…As Nana Goes Messing Up Progressively Free SHS Started By NDC
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) government’s ass-backward implementation of the Free Senior High School policy, in which a logo and an offshore ambassador have been unveiled, without a blueprint for the programme itself, is not only funny, but also a dangerous retrogression, the Minority in Parliament has said.
As selectivity in the beneficiary list of the programme betrays an attempt at ‘progressively free’, rather than the outright ‘Free’ SHS promised by the NPP, the Minority points out that a haphazard tackle which has led to confusion in the school placement system is a drawback on the “Progressively Free SHS” that President Mahama had started in 2014.
In other words, what the NPP is trying to implement is “Progressively Free SHS” and not the “Free SHS” that it promised in its 2012 and 2016 campaign manifestos. Progressively Free SHS,” was started by the predecessor NDC government under former President Mahama in 2014.
At a press conference in Accra yesterday, the Minority gave concrete proof.
“The NPP Government would want Ghanaians to believe that the first time Ghana is going to witness the implementation of Free SHS under the Fourth Republic is today, September 11, 2017 when the 2017/2018 academic year is expected to begin. This is palpable falsehood.
“The previous NDC Government under President John Dramani Mahama began the implementation of Free SHS as a component under the Secondary Education Improvement Programme (SEIP) which was supported by the World Bank with a facility of $156 million. The SEIP was approved by Parliament on July 2, 2014. We have a copy of the Hansard here for your perusal. The SEIP was launched by President Mahama at Kintampo on November 4, 2014,” Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrissu, told journalists at a press conference in Accra yesterday.
He added that the NDC’s Free SHS has 10,400 beneficiaries from 125 public senior high schools. These beneficiaries, most of whom are now in their final year in the various schools, he said, are available for confirmation to anybody who doubts that NDC started Free SHS.
“We are making available to you today the full list of the 125 Senior High Schools to aid you in this confirmation process,” Hon. Haruna Idrissu told journalists at the press conference yesterday.
NPP complex of incompetence and lies
On the basis of the verifiability of the revelation, he made it clear that the NPP cannot claim to have started Free SHS in Ghana through what the Minority pointed out, was an attempt to pass off “Progressively Free SHS” started by the NDC as the touted “Free SHS” promised by the NPP.
Even so, the Minority added that the NPP’s approach at building on the NDC’s “Progressively Free SHS” has been very incompetent and clumsy.
“As we speak, the NPP Government has no Free SHS Policy. There is no blueprint. Neither is there an implementation manual. The absence of these crucial documents has not only exposed the Government; it has left key stakeholders such as the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS), Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT) bewildered as they struggle to implement Akufo-Addo’s Progressively Free SHS; a situation which was completely avoidable but for the NPP Governments incompetence and preference for fanfare over substance,” the Minority said.
Symptoms of incompetence
Manifestations of the NPP’s poor approach to implementing Free SHS have included disarray in this year’s Computerized School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS).
There have been reports of multiple IT system breakdowns along with a situation where students across the country have been stranded, with most not being placed by placement deadlines, while others have been misplaced.
In the matter of the misplacements, there have been situations where males have been put in female schools. There have also been numerous instances of students being placed in special schools, including the famous case of Belinda Akuramaa, who was placed at the Mampong Akuapem School for the Deaf, even though she is not deaf.
The Minority pointed out that such confusion never happened throughout the eight years that the NDC was in power.
What is even more bizarre, according to the Minority, is that all these troubles about the CSSPS are arising, in spite of the fact that the NDC government had had in place plans to improve on the computer placement system that the NPP has failed to avail itself of.
“The CSSPS is in its eleventh year of implementation. Last year, the NDC government marked its 10th anniversary by organizing a thorough stakeholders’ review forum, which ended with important recommendations. We are disappointed that the NPP appears to have failed to consider and implement these recommendations. Had they done so, the current mess could have easily been avoided.
Nepotistic obscurantism in the mix
“The penchant by this NPP administration to replace experienced and Public Servants with their family and friends, some with doubtful credentials and expertise has further exacerbated the situation,” the Minority said.
In addition to the chaos from the CSSPS, there are thousands of children whose fate hang in the balance, not knowing whether they will be placed in schools, on account of the fact that the NPP government has been unable to spell out clearly what the grade cut-off point is under Free SHS.
The Minority pointed out that the lack of information on a cut-off point appears to be a deliberately well-kept secret by Government.
“Meanwhile, as Ghanaians are made to believe the NPPs propaganda that every cost associated with entering Senior High School this year has been borne by Government, parents and guardians continue to spend copious amounts of money on scratch cards whose value is inflated, as well as internet fees in a seemingly fruitless mission,” the Minority pointed out.
It demanded that government’s policy to reserve 30% of places in grade A SHSs for students in public sector Junior High Schools be demystified by the government.
According to the Minority, the policy, though seemingly affirmative, is too shrouded in secrecy even as it expressed fear that NPP government has resorted to reserving places at the SHS level as substitution for continuing a deliberate policy of quality pursuit that the NDC had undertaken in office to improve quality in public sector basic education.
