As we head towards the 2020 general elections, one policy that will most likely come under needless attacks is the poverty alleviation Free SHS.
It is quite worrying that despite the benefits therein education, no less a person than Ex-President Mahama could find it somewhat convenient to keep criticising Akufo-Addo for allegedly implementing the Free SHS policy at the expense of other developmental projects (see: ‘Free SHS crippling other sectors-Mahama, classfmonline.com/ghanaweb.com, 24/02/2018).
The former president is reported to have lamented: “The problem this government is facing and it is in their own interest, is that, Free Senior High School is absorbing all the fiscal space they have and so almost every money you have, you are having to put it into Free Senior High School. So you can’t pay District Assemblies Common Fund, you can’t pay NHIS (National Health Insurance Scheme), you can’t pay GET Fund (Ghana Education Trust Fund), you can’t pay other salaries and things because all your money is going into Free Senior High School.”
With all due respect, former President Mahama’s analysis is flawed, in the sense that the Free SHS programme has its own allocated budgetary funds, obviously, separate from the other sectors.
Dearest reader, take my word for it, I am not seeking to engage in any political equalisation, far from it.
However, for the sake of balanced annotation and to set the records straight, it is important to stress that during his tenure in office, former President Mahama did not spend a pesewa on Free SHS, and yet he left huge arrears amidst unpaid salaries, crippled NHIS, malfunctioned School Feeding programme, amongst others.
So, does former President Mahama want to tell discerning Ghanaians that he wilfully misused the funds, and hence his inability to manage those sectors efficiently?
Given the fact that the erstwhile ambivalent Mahama’s administration wilfully left behind a huge debt amidst economic meltdown, it is, indeed, commendable for the Akufo-Addo’s government to afford to implement the seemingly admirable, albeit costly social intervention such as Free SHS.
Let us be honest, the opposition NDC operatives relentless criticisms of the Free SHS implementation should be a wake-up call to discerning Ghanaians.
Sometimes, one cannot help but to admire some of our politicians for their incredible dexterity in systematic propagation of propaganda.
Let us admit though, the never ending display of hypocrisy by the NDC loyalists is mind-boggling.
It is an open secret that the NDC faithful vehemently campaign against the poverty reduction Free SHS policy during the 2016 electioneering campaign.
And ever since the Akufo-Addo’s government implemented the policy, the sceptics have been moving heaven and earth to discredit the poverty alleviation Free SHS in order to score political points.
Safe to stress that the well-meaning Ghanaians are ready to deflate any vile propaganda intended to bring down the advantageous policy.
Given the circumstances, it would only take a disputatious character to contest the fact that the NDC faithful, who take pride in the social democratic ideology, are not in the business of promoting the welfare of the masses.
One would have thought that individuals who pride themselves as social democrats will be extremely empathetic to the needs of the masses, but this is not the case with the NDC as a party.
You may believe it or not, NDC has a penchant for running down or cancelling crucial social interventions.
It is a sad case of social democrats who do not know how to initiate and manage social interventions.
It is absolutely true that the erstwhile NDC government wilfully cancelled/collapsed the Nurse’s Allowance, the Teacher’s Allowance, SADA, GYEEDA, NHIS, the Maternal Care, the School Feeding programme, the Mass Transport System, amongst others.
Given the circumstances, it will not come as a surprise at all, if the future NDC government decides to cancel the Free SHS altogether.
Since the inception of the Fourth Republican Constitution, the self-proclaimed social democrats have been opposing social interventions that have been proposed by the successive NPP governments such as the Free Maternal Care, the NHIS, the Metro Mass Transport, the School Feeding Programme, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), , the Free SHS, amongst others.
So there is nothing out of the ordinary if the NDC operatives put up fierce resistance against the seemingly advantageous Free SHS scheme.
It is, therefore, fair to stress that the NDC faithful do not fancy the ‘Comprehensively Free SHS, and hence moving heaven and earth to discredit the expedient poverty alleviation policy implementation.
What is more pleasing to some of us though, is the social mobility improvement Free SHS policy will at least provide a sound and congenial environment for the students to develop to their full potential and to have a reasonable chance of leading productive and creative lives.
However, we cannot vouch for the sustainability of the free SHS policy, should Ghanaians make a catastrophic mistake and hand over the poverty alleviation free SHS programme back to the NDC in the near future.
Our fears stem from the fact that since the implementation of the free SHS policy by the NPP government, the minority NDC operatives have gathered momentum and called uncountable press conferences with the view to discrediting the policy’s implementation.
Somehow, the minority NDC operatives prefer “progressively free” (whatever that means) to NPP’s comprehensively free.
In fact, unless I come across as the worst performer in mathematics, I cannot fathom how and why the NDC’s GH48 per student is better than the NPP’s GH1844.27 per student a year.
Whatever the case, some of us cannot accept the minority NDC operatives somewhat sophistic argument.
Well, they may choose to discredit the Free SHS policy, but the fact remains that the policy will return huge benefits in the long run.
To be quite honest, the vast majority of Ghanaians will benefit immensely from the policy, including my maternal uncle, Oliver, a diehard NDC supporter, who had earlier criticised the poverty alleviation Free SHS.
But despite my uncle Oliver’s needless and never ending pessimism, he is likely to reap tremendous benefits and will most likely decline to endorse Mahama to cancel such an advantageous policy.
Apparently, credible sources have it that the government will spend a staggering amount of GH5532.83 over a period of three years on each student.
So, my uncle Oliver, who has three of his children in SHS, will be pocketing not less than GH16598.49 over three years.
Who can then persuade my maternal uncle to turn down such a juicy offer and vote for the unrepentant critic of the Free SHS who is set to abandon the policy?
It is quite unfortunate to witness how some Ghanaians could easily give in to the manipulating politicians vague rhetoric and vile propaganda designed to advance their vested interests.
My maternal uncle, as a matter of fact, was amongst the millions of impoverished Ghanaians who were brainwashed by the cunning and manipulating politicians to reject the poverty intervention Free SHS offer during the 2016 electioneering campaign.
The fact of the matter is that if everyone else’s had voted the same way as Uncle Oliver did, I am not sure his three children would have benefited from any free SHS.
In ending, I, for one, do not anticipate Uncle Oliver and the likes benefiting from the Free SHS policy should Ghanaians make a terrible mistake and hand over the poverty alleviation Free SHS policy back to the NDC government in the near future.
By Kwaku Badu
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