The 2020 Running mate of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) flagbearer, has condemned what she believes is the government’s defensive attitude towards issues concerning the implementation of the Free SHS policy.
Prof Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang in an interview on JoyNews’ The Probe Sunday, advised the Akufo-Addo-led government to admit that the education system is riddled with issues, thus, needs help in addressing them.
According to her, the indifference being exhibited by the incumbent government towards the dire issues being raised by the populace will be detrimental to the future generation and Ghana as a whole.
“If the people in charge are saying there are no problems, then we have a very big problem. I don’t know what there is to hide and if you admit you need help, there is nothing wrong with it. Wisdom never resides in the head of one person,” she told host Emefa Apawu.
Government’s flagship programme, Free SHS has been under scrutiny for some weeks now.
Joy FM’s Super Morning Show in the course of the week, offered headteachers, teachers, parents, students and the Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Education Service, an opportunity to discuss challenges being faced in the implementation of the policy.
Among the challenges confronting the free SHS programme that were mentioned are; lack of accommodation facilities resulting in students sleeping on the floor, congestion in classrooms, inconvenience relating to erratic schedules for the double-track system, poor quality of food served to students, little attention to the end of semester examinations and minimal contact hours.
Some of the teachers and parents commended government for the policy while others, whose wards are enrolled in various Senior High Schools under the Free SHS policy, complained about the adverse effects of the policy on their finances.
According to some parents, they preferred paying school fees to have their children continue under the Free SHS programme. This is due to lapses they encountered in the rollout of the policy.
But in a rebuttal, President Akufo-Addo accused Joy FM of bastardising the Free SHS programme, which according to him, has been accepted by all and sundry.
Speaking at a ceremony at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) on Saturday, May 29, where an Honorary Doctorate degree was conferred on him, he said “A radio station is currently running a campaign against Free SHS. During the last election, I got the impression that Free SHS was endorsed by all parties and all that was needed to do was keep improving it. Would a spirited defence of Frees SHS constitute an attack on press freedom? I wonder.”
Prof Opoku-Agyemang was perturbed about government’s unconcerned attitude.
The former Education Minister charged her predecessor, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum to own up to the gaps which have been highlighted by the citizenry in order for an all-inclusive dialogue to be held to find sustainable solutions.
Indicating that the Free SHS policy was a good one, she insisted that it needs to be reviewed for it to be effective.
“He [Dr Adutwum] must come clean and say ‘I need help’. We will give the help but if the reaction from government says that ‘there is nothing wrong and everything is fine. Then help will not come.
“I have no advice to give someone who doesn’t need help or haven’t asked for it,” she was categorical.
The Former Vice-Chancellor further suggested that if the NDC has won the 2020 presidential elections, it would have rigorously reviewed the Free SHS policy by extensively engaging with stakeholders.
“Don’t go in cowering anyone, that if you speak I will transfer you or demote you. Don’t go in with that kind of harassment or attitude will not give you the results that you need.
“Be willing to listen. Sometimes, it is not always what you want to hear, that people say. But you are not everywhere, they are there and they are telling you the issues on the ground,” she said.