It will not be wrong if the Akufo-Addo government admits that the flagship Free SHS programme saddled with numerous challenges and affecting the quality of education in the country, former Education Minister, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang.
The 2020 Vice Presidential candidate for the National Democratic Congress (NDC), who was speaking to Eric Ahianyo on the Morning Update on TV XYZ, bemoaned the government’s approach to dealing with the challenges of the Free SHS programme and asked for the government to listen to stakeholders’ concerns and tackle the challenges.
In her sestimation, the government has to lay down a channel to receive complains from parents and school managers and deal with them rather than painting a picture that depicts all is well with the Free SHS programme.
Confirming the concerns from worried teachers and parents, Prof. Opoku-Agyemang said, “I have picked from many, I’ve picked from students, I’ve picked from parents, I’ve picked from people in the Ministry [of Education] and outside the ministry. they have many stories to tell. And their major concern is that we can’t speak.”
She continued, “So when they come and give me all these litany of complains, my question to them is, but you have your boss; you have your committees, that’s a proper channel [so] why don’t you send all these concerns there so they will reach where they need to reach? [and] they say ‘we don’t even know who to trust, we don’t know who is listening to you and before you know they’ve transferred you’ and I find that very, very unnecessary.”
Asked whether the government has to meet stakeholders to tackle the challenges confronting the government’s flagship programme, she said it was good that some of the stakeholders are talking about the challenges and calling for review of the policy.
“Why shouldn’t a review happen? ” She quizzed and advised the government to bring on board parents, teachers and other stakeholders to finetune the strategy to use to deal with the challenges.
“When we started the progressively free [SHS policy], we had a review mechanism in place. You are starting something new, you can’t assume you are not going to have any challenges; you can’t assume what you put on paper the first day is cast in stone. You are going to look at the situation, you’re going to closely monitor the implementation and you are not going to wait till things come to a head because the problems will start coming,” she added.
Prof. Opoku-Agyemang continued, “If the originators and the planners and the strategists of the Free SHS come out to say ‘we meant well, this is it and we’ve evaluated the situation, we have our maiden report, these are the challenges we see, come lets talk, there is nothing wrong with it.”
However, she stated, “If government keeps insisting that they don’t have a problem, then the calls for review may not end where it should be.”
Her worry comes after the government put in place a double track to manage the population of various schools that admitted more than their capacity.
Currently, some first year students who were admitted in February are on vacation for about 90 days. They are expected to write their end of semester exam when they reopen school.
The lack of infrastructure in various senior high schools which forced the Akufo-Addo government to introduce the double track has been a major concern to many parents in recent times.
Prof. Opoku-Agyemