Don’t ‘plaster-over and deodorise’ Free SHS difficulties – school proprietor

Clamping down on any criticism of the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy risks ruining the programme’s objectives, because it denies government the opportunity to ascertain challenges on the ground, Chief Executive Officer of St. Andrews Group of Schools, Dr. Richard Kofi Asiedu, has said.

As a new programme that involves both human and material factors, he said, it is bound to run into difficulties at certain points; but because of the political cloak it is covered with, any criticism – however well intentioned – is considered to be anathema to running the programme.

He said government’s posture on the policy is obstinate, adding that: “Headmasters who dare to voice out any problems they are encountering do so at the risk of losing their jobs.

“In order to maintain popularity of the system and credibility of government, veracity had to be sacrificed and faults plastered over and deodorised with palatable populist platitudes,” he added.

Dr. Asiedu said this in a presentation titled ‘Two years of President Akuffo-Addo’s government: The balance sheet with special emphasis on the Free SHS policy’, in Accra during the 2018 Heroes of Distinction Conference and Awards.

The status quo, he noted, is unfortunate because feedback is unwelcome. He said such feedback from players in the education sector would, perhaps, have helped improve the programme and avert the funding and logistical challenges being encountered.

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Dr. Asiedu, whose group of schools include St. Andrews Senior High School at Assin Foso and branches in Mankessim, New Edubiase, Dunkwa-On-Offin and Bonsu Nkwanta, among others, said the manner in which the programme is being implemented could further entrench and deepen social stratification.

He feared it could promote a situation where those who can afford it will send their children to schools that operate a trimester system, and pay to give them what they consider a better education.

“In the end” he said, “we will be perpetuating the class system, whereby children of the affluent will continue to be the ones in control.”

Although he described the policy as laudable, he said a dispassionate examination of it is needed to ensure the right measures are put in place to enable students to score good grades in their final exams.

“The real test of the Free SHS policy does not depend on the numbers and savings of parents who hail it so much, but on the results we achieve at end of the third year. I hope there will be no political influence on the WAEC: that would be our doom.”

Like in most developed countries, he said, the policy must be reviewed to focus more on technical and vocational training.

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“Most developed countries have placed emphasis on technical and vocational education, as these are the areas that provide immediate jobs for the youth, and also drive industry. In the case of Ghana, the emphasis appears to have been shifted away from technical and vocational education. We need to strike a reasonable balance,” he added.

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