Reviewing government’s pro-poor programme, the Free Senior High School (SHS) to see the way forward is necessary and not a bad thing to do, former Education Minister, Professor Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang has said.
Speaking to Omanbapa Mugabe on ‘Inside Politics’ on Radio XYZ 93.1 Monday, she stated that the government rushed in the implementation of the policy without taking into account the adverse effects its lapses could have on the country’s education sector.
The position of the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast comes few days after former president John Mahama bemoaned the running of the programme and promised to review it when voted into power in the 2020 general elections.
Speaking to NDC party faithfuls at the Cape Coast North constituency in the Central region during a tour, Mr Mahama indicated that the policy was ill-timed and could negatively affect the country’s education sector.
The former President said the programme was struggling because government failed to seek experts knowledge before rushing to implement it.
Despite vituperations from some members of the ruling NPP, the position of Mr Mahama has been corroborated by his education minister, who reiterated the need for the Free SHS to be reviewed.
“Review is a normal thing. After rolling out a programme, it is necessary that after sometime you look back at what you have done…It’s not a bad thing to do. It’s necessary,” she told Mugabe.
The professor said the government, after a year of launching the policy, should have gone back to the drawing board to correct some wrongs instead of opening up for schools to admit students above their capacity in what has become the ‘double track system.”
There have been reports from parents, teachers, and students that the programme is confronted with challenges which risks marring the beauty of the flagship programme which has enrolled almost 400,000 students into various schools this year alone.
The new programme creates a calendar of two semesters in a year for the SHS 1 class containing 81 days per each semester and 41 days of vacation for a sandwich class. Government has said the double track is to absorb more students who hitherto would not have had access to senior high school education for lack of adequate logistics.
However, Professor Opoku Agyemang believes the Free SHS policy is not at its best hence “creating panic” among parents, guardians and the students due to the lack of infrastructure and other logistics.
“Last year, nobody envisaged these [challenges],” she said as she noted there are challenges associated with the double track system.
“What is education?…The students shouldn’t be frightened, their parents should not be worried, teachers should not come out to say ‘we don’t understand the policy’ and fear for their positions after talking about the challenges,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Minister of Information Designate, has allayed fears of stakeholders in the education sector, revealing that government was working tirelessly with all stakeholders to address the challenges.
At a press briefing last month, the Ofoase Ayirebi MP said, at best, the double track system would help address the challenges facing the implementation of the free SHS as a temporary intervention until the needed infrastructure was put in place.
He said government, through the Ministry of Education, had supplied 96,403 mono desks, 33,171 pieces of dinning furniture, 3,033 teachers’ chairs and tables, 12,953 students beds, 4,335 students mattresses as well as 5,135 computer laboratory chairs.
To him, the intervention is expected to reduce the challenges being faced by students and teachers.