadequate infrastructure under high pressure and the effect will be the drop in quality education.
There is another threat we may overlook or may not have noticed but is already playing a major role in reducing the quality of our education; the role of parents. Most parents take the free Senior High school policy to mean that ‘the government is taking away all our responsibilities so far as the education of their children is a concern.’ They think it is the government who said they will take their children to school ‘so they should do it.’
Some students, as you are reading this now have no exercise books and they are waiting for the government to provide. Can you imagine a parent sending his or her child to school without giving them the needed material just because the government promised free high school education? What is the government didn’t bring exercise books?
I will conclude by saying that the policy is the best thing to have happen to the country but the dangers it carries if we ignore them like we always do, it will end up doing more harm than good, bite us right in the ass. Our policymakers should go back to the drawing board, because introducing a free Senior High School education is not the difficult part or the important part, at the end of the day, the most needful thing we all want is the quality we will have.