26 November 2012

Ghana: Objection to Free SHS Is Unconstitutional


The more we ponder on the obstinacy with which leading members of the National Democratic Congress oppose the concept of free second cycle education for all Ghanaian children, the more we are left bemused.

Here is a political party most whose leaders owe their meteoric rise to fame to free secondary education, and obstinately arguing that this nation is not ready to educate its children on the back of the Ghanaian tax-payer.

In his own words, the President of the Republic, John Dramani Mahama, who is also the presidential candidate of the NDC, moved from the Achimota Primary School in Accra to Ghana Secondary School at Tamale, on the word of his father, Mr. E.A. Mahama, a former minister in the Nkrumah regime, so that young John could take advantage of the free-free secondary education that was available to the people of the north.

For seven years, young Mahama took advantage of the fee-free education to sit the General Certificate of Education, Ordinary and Advanced levels, to qualify to be educated at the University of Ghana, without paying for academic-user nor residential fees.

Apart from the President, a host of ministers in the NDC regime, Messrs Alban Kingsford Sumanu Bagbin, Minister of Health, Dr. Benjamin Kunbour, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Moses Asaga, Minister of Employment and Social Welfare, Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Communications, Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, a host of deputy ministers and district chief executives, as well as party top shots were all educated on the back of the Ghanaian tax payer.

The Chronicle is of the opinion that having benefitted from a scheme paid for from the treasury, these officials, who lead the NDC, would favour the idea of making free second cycle, and even tertiary education, accessible by all Ghanaians. Instead, these men and women leading this society on the account of their ability to go to school without worrying about where the school fees was coming from, are obstinately opposing free second cycle education.

In societies other than our own, people opposing free education, after they had benefitted from the scheme, would have been made to resign, or at worst, forced to refund the cost of educating them.

As you read this piece, kids from the three northern regions in Ghana are exempted from paying boarding and lodging fees. It is a policy that needs to be expanded to exempt our children from worrying about who is paying for their education. Luckily, the Constitution of Ghana makes it mandatory for policy directors to ensure that children at the basic level benefit from tutorials in the classroom, without worrying about who foots the bill.

The Constitution goes on to encourage the directors of state policy to ensure that progressively, second cycle institution does not attract any fees. Twenty years after operating the Constitution, we are convinced that the time has come for the authorities to ensure that children accessing secondary education in all its forms do so with any financial obligations.

By making one third of the country to benefit from some aspects of second cycle education free of charge3 while the rest of society are paying for the same services, there is discrimination in educating our children.

The Constitution is unambiguous. "All persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities..." By obstinately arguing against free and basic education for all, the NDC and its functionaries are being discriminatory. This society could not be run on the basis of favouring one group of people as against the other.

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