The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, will officially launch the free senior high school (SHS) policy at the West Africa SHS at Adentan today.
The free SHS was one of the promises the New Patriotic Party (NPP) made to the electorate in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
The free SHS policy stipulates that over 400,000 students will enjoy free tuition, textbooks, meals, library use, admission, examination and uniforms and they will not be required to pay Students Representative Council (SRC) dues.
Many expressed scepticism about the policy, saying that it would not be possible to raise funds for its implementation.
But, yesterday, when all SHSs reopened, parents and guardians who sent their children and wards to school did not pay a pesewa, much to their surprise and excitement.
Other people had raised issues with the policy, saying that it was not necessary and that parents should be made to pay for the education of their children. To that, the NPP’s response had been that there was the need to give some financial relief to parents and that the country needed to ensure that no child was prevented from accessing SHS education because of lack of funds.
No matter how we look at this programme, the Daily Graphic believes that the advantages of the policy far outweigh the disadvantages. Looking at the levels of workers’ wages and salaries, those whose children will benefit from the policy will save some money that could go into paying house rent and transportation and buying food and clothing.
It is on record that many students terminate their education at the junior high school level, as they are unable to proceed to SHS because their parents and guardians cannot afford it. While some of these dropouts learn some trade or vocation, many of them find themselves simply selling on the streets or doing some menial jobs to survive.
The Daily Graphic also sees the free SHS as a way of improving and developing the quality of the country’s human resource, so that, for instance, we could have better educated artisans.
As with every new initiative, there are bound to be teething problems. It is very important that the challenges that emerge from the implementation of the policy are quickly addressed and the policy improved in subsequent years, so that the challenges do not become an excuse to discontinue this laudable policy, since it holds many advantages for the nation.
The Daily Graphic appeals to the government to look at improving infrastructure in SHSs to do away with overcrowding in the dormitories.
Moreover, it should ensure that it provides the needed teaching and learning materials, and on time too, to ensure quality education.
But, more importantly, a critical factor that should be considered if this programme is to succeed is the input of teachers, who are the pivot around which education revolves.
The government should look at ways of motivating teachers to put in their best and ensure that they are regularly trained and supervised. If this is not done, we would be sacrificing quality for quantity.
This is a laudable policy and there should be no turning back.