Poor relay recipient
“It is absolutely crucial that the NPP Government pursues the NDC Government’s public basic schools policies on quality, access and equity. A careful analysis of the improving trends in BECE results from public basic schools offer hope that it is possible, that with consistency in policy direction and sustained commitment to public basic schools, they can indeed outperform private basic schools as has just happened in Rwanda.
Hon. Haruna Iddrissu also pointed out that as part of the NPP government’s incompetence in the implementation of the Free SHS, the government has centralized the procurement of all SHS related items at the Ministry of Education, encouraging red tapeism and cronyism, in so doing.
According to the NDC, this centralization is not only anticlockwise to Ghana’s national decentralization effort prescribed by the constitution, but also an insult to the integrity of Head teachers of SHS who hither-to were placed in charge of procurements.
“We also note that centralized procurement can be an avenue for shameless cronyism.
“Already, our monitoring revels that the selection of caterers for the one-hot-meal a day component which was also centralized has been shrouded in secrecy as heads of schools are only receiving calls from District Chief Executives (DCEs) about which caterers have been assigned to their schools. Sadly, the stage has been set for NPP apparatchiks to invade our senior high schools as cooks. We still have fresh memories of how a similar approach with the School Feeding Programme at the basic level led to the serving of substandard maggot infested food, mass hospitalization of pupils which all culminated in the Dutch Government pulling out from its sponsorship of the programme.
“We urge Government to rethink its position and listen to the National Association of Institutional Suppliers who warned last week that between 15,000 and 18,000 jobs will be lost if Government goes ahead with this centralized procurement agenda which will surely lead to the collapse of their businesses,” the Minority said.
Differences in competence
The Minority said, the numerous problems punctuating the NPP’s attempt at continuing the implementation of the NDC’s Progressively Free SHS shows the different levels of competence that exist in the two parties.
In the NDC’s model of Free SHS, which the Minority said was superior in concept and value, it was made clear that the cost of education was not only what features on the bills of students.
The NDC fully captured other costs such as school bags, school shoes, house dresses, P.E kits, supplementary readers, exercise books, note books, other stationery, transportation for day students and the hygiene needs of female students.
For this reason, the NDC Government did not only absorb all items on the bills of these students; it also paid cash grants to the students every month to cater for the items listed.
NPP heedlessly rushing in what NDC piloted
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the NDCs Free SHS programme which we termed scholarships for needy SHS students was a targeted intervention for the most vulnerable and aimed at offering Government the advantages of a pilot scheme so that we would be ready as a country by the time our Progressively Free intervention reaches its full and final destination as Free SHS for ALL students in First, Second and Third Year. It is therefore dishonest for the NPP to continue to trumpet from roof tops that they are the first to implement Free SHS.
“Consistent with the NDCs better policy implementation strategy, while we rolled out Free SHS for these 10,400 students, 60% of whom are females, we continued to expand our Progressively Free SHS programme to cover 458,700 SHS students across all cohorts by the 2016/2017 academic year having started with 320, 488 day students in the 2015/2016 academic year. The NDC Government absorbed 12 items on the bill including: Examination, Science Development, Sports, Culture, Science and Math Quiz, Co-curricular activities, ICT, Development Levy and Utilities,” Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrissu said.
Selectivity in supposed general Free SHS makes it a hoax
In comparison, he pointed out that the NPP is only selectively making some students beneficiaries.
According to the current EMIS data, there are 285,450 students enrolled in second year while 279,954 students are enrolled in third year. This means a total of 565,404 students have not been captured.
The irony is that this is the group then candidate Akufo-Addo campaigned to and promised Free SHS, the Minority pointed out.
The Minority added that by its inability to roll out Free SHS to cover those in second and third years the NPP has only vindicated the observation that Akufo-Addo’s Free SHS promise was a hoax.
“What we have been presented with by the NPP is simply another version of Progressively Free SHS. Free SHS for SOME First Year Students.
“We make bold to predict that if care is not taken, what will emerge in our SHSs is a category of fee-paying students for the wards of parents who can afford to pay fees for their wards and another category of so-called free SHS students, thus introducing a class system into our public SHSs.”
NPP boastfulness in opposition
Interestingly, while in opposition, the NPP condemned the NDC’s Progressively Free SHS and promised in its 2016 Manifesto to roll out an all out Free SHS Policy if it was voted into office.
On page 107, the ruling party had promised as follows: “Free SHS, The NPP will redefine basic education to include Senior High School (SHS), covering vocational, agricultural and technical schools, and make it available for free on a universal basis to all Ghanaians.”
“Clearly, if the NPP had any modicum of respect for the good people of Ghana, they should at the very least be apologizing to Ghanaians for their inability to fulfill their promise for which they were voted. The continuous claim by President Akufo-Addo and his acolytes that they have fulfilled their UNIVERSAL FREE SHS FOR ALL promise is simply hypocritical,” the Minority said.
