27 November 2012

Ghana: Ambiguous Promises


Marcathy Hill — It is exactly 11 days more when Ghanaians will go to the polls to cast their votes to elect their president and parliamentary candidates. I would like to appeal to Ghanaians to discern on the information given to them by these candidates before they decide who to give their votes to.

Politicians want power, so they will say all sorts of gargantuan promises. Ghanaians must come of age that they will vote not based on such promises, but those which are deemed to be pragmatic.

As education remains one of the major themes dominating the campaigns of the major political parties in the run up to the December 7 polls in Ghana, the contenders hope to win the hearts and minds of the electorate with all kinds of promises.

While some political parties are promising to transform and make basic education free and compulsory, others have gone beyond that to include Senior High School (SHS), promising to make it free for every Ghanaian child.

As has been observed by some critics, talk is cheap, but the real test lies in the implementation.

So, with this sort of critic, can we take the opposition New Patriotic Party's (NPP) promise of making SHS free for all as serious talk, especially, considering that the NPP intends fulfilling it in 2013, or should it be regarded as one of the many easy talks of politicians?

The NPP's manifesto promise of free SHS in particular, has kept tongues wagging, as they think they are fully committed to making secondary education free for every Ghanaian child.

By this, the party means free tuition, admission, textbook, library, science centre, computer, examination, utilities, boarding and meals.

Although the cost of free secondary school education is high, the alternative of a largely uneducated and unskilled workforce is a situation Ghana cannot afford.

In my view, these gargantuan problems cannot just be solved overnight. It will take any political administration interested in solving such problems a considerable length of time - at least five years - to do so.

We live in a country where political parties, in the past, have made promises without fulfilling them. They make promises just to come to power, only to turn around and give excuses to those who voted them into power.

It is true that the free education policy at the Senior High School level is a beautiful ideology by all standards, but the numerous challenges currently facing the educational system in the country, such as inadequate classrooms, student congestion, and other infrastructural problems, must be addressed first, before the introduction of the policy.

I have observed that supervision is a great challenge facing the Ghana Education Service (GES), and something must be done about that, else much money would be spent on the educational sector without really getting the benefits expected.

Corruption, nepotism, and other vices, detriment to the development of education, must all be addressed before considering the introduction of the free SHS policy, else the policy is likely to die at birth, just like many others before it.

Simply put, therefore, Ghanaians cannot just be cowed into believing that a free SHS education policy can be implemented as early as 2013.

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