Implementation of free Senior High School policy in Ghana was highly welcomed by all as it will make second cycle education more accessible to all, irrespective of one’s geographical location or financial status. The motto for the policy include: Acess, Equity and Quality.
This means that second cycle education should be made accessible to every Ghanaian student, that is, whether from rich or poor homes,
Quality aspect of the policy is what I am more interested in,Quality as the name suggest, talks about the level of excellence and not just the number (quantity) of the beneficries, the aim of the free SHS policy is not to pay for students to sleep and after they complete, they go home with nothin, this would mean no benefit to the nation.
This policy as indicated early on is giving every student opportunity without placing barriers in some higly competitive schools where only the rich parents can have their wards. To achieve the quality aspect of the policy, the beneficiary requirements should be considered, that is, those to benefit from the policy should be serious in their studies. My checks on the first year students of the policy implementation indicates that the policy included every Junior High School pupil who sat for the Basic Education Certificate Examination, including the failures, that is, those whose academic performance is equal to that of an illiterate sitting for an examination. Computerised school selection and placement system in 2018/2019 academic year placed students who scored aggregate of up to 42 in the four core subjects and two electives into SHS. What this means is that our educational system encourages laziness among students because if a hard working student should get distinction while non-serious ones get aggregate 42 and they can both enter into the same Senior High School, why would the students be serious again? When we were in school, we only use BECE as an exam to determine who learns and who does not but is like these days,there is no more that zeal, those who sleep in class during lessons and in the night watch television at the dispense of their studies with the mind set that even if they fail they can still go to school. Free SHS policy should have corrected this, if students are aware that if they don’t pass their exams well they would not enjoy free SHS, they would take their studies seriously in order to benefit from the policy.
My visit to some senior High Schools in Nanumba North and South Districts indicates that, some significant number of form one students under free SHS in Bimbilla Senior Senior High School and Wulensi Senior High School cannot read and write,meaning that,they are “illiterate students” and how can a student of this calibre be paid for free tution, feeding and boarding? Meanwhile is not the fault of any of those senior high Schools because the students were placed by Computerised school selection and placement System (CSSPS) compelling them to admit the students and keep them.why should money be wasted on the student who can not read and write? If such money is given to the local farmers to use to produce food, is it not better?.
Another issue of concern is the GES policy of mass promotion, this time around is like Schools are not allowed by Ghana Education Service to repeat non-performing students due to insufficent classroom blocks and hostel facilities, this policy should equally be reviewed.Public second cycle educational instituions should emulate what is done in some of the government assisted Mission schools, in those schools, if a student continuosly fails at the end of term examination, either the student is repeated in same class or withdrawn. This practise makes all students in those schools to take their studies seriously to avoid being repeated or sacked for poor academic work.This explains why mission schools excel in the West Africam Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
I happen to mark the end of term examination scripts of a particular senior high school where some free SHS form students only copied the objective texts at the theory part and instead of shading from 1-30 objective questions, some shaded up to 40 meanwhile, there were no questions from 31-40. How can such a student be described? An illiterate of course! My take on this issue is that, before a student can benefit from the free SHS, the student should be able to read and write, be serious and should pass BECE with at least a six grade in each subject, meaning from aggreagate 06-36. The grades 7,8,9 should not be allowed to enter SHS to benefit from free SHS because a student who can read and write if not sick would not score those grades in all subjects in the examination.
The policy is a good one for a developing country like Ghana and so should be seen as a national policy and not for political gains, the right thing should be done, it should be able to fight school drop out and reduce illiteracy rate in the country.
I charge the Ghana Education Service, minisrty of education and the government to review the policy begining 2019/2020 academic year by making it like a scholarship, meaning only those students who score from aggregate 06-30 0r 36 should be the beneficiaries.In this case, the money would not be wasted on non-serious students who will complete with noth in. Or even if the academically poor students will benefit from the policy, they should be made to offer vocational and or Technical programs like carpentry, fashion and design, catering, building and construction, painting and decoration, auto meachanics, electronics etc. This can equip them with employable skills be gainfully employed even if they can not read.
Columnist: Abraham Njonaan Nlenkiba