To be clear, in the first place, NDC is not against Free Education as a norm for all Ghanaians as a post by P. K. Sarpong seems to imply. Secondly, NDC has free affordable education as part of its platform. And legislating Free Education has nothing to do with legislative maneuvers currently being pursued to prevent the current government from ransacking the education trust fund – GETFund for an unsustainable legacy project.
Do it and do it Right
Personally, I applaud anyone who can find the funds to ensure that current and future generations of Ghanaians can obtain their education for free. I even think it is a right in a young democracy such as ours. But we definitely have an alternative on how to approach such a proposition as compared to Nana Akuffo-Addo and his posse. The NDC has always maintained that free education should have certain prerequisites to ensure its success.
Among them a dedicated funding source which cannot dry up overnight; the need for education infrastructure to ensure that all our children can go to school in a safe environment; available well qualified teachers to teach curricular at a very high level so that the disparities in educational outcomes are minimized or are totally eliminated as well as education which leads to employable work force and not an unemployable educated workforce.
In short, what we are arguing is that “the cart should not be placed before the horse” which is the case we are currently witnessing. The program being laudable, should also integrate all aspects of education so that by the end of one’s educational endeavors, there is a verifiable educational outcome where graduating cohorts either move on to further pursuits or are absorbed completely into the workforce if the educational prerequisites I alluded to have been properly set in place.
Our argument is even not that all these cannot be attained under the “cookie-cutter” approach of the current government; but that it is clear, from all indicators that the emphasis is on “leaving a legacy” rather than ensuring a positive sustainable outcome. We challenge the government to show us how they are going to maintain the traditionally known high standard of education Ghana has been associated with when its planning and delivery are so haphazard that school kids benefitting from this system are forced to endure the most negative of learning environments. Let’s think about the unqualified teachers teaching them; the unavailable teaching materials, the poor housing and etc.
The NPP inherited a series of deliverables which would have been excellent as prerequisites for the launch of a system such as they propose, but narrow parochial interest has led to their failure in realizing the usefulness of those projects to what we all hope we can together, do for our children.
They are on record for saying that President Mahama completed only 37 out of the 125 or so of the so-called E-Block school buildings. These I believe have provided the accommodation required to train some of these kids. Granting that their assertion is true, would they have had those 37 school blocks to use today had they not been completed by the previous government?
Secondly of the deficit, a number of them were at advance stages of completion, had they invested resources to complete those, would they not have added to the number of completed E-Block schools and substantially cut down on unavailable infrastructure which today, has compelled them to introduce their highly suspicious dual track educational system whose outcome to say the least seems doubtful?
Fellow Ghanaians, we need to understand that “not all that glitters is Gold”. That, the Akuffo-Addo government has pursued this policy full- throttle without a cursory attention to detail, some of which I have pointed out above, should be indication enough that they have something at stake. Now, I would like every Ghanaian to do a basic exercise, if you introduce as a matter of necessity a three-fold increase in the number of your school eligible kids into an educational system which was designed to take fewer numbers, who suffers? Or rather let me be positive, who really benefits? What I am saying here is that, with respect to the implementation of the policy, there are a lot of factors, which if laid bare, will cause us as a people to question the expedience of such a rushed implementation of the policy.
Mind you I am not saying a well-planned policy couldn’t be rolled out presto! ABACADABRA!! LET THERE BE FREE EDUCATION AND PUUMM! IT is done!! It is doable and assuming that is what NPP under Akuffo-Addo has done, then why do we have students taking courses under trees in some cases? Why do we have some schools without teachers? Why are our children having to endure unnecessary hardship just because someone decides to go on an ego trip? Leave a Legacy? I don’t begrudge you that. You have a right to have something to point to as an accomplishment after 2 years going into 3. But please…please let it not be on some ‘cockled’ experimentation involving my child or any Ghanaian child’s life. I question how we are going to secure the right expected outcome for our children with such adhoc planning and so many unknowns? Are we ready to tolerate an education system whose doubtful outcomes may include a further increase in the number of half- literates, half-baked scholars?
Lack of Uniform Standard of Education
A major part of the problems we are encountering as a nation is the lack of uniform standards of education. Having worked at the Ministries in the past, I think I am well placed to comment on that. I am a witness to how that has militated against work performance even at that level. Ask any HR person and they will tell you that the greatest challenge we have in Ghana is the illiterate workforce and I do not say this to put anyone down. It is simply the fact. That is why our workers do not understand that work starts at 8am and they should be present by that time. That, is also why you have officials and clerks sending you running around in circles when you need them to fulfil their function for which they are paid.
Ghanaians have to understand that education is not merely being able to read and write and being numerate. It also has to do with comprehension and application of knowledge. No one in Ghana can claim that they haven’t come upon these two crumblers of our educational system. That is why we have so many educated people who still look up to government to provide their sustenance; that is why our professors can write “long book-long papers” but cannot design a simple workable implement for clearing farmland so that our indigenes do not have to break their backs in the sun just to provide us the little food their physical strengths allow them to produce.
Ghana needs all-round Education; Our education is a farce!
My question is, “are we prepared to make it even more so or do things to bring about the necessary changes that would make it a world class education? If it is the latter, then the NDC’s approach to education is a superior model and if we succeed in doing all the prerequisite I have enumerated and more, we would have taken our first step into the future we desire for our children and our country. I am stating again, that if we all agree that laying a solid foundation is a necessity for free education, then all the spurious talk by this gentleman P.K. Sarpong purporting to show the deviousness of NDC on the issue of free education would be seen for the hollow exercise of intellect devoid of understanding and facts that it represents.
Ghana needs to develop an all-round education. Let no one suggest that my party NDC will play games with the future of our children. If for anything, it is those claiming to have the child’s interest at heart, who really must be examined on their understanding of the issues. In my write up, I have avoided the budgetary conundrum this policy represents for the nation and only addressed the political chicanery this Sarpong man tries to engage in. The real “can of worms” that this whole thing represents is something I will leave for future commentary.
NDC Professionals Forum International.
Joe Bright Nyarko
Journalist/Communication Researcher. Environment & Sustainability Advocate. Managing Editor of aptnewsghana.com, a non-profit news portal with bias towards environment and sustainability issues, rural development policies and gender & inequality.