A former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Emeritus Ivan Addae-Mensah, has called on the government to re-examine the implementation of the free senior high school (SHS) policy to ensure its sustainability.
He suggested that the government should resort to cost sharing, where parents who could afford it would pay for their children’s education.
He said such a measure would ensure that poor and needy students benefitted from the generosity of the well-endowed.
At the moment, the government is the sole financier of the policy, a situation the former V-C said had led to some challenges to the smooth administration of the schools, especially feeding and boarding facilities.
Prof. Emeritus Addae-Mensah made the call at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Lecture organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) in Accra.
The lecture on the theme: “Education reforms in Ghana and their impact on the youth”, formed part of activities commemorating this year’s Founder’s Week of the GAAS.
The lecture, which takes place in November every year, was instituted in 1971 as the Anniversary Lecture but was renamed the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Lecture in 2003.
Other activities lined up for the commemoration of the week are symposia on topical issues and lectures by fellows of the GAAS on a wide range of issues, such as education, the humanities and the sciences.
Plaques were unveiled in honour of Dr Nkrumah, Dr J.B. Danquah and some fellows (living and dead) who have contributed to the growth of the academy.
Prof. Addae-Mensah said “in principle, no citizen will say the free SHS is a bad policy”, but said it was one thing taking a bold decision and another issue putting together a policy and modalities to make such an initiative sustainable.
“If the policy maker rushes into the policy without a thorough examination of its ramifications, the outcome may turn out to be disastrous.
“What is so sacrosanct about the free SHS that makes our President consistently refuse to listen to public opinion and continue to stick to a policy that is obviously facing serious challenges and bringing hardships to its beneficiaries, instead of the relief that the policy was supposed to bring?
“Even the Finance Minister, who is supposed to make the funds available for its implementation, initially questioned the rationale behind certain aspects of the policy,” he said.
Prof. Addae-Mensah appealed to the President to listen to public opinion and have a second look at the policy, its implementation and repercussions on the individual and the nation.
The former vice-chancellor mentioned the challenges bedevilling the implementation of the policy as funding, increase in enrolment and its effect on quality, inadequate infrastructure and poor teacher motivation.
“There is a difference between idealism and pragmatism. Dr Nkrumah ideally prefered free education, but he was pragmatic enough not to introduce it at the time that he was in power,” he said.
Prof Addae-Mensah, who is also a former Vice-President (Sciences) of the GAAS, took his audience through almost a two-hour presentation on educational reforms in the country, from the colonial era, the pre- and post-independence period under Dr Nkrumah to the current educational situation.
He further cautioned the government against implementing a new pilot scheme on the extension of the duration of SHS education from the current three to six years.
“I sincerely hope this is not going to be foisted on us without comprehensive and open national discussion and scrutiny. We cannot afford to toy with the future of the youth with such frequent experimentations,” he added.