The Minority pointed out that the NPP government’s failure at implementing Free SHS is monumental because of the fact that the government had not attempted to start the policy from scratch, but attempted to build on a foundation that the NDC had created.
“It is imperative to stress that the NPPs Progressively Free SHS would not have been possible but for the solid foundation laid by the NDC Government in providing infrastructure, teaching and learning materials, equipment and general logistics”, Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrissu said.
NDC’s solid foundation
At the time the NDC came to power in 2009, access at the secondary level was severely restricted. The SHS gap compared to students in JHS 3 at the time was 40%.
By commencing the construction of 124 Community Senior High Schools, the NDC Government made history by providing the biggest access to secondary education ever witnessed in Ghana.
It was also the biggest investment ever recorded on any one intervention in the sector costing over GHS 700 million far higher than what the NPP is spending on its Progressively Free SHS.
“These 124 Community Senior High Schools guarantee access for 148,800 students. Simply put, Progressively Free SHS is not possible if there are no schools to attend. Sadly, those Community Day SHSs which were started by the NDC Government but were not completed by the time of leaving office appear to have been abandoned by the NPP Government,” the Minority said.
It also pointed out that it was the vision of the NDC and strategic policy interventions, when it was in government that saw the introduction of BECE for Private Candidates in 2015 for the first time in Ghana’s history.
“Only God knows what would have happened to the 36,849 students who could not be placed by the NPP Government.”
President Mahama’s vision for secondary education under the SEIP also ensured that 125 poor performing secondary schools were upgraded with modern facilities including science and computer laboratories. Under this initiative, over 6,000 Science, Mathematics and ICT teachers had their capacities upgraded.
In addition, the Minority pointed out that about 2,400 Science and Mathematics teachers were recruited in 2016 to fill critical vacancies. Again, Progressively Free SHS is not possible without teachers.
“The NDC Government invested in ICT infrastructure and distributed thousands of computers to teachers and students. We also handed over 500 buses and pick-ups to secondary schools to improve conditions of students and staff alike.
In the continuous pursuit of excellence, the NDC Government procured millions of dictionaries and text books for technical/vocational schools. This had not been done for over 20 years. Indeed, the text books being distributed now and being presented as part of the NPPs roll out of its Progressively Free SHS were planned for and procured by the NDC Government.
Early fruits from NDC good foundation
“All these interventions led to our secondary schools attaining the best WASSCE results in Africa for four consecutive years according to the West African Examination Council,” the Minority said.
But while the NDC has quietly made things happen, the Minority pointed out, the ruling NPP has only built castles in the air, starting from a deceitful pass off of Progressive Free SHS that it is continuing, as a novel policy of Free SHS it promised in 2016.
For example, contrary to the claim that all first year students will benefit from the NPP’s Progressively Free SHS, the NDC Minority revealed that there are 5,556 first year students who will not be covered under the programme.
“These 5,556 students known as the re-engagement students are typically students who sat for their BECE before the current year. These re-engagement students deserve an explanation from the NPP Government as to why they are being discriminated against.”
Another blatant case of deception, it said, is the claim that the NPP will put teachers first.
“In an act of bad faith, the NPP Government has reduced teacher motivation on the bill of students from GHS 30 a year to GHS 20 (thus from GHS 10 a term to a paltry GHS 6.6). “To make matters worse, Government has instructed heads to henceforth deny non-teaching staff from benefiting from this package. The teachers and education workers of Ghana do not deserve this. At the very least, teacher motivation should have been increased,” the Minority said.
The whole deceitfulness of the Free SHS program by the NPP, it pointed out, exposes the policy to the danger of being a nine day wonder.
Why NPP SHS is unsustainable
“First, we have discovered that the NPP Government disingenuously refused to adjust this year’s GES approved fees as has been the tradition every year. This tradition in fixing fees annually factors inflation and ensures that quality is not compromised. The NPP Government surreptitiously used last academic years GES approved fees of 1,022.20 for boarders and GHS 560 for day students in order that it can beat down the actual cost of Free SHS. A trend analysis we have conducted over the last five years reveals that this year’s approved fees should not have been less than GHS 1,320 for boarders and GHS 715 for day students.
“We have also discovered that contrary to its public posture that the Government does not intend to leave any child behind, the projection of the Akufo-Addo cabinet is that only 85% of SHS students will accept their placements and turn up for school. In other words, the NPP Government has made provision in its budget for only 362,781 SHS students entering first year. Therefore per current placement figures, Government has made no arrangements for 62,711 students.
“The above conduct by the NPP Government coupled with their inability to identify a clear and reliable funding source for their Progressively Free SHS, clearly undermines its sustainability and the survival of quality SHS education in Ghana.”
Even more, the Minority expressed fear that it is not only Free SHS that is in danger of crashing, but that in its unsustainability, the policy potentiates a crashing of the whole of public sector education at the secondary level.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/Fiifi Samuels