The haphazard implementation of the Free Senior High School policy which has seen the NPP government appoint an offshore ambassador and launch a logo, only to release just 20% of the funding amount, has began crystallizing into a beggarly enterprise.
As 2017 grinds to a close and it becomes clear that the government will not be able to furnish schools with the remaining 80% of the required funding, vibes from the regime indicate that government intends to transfer the albatross to the necks of churches.
Both President Akufo-Addo and his Education Minister, Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, have served notice that Mission schools will be handed over to the churches.
Interestingly, when the NPP government gave itself the benefit of the doubt to make SHS free, it did not embark on any stakeholder consultation that would have given the churches the opportunity to make inputs into Free SHS.
But it is even gloomier – Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, yesterday dropped the bombshell that the NPP government which had boasted that it had secured funding for the program, intends to institute an alms collection scheme for the program.
At a presentation of the 2018 budget to Parliament the Finance Minister had couched the alms collection policy as ‘Voluntary Fund for Free SHS.’
According to Mr. Ofori-Atta, the NPP government will approach Parliament in the coming year with a bill for the beggarly Voluntary Fund for Free SHS Fund.
The cumulative picture that the NPP government is painting about the much tooted Free SHS is that in the coming future, the flagship program will depend on the Churches to mobilize tithes and collection to fund it. Along with the church collection, the benevolence of ordinary Ghanaians will be imposed on to keep the program running.
This affirms the fact that indeed Free SHS has not really been thought through by the NPP which did not even pilot it.
The hint to return all Mission Schools to churches was first made by Education Minister, Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, earlier in the year at a forum in Kumasi. He had not given a definite timeline but had said that the government would sign a contract with the churches in respect of the return of the schools.
Last week, President Akufo-Addo himself had reiterated his intent to return the Mission Schools to the churches.
In a speech at the Trinity College in Accra, he had justified the move saying, “The tradition of discipline, hard work, and integrity that characterize the churches…are needed in our country.”
But the Mission Schools, or schools built by the churches, had been taken over by government in 1984 in a deliberate policy to ensure that religious indoctrination and fundamentalism is avoided in the country.
Besides it has been argued that the objectives of morality and discipline are not really good justification for the intent to return Mission schools to churches because latter day Christians do not portray discipline in the way they even dress to church.
However, in the era of Free SHS, the biggest issue that has arisen in the wake of the government’s move to return these schools which constitute the elite backbone for high quality senior secondary education in the country the fact that the churches calling the tune because they will pay the piper.
If Mission Schools are returned to the Churches, the churches will have to bear all the costs of running the schools, thus giving them power to decide on intake and curriculums.
If tithes and collections from Presby funds Free SHS in PRESEC, then the ward of an elder of Presby will be more qualified to get admission into PRESEC than the Hindu man whose mode of worship is considered taboo by the church.
Again, questions have been asked about the loss of tax payer money that has gone into developing these Mission Schools, including expansion of physical infrastructure since government took control of these schools in 1984.
But perhaps the most compelling issue is that when the NPP government decided to make Secondary education free across the country, the churches had not been consulted to make inputs.
The decision to return these schools to the churches after a start of Free SHS therefore means the churches are suddenly, without any ceremony, being saddled with an albatross that even the government has not been able to handle.
After a fanfare launch in Accra in September, the NPP government has only been able to allocate 20% of the required funding towards the program.
The NPP government is aiming to use churches as escape route for its glaring failure over Free SHS, a grandiloquent and populist campaign promise from the 2016 elections.
A haphazard implementation which did not consider the need to expand infrastructure has come to mean that some students are now braving snake and mosquito bites in makeshift dormitories converted from verandas.
Recently an outbreak of malaria and pneumonia among students of some schools was in the news.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/Kofi Anang