By: Ampem Gyeke-Darko
A non-partisan group known as ‘Coalition of Parents and Friends of Free Education’ (COPAFFE) has registered its camaraderie in support of government’s flagship Free Senior High School policy.
In the group’s statement copied to www.newsafrikaonline.com, they have not been happy at all the way some politically inclined activists have dealt with the must-be-praised education module.
They say COPAFFE would do anything possible at will to sustain Free Education in Ghana and would not allow propagandists to do politics with the policy that has come to assist all Ghanaians, irrespective of their races, political affiliations, genders or classes.
Kindly read below the full content of the statement
PRESS STATEMENT FILED BY COALITION OF PARENTS AND FRIENDS OF FREE EDUCATION, (COPAFFE) ON 20TH DECEMBER, 2017 IN SOLIDARITY TO THE FREE SHS PROGRAM COPIED TO ALL MEDIA HOUSES AND SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS
Following intensive attacks mounted by the National Democratic Congress (NDC), some individuals and other organised political propagandist groups against the rollout of the much touted Government flagship program-Free SHS, the Coalition of Parents and Friends of Free Education (COPAFFE), a non partisan movement committed to the successful rollout of the Policy files this Press Statement in solidarity.
It is an open truth that the historic Free Senior High School Program has received a lot of backlashes from some group of persons hiding behind their selfish political interest to propagate lies to draw such a fantastic initiative which is in the interest of all well meaning Ghanaians into the mud.
Going down memory lane, the Free SHS policy journey started ahead of the 2008 elections with then, Presidential Candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo vying for the position of the Presidency on the ticket of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). He promised educational reforms in his bid to win the 2008 Presidential elections.
In the 2008 and 2012 manifestos of the NPP, then Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo now President of the Republic of Ghana promised to implementt Free Universal Secondary Education by making Senior High School Education free for every Ghanaian child, in accordance with the provision of the constitution which empowers the State to provide free universal education to children of school going age in Ghana.
Article 25(1) of the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana states that,“Secondary Education in its different forms including technical and vocational education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education”.
However, in 2016, the New Patriotic Party led by then Presidential Candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo reiterated the Free SHS promise made to the good people of Ghana to afford every Ghanaian child who has successfully completed the Junior High School free access into the Senior High School.
Some political opponents of the New Patriotic Party have ridiculed the policy and said the Free SHS was a political gimmick and that could only be possible in twenty (20) years time; but nine (9) years down the line, the Free SHS has materialized by allowing about 100,000 students who drop out of school after completing Basic Education due to financial constraints gain access into the Senior High School.
The Managing Editor of the Insight Newspaper, Mr. Kwesi Pratt Jnr has criticized Government claiming that the Free SHS was not promised for only first years, rather for all students.
Following that, the Communication Director for the New Patriotic Party, Nana Akomea explained that the Free SHS which became a major policy prior to the 2012 elections was unveiled in August 2012 backed by a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis on the policy presented before majority of Ghanaians at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC).
Again, Hon. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, former Deputy Minister for Education under the erstwhile administration of the NDC and MP for North Tongu openly castigated the Free SHS policy claiming that it is not sustainable and that it will not stand the test of time.
Government in its attempt to set up a Voluntary Education Fund to raise extra funds to support the most laudable initiative introduced to alleviate parents and students from the ordeal they go through in funding their wards or their own Senior High School education respectively, has received criticism by most stakeholders of the educational sector. Notable among the critics is SEND-GHANA which claimed that the unpredictability of the Voluntary Education Fund could jeopardize the rollout of the program.
It is no doubt; the implementation of the policy has been bedeviled with some challenges. However such unforeseen challenges should not be a springboard for critics to derail Government efforts of ensuring that the policy works, instead remedies should be prescribed to make the policy a success. Every new program when rolled out for the first time has initial challenges which are normal.
A typical example is the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme which had initial challenges, but at the end majority of Ghanaians benefited. It is worthy to note that the NDC walked out of Parliament in the process of passing the National Health Insurance bill into law.
The Free SHS policy is indeed relieve to parents. It has really taken the burden parents would have gone through to fund the Senior High School Education of their wards. The roll out has enabled parents to save money for other things.
In as much as constructive and objective criticisms of the Free SHS Policy is welcomed from all well meaning Ghanaians, subjective and baseless criticisms founded on political jealousy and desperation to score cheap political point in an attempt to win political will of the people of Ghana come 2020, need to be condemned in equal measure by all.
The recent outbreak of H1N1 influenza type ‘A’ in Kumasi Academy (KUMACA) which claimed the lives of about four (4) students is unfortunate. However, claiming that the epidemic occurred as a result of the introduction of the Free SHS in an attempt to throw dust into the eyes of parents is unacceptable.
There could be a challenge of congestion, among others; but stating emphatically that the Free SHS policy is the cause of the epidemic is an unfortunate conclusion since several factors could lead to that.
Ex-President John Dramani Mahama has also ridiculed the Free SHS Policy claiming it is a political ploy to convince Ghanaians, because the ruling Government does not have good delivery in the educational sector.This assertion by the Former President is unfounded, untruth and unfortunate
The Minority Caucus in Parliament has predicted that the Free SHS Program will collapse in five (5) years. This implies that they wish doom for the new policy which should be a national concern for all to work to ensure that it succeeds. It is sad to know that a whole Political Party wants this laudable policy to go down the drain. We can’t think far. No wonder this same group of people walked out of Parliament when the NHIS bill was laid in Parliament for approval.
The Minority leader, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu who doubles as Tamale South MP has described the Free SHS Policy as a ‘hoax’ which by extension means that the ruling Government is deliberately deceiving Ghanaians with the Free SHS Policy.
This statement by the Minority leader according to COPAFFE is unfortunate and not in the best interest of the country. We highly condemn such a description given to a policy most parents in Ghana are benefiting from.
Finally, the Coalition of Parents and Friends of Free Education (COPAFFE) calls on all Ghanaians to rally behind Government to make the Free SHS Policy a success, for an educated country is a prosperous country.
Long Live Free SHS Policy
Long Live COPAFFE
Thank you and May God bless our Homeland, Ghana.
Founder/Convener Mr. Karl Brown
Director of Operations
Mr. Andrew Oppong Amoako
Director of Communication
Mr. Apreku-Danquah Seth