FREE SHS—AN EXPEDIENT EDUCATIONAL POLICY INTERVENTION IN GHANA
Human needs and wants are so diverse and numerous, the resources are always limited. The process through which a government skillfully addresses the needs of the society by carefully allocating benefits, rewards, and penalties is referred to as politics. It must be noted however that politics includes so many concepts that could mean almost anything and everything; and this makes it readily associable to deception, manipulation and corruption. Therefore, the modern day connotation of politics is simply everything that is ‘dirty’. But, is politics actually dirty?
One of the things borne out of politics is the introduction of Free SHS in Ghana. Free SHS means free tuition, no library fee, no boarding fee, no science laboratory fee, no exam fee, no utility fee, free meals for both boarders and day students, no Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) fee and free text books on core subjects (English Language, Social Studies, Integrated Science and Mathematics).
The introduction of Free SHS in Ghana meant making education accessible to all school-going children thereby bridging the gap of inequality between the rich and the poor. It has created an inclusive education where the rich and poor students are brought together to study. This widens the experiences of students. Therefore, both students learn how to accept and respect each other’s view irrespective of their background—rich or poor. It has also bridged the gap between the so-called rich and poor schools, thereby boosting the confidence of all students.
Free SHS has reduced the financial burden on parents. Parents are not really stressed when it is time for students to resume school. This is so because many Ghanaians are low income earners who struggle with common needs to survive. Before the introduction of the policy, many children in Ghana, especially in our rural areas suffered the phenomenon of dropping out of school because of parents’ inability to pay fees. The policy also made it possible for students to have the peace of mind to study as they were spared the familiar and often times regular feature of sacking for non-payment of fees.
The introduction of Free SHS has almost doubled the number of the students in our schools. According to the Ministry of Education, in the first term of the 2017/ 2018 academic year, enrolment into first year of Senior High School was 424, 092 students, representing an increase of approximately 63% in first-year enrolment over that of 2014/ 2015 academic year’s figure of 260, 210. This increase in student enrolment has also created employment in our educational sector as many people have been employed as teaching and non-teaching staff. As a result, the canker of graduate unemployment has been minimized thereby giving some boost to the country’s economy.
Also, intellectual economy in the nearest future is one of the merits of the Free SHS policy. Second cycle institutions enroll more students now as compared to previous years. This means that for some years to come, a majority of the population would have acquired an appreciable level of skillfulness to be able to make a great contribution to the economic growth of the country.
It is true that people differ in the way they perceive things, and disagree in almost every conceivable aspect of life. The implementation of the Free SHS policy has been criticized on the basis of inadequate stakeholder consultation, inadequate provision of logistics and funds by the government, quality of education being compromised, and maintenance of school facilities. What needs to be noted by all and sundry is that when men argue and fight, they desire for peace and prosperity and this makes the social theorists to even argue that the common good could only be attained through the active participation of the citizens. Therefore, all hands must be on deck to help sustain the policy because ‘a sustained poverty reduction requires a commitment to reducing inequality and improving access to opportunities for all citizens…’ (The World Bank, 2015).
Source: Stephen Kow Amoah