President Akufo-Addo, during his 2012 and 2016 campaigns promised Ghanaians that when voted into power, he will make all senior high school free. This caused many Ghanaians to comment; some were in agreement with him, and others said it was not possible. After he was sworn into office in 2017, Nana Akufo-Addo launched the Free Senior High School project at the West Africa Senior High School (WASS) at Adenta.
The first batch of students went to school in September 2017, and as promised by the President, they paid no school fees. To allow schools to accommodate more students, the President, together with the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service, launched the double-track system in 2018. This move, according to the Ministry of Education, was aimed at allowing everyone to benefit from the free SHS policy.
In Ghana, majority of the labour force is unemployed, low or middle-income earners and as a result, were always finding it difficult to pay the school fees of their wards especially those in the second cycle and tertiary schools. According to dhsprogram.com, women in Ghana have an average of 4.0 children. This ranges from 3.1 in urban areas to 4.9 in the rural areas. This number makes it difficult for children, especially from the rural areas to further their education after completion of Junior High School. Those who were able to attend Senior High School either dropout in the second or final years because of the fees they were paying. The intervention of the free SHS has now solved that problem.
Also, those who completed Junior High School earlier than 2017 but were not able to continue due to financial challenges have all been enrolled on the free SHS.
After paying for the boarding and feeding fees of those in the boarding house, the President did not leave the day students behind; he paid for their lunch as well. This initiative was to help parents who could not afford lunch for their kids. This gave a big relief to most parent because the money they would have used to buy lunch for their wards could now be used for something else, for example, buying of textbooks.
Furthermore, the President announced that he would pay the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) registration fee for the so-called ‘Akufo-Addo graduates’. This was to take off part of the burden on parents due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mostly, some parents can pay for the school fees of their wards but due to a little financial constraint which may come up, they are unable to pay for their registration fees, and as a result, they are not allowed to write their final exams. This kind gesture by the President and the Ministry has helped most parents who wouldn’t have been able to afford the cost.
The free SHS policy has also helped parents to save money they would have used to pay the school fees if not for the intervention by the government. The money they saved can now be used to pay for the fees of their wards once they have completed high school. This has lifted the worry of students who were thinking of how their parents will fund their tertiary education.
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On the other hand, as the Afghan proverb goes, “five fingers are brothers but not equal”, there will be some parents who wouldn’t have saved any money due to unemployment or other life circumstances and as a result cannot fund their wards’ tertiary fees can now opt to send their children to the security services (police, army) or fire service because of the WASSCE certificates they will get after completion of high school.
On the other side of the issue, the coronavirus has shown Ghanaians that the NPP seems to be more interested in the vote they will get from the students than the health of the so-called ‘Akuffo-Addo’ graduates. The President, during his national address a day before the reopening of secondary schools, assured parents that he will do everything possible in his power to protect the students.
To limit the amount of exposure, the President made it clear that, once parents drop off their wards, they can no longer visit their wards. Meanwhile, the President allowed the Electoral Commission to go and register the students in the school. Registration of students is not an illegal act, but the President himself said in order to limit the exposure, no outsiders would be permitted entry into the school.
This raised allegations from the opposition NDC that, the President allowed the ‘Akufo-Addo graduates’ back to campus purposely to register them. Last week, a student who was sick was left unattended due to the carelessness of some teachers and the assumption that the child was infected with coronavirus, the child died after a few hours.
Meanwhile, the President promised the parents that the children would be protected. So far, Accra Girls Senior High School alone has recorded over 50 positive cases of the coronavirus. Parents who have their children in the school went over to take their children home, but they were denied entry into the school by the security services and the school authorities.
According to the Minister of Education and the Minister of Health, the number of recorded cases is too low to close down schools. The question now is, “ARE THEY WAITING FOR ALL STUDENTS TO GET INFECTED BEFORE THEY WILL BE ALLOWED TO GO HOME”?
Nigeria, Kenya and other African countries have all suspended their final exams until the coronavirus is over or the environment is safe to conduct examinations. In Ghana, the President and the ministers are keeping the ‘Akufo-Addo graduates’ in school because they think it is safer to be in school than to be at home for your parents to look after you properly.
The NPP allowed their youth organizer to go to schools to campaign whiles parents are not allowed. Now this raises another question, “WOULD THE ‘AKUFO-ADDO GRADUATES’ BE KEPT IN SCHOOL IF THEY WERE PAYING THEIR OWN SCHOOL FEES”? The NPP seems to be more interested in the votes they will get from the ‘Akufo-Addo graduates’ than their health.
Now, considering how the Free SHS has benefitted parents and school children, and the risk they’ve been exposed to by keeping them in school and registering for the Voter ID, do you think the Akufo-Addo graduates will thank Nana Addo for the FSHS or punish them for exposing them to coronavirus?
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