Free SHS: Now Or Shortest Possible Time?

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo displays the 90-page manifesto

Politicians in this country are one group of people who consistently create conditions for the general society to have doubts about them. In one breath, they are opposed to a policy or a programme for stated reasons. In another, when the situations have changed, they defend the same policy or programme they had opposed not too long ago. I am beginning to think that the problem is not so much the Ghanaian politician but a trait of Ghanaians generally. The behavior of politicians since independence does not seem to have changed that much; what has changed is the people who have taken control of the reins of government, be they popularly elected governments or bugabuga green green men and women with guns.

Whatever the situation, we are progressing as a nation and with progress change of attitudes and way of doing things must follow. When President Kufuor and his NPP government decided to introduce the National Health Insurance Scheme to take care of majority of Ghanaians in the area of health provisions, the then opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) vehemently opposed the policy not on the grounds that it was bad, but on the grounds that it was not feasible and ripe at the time. To make their opposition to the programme very well known to the world, NDC Members of Parliament walked out of Parliament when major decisions leading to the passage of the law was being taken. And they call themselves socialists.

Strangely enough, after the scheme had successfully come into being and poor Ghanaians were enjoying it, the NDC took control of the programme and promised the people of this country that should Ghanaians vote for them, scheme holders were going to pay once in their lifetime. In that case, it was not going to be insurance any longer but totally free once one registered with the scheme. At the time, they did not tell Ghanaians how much it was going to cost to fund the one-time payment of the scheme, neither did they tell us how the scheme was going to function efficiently. All they did was to tell Ghanaians how better they were going to do it. Strange ehh, they did not say they were going to scrap what was not ripe but to make it better.

Four years in office, not only have they been unable to implement that promise, but what was good and what was going to be made better has gone bad. They have not had the humility and the courage to apologise to the good people of Ghana. When Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo told Ghanaians that he was going to implement a free Senior High School (SHS) to open the doors for children whose parents do not have the means to finance their post JHS education to have access to SHS, Vocational and Technical education, the NDC challenged Nana Addo to tell Ghanaians how and the source of funding for the programme. As usual with little minds that are only good for mischief and crimes, they said it is impossible and that Nana Addo is just deceiving Ghanaians for their votes. A few weeks back, Nana Addo called their bluff and outlined his plans in a very comprehensive manner.

All of a sudden, the refrain has changed again from not impossible to ‘let us create the access first’, with the Minister of Education whose primary concern should be ensuring that every Ghanaian child who wants to have education gets it, telling the world that free SHS is only possible in 20 years time. While Nana Addo is saying ‘FREE SHS NOW’, the NDC and its propagandists, led by consultant  Kwesi Pratt, are saying that ‘FREE SHS IN THE SHORTEST POSSIBLE TIME’. Hahahahaha, ooooooo, Ghana my beloved country. Let me cut some two tots before I continue because I am going to town.  These visionless opportunistic politicians of a moribund socialist ideology have always accused those politicians of the Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition of even having taken bribes from the colonial masters to postpone the independence of this country. They have always used the phrase ‘independence in the shortest possible time’ as an excuse to malign and paint the believers of rule of law and democratic principles as agents of imperialism and neocolonialism not worthy of their lives.

Over 55 years after the nation’s independence, these self-appointed patriots par excellence in the political history of this country, the likes of Kwesi Pratt, who is said to be a propaganda consultant to the NDC with heavy monthly handshake, are today telling Ghanaians that because a certain people from the Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition ‘sabotaged’ Nkrumah’s free education, those people cannot offer free SHS. This is a warped logic even if it is true that education was sabotaged at any point in time in this country. Strangely enough, if Kwesi Pratt is pushed to offer evidence of the sabotage he talks about, all he says is that ‘don’t you know those who overthrew Dr. Nkrumah’? Kwesi Pratt seems to forget that the government he is canvassing votes for today also overthrew an offshoot of Nkrumah’s party and visited mayhem on the people of this country including the over 300 missing Ghanaians, according to Kwesi Pratt. In any case, who told those apologists that Nkrumah was destined to rule this country forever? He played his part and that is it.

Ehe, I hear that Kwesi Pratt’s Weekly Insight is going daily or has gone daily. No wonder, each time Kwesi has been accused of taking some bribe somewhere, his business improves. During Kufuor’s time, Kwesi Pratt was alleged to have taken $120,000 from ex-President Rawlings. All of a sudden he moved from his mother’s kitchen where the Weekly Insight was being run, to an office accommodation at Kokomlemle, a prime location in the centre of Accra. When I heard that his paper was going daily, I said ‘aben waha for Kwesi’. Yes, newspapers progress on the basis of their circulation; as its share of the market grows, it improves and expands circulation. The same cannot be said about Kwesi Pratt’s Insight. It will take only some free monies to burn and make it a daily. You will remember when the tax issue of his company came to the fore sometime ago, he told the world that he does not even pay his staff and that they work without taking money.

I will not be surprised if this socialist who believes in state control of everything has had the state-of-the-art printing machines bought for him. At the highest echelon of the socialists, are greedy bastards of unrepentant capitalist.

Yes, back to those who want free SHS in 20 years time; let them hear this, “Early in 1961, Osagyefo brought up the question again and this time I supported him strongly. Preparations were started and in September that year, the fee-free compulsory education was introduced and the school population shot up. Whilst in 1960 the number of pupils enrolled in primary school was over 123,000, the number enrolled in September 1961 was almost 100,000 more. Many people praised our effort in the serious attack that had been made on illiteracy and regarded the scheme as an act of courage and foresight. As usual, however, our detractors and enemies criticized us vehemently, all predicted failure for the scheme and all were later proved wrong”.

“Schools sprang up like mushrooms all over the country. From Upper Region border to Accra the capital in the south, from Aflao in the east to Half Assini in the west, a great spirit of educational  endeavour seized the people and propelled them on to enthusiastic voluntary effort in the provision of school accommodation”- (Tawia Adamafio, By Nkrumah’s Side).

It is important to note that Tawia Adamafio was a General Secretary of the CPP, and that when Nkrumah’s fee-free primary education began, there were not many classrooms well equipped nor well trained teachers available then to teach the children, yet children were enrolled and taught to read and write.  The phenomenon of ‘schools under trees’ began in those days as part of the conscious efforts to increase primary school enrollment. Even in the 1960s, I was running shift in Takoradi, and when I left Takoradi to Imbraim, a typical village in the Upper Denkyira district, both primary-five and six shared a thatch roofed mud structure as classroom. We still made it. If governments in those days had waited till they provided air-conditioned classrooms, I and many others would have missed out.

It is also sad that people, who but for free education at the SHS level would have been nobodies, are today opposed to Nana Addo’s free SHS programme. Today, these people from very poor backgrounds are riding in fashionable V8s and some of the latest vehicles in town, and have the temerity to tell others that they cannot have it because air-conditioned classrooms are needed before they can have education at that level.  The message is ‘FREE SHS NOW OR NEVER’. The wind has changed direction, capitalists want free education, and socialists are opposed to it.

Where Are Kufuor’s Ministers

Hei, where are the Kufuor Ministers? It is strange that many of the ex-Ministers of the Kufuor administration are quiet over the programmes and projects they themselves executed when in office. They have allowed the NDC to take credit for the works of Kufuor. While the NDC is making so much noise about free exercise books and the rest, our ex-Ministers are not talking about the free text books supplied to all JHS students and many others under Kufuor. They should either come out to tell their stories too in all sectors and stop leaving that job to the young ones who were not even in government at the time. I am waiting.

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