Initial hitches and challenges, there may well be. But government needs to be commended for its free senior high school initiative. Even if it fails in the next year, at the very least the educational needs of many would have been taken care of.
The plain truth is that a lot of people have been left behind in the kind of system we operate. Not everyone has been fortunate over the years to have the means to pay for their own education. And the fate of such persons is not hard to tell. For some, they have to find something else doing and forget about education.
Some have to find a job on the side lines in order to survive – with the inevitable outcome being that they do not perform at their optimal level. Some brave the initial challenges, get enrolled but cannot keep up with the financial requirements of staying in school. In a family with many children who are of school age, some would have to step aside for others to go to school.
Every now and then you hear of some benevolent soul who has decided to foot the bill of some student. And of course, there are occasional scholarship packages from well meaning organisations. But none of these are sustainable. And for every one student that gets financial support, three or more fall through the cracks.
It is within this context that the blanket application of the free SHS is important. Education is important. It makes a lot of difference. It has made the difference between the first world and the third world. Ghanaians are the single most important natural resources we have in this country. It is not gold. Neither is it bauxite.
It is the mind and heart of every Ghanaian. There is ,therefore,nothing wrong in investing as much money as possible into making this initiative a success.
As a beneficiary of a scholarship scheme during my secondary education, I can attest to the peace of mind that comes with not shouldering that burden.
But while we are at it, it is important to think of shifting gears to the next level. This means that it is time to reflect on what we want to achieve as a nation with our education. It is not enough to open the doors of the classrooms to many. We have to think of what we want out of the education initiatives.
It cannot and should not be haphazard. And this is not something that can be left to chance. Do we want more doctors, engineers, scientists or lawyers?
Countries like Singapore have done it. So can we also. We can pick a leaf from the books of the countries that have deliberately set out to train the minds of their children in order to fit a particular job description or opening.
There have been conversations recently on patriotism. If you ask me, there is no better way to promote patriotism than with a social intervention project like the free SHS. Why? Because people appreciate the persons who have helped them in significant ways. They never forget. As a result, if you push further in the future (say 20 years from now), you would come to the conclusion that those who benefitted from the initiative would have stronger bonds and ties with the state than those who did not.
Such persons (all things being equal) will be willing to give more towards the betterment of the state. They would learn to be responsible because they would not want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
They would be more conscious about not wasting state resources. They would own the state. They would become more engaged and ensure that things are run properly. And as I said earlier, they would do all of these because they are direct beneficiaries of the state.
Things are not perfect as they stand. And no one should contemplate such an expectation. It may take a while to refine our processes.
The poverty alleviation connection to this cannot escape mention. It is fair to say that education can assist in significantly turning the fortunes of individuals around.
We must remind ourselves not to either politicise this or fall into the traps of those who deliberately set out to politicise this particular matter. And this applies to those who favour the initiative and those who do not. We must guard against corruption. We must guard against conflict of interests. We must guard against nepotism, cronyism and tribalism in the administration of the free SHS and the other things allied to it.
But for now, the government deserves all the commendation for taking the first steps towards ensuring access to secondary education. And let’s not forget the previous government as well for the massive infrastructural initiatives as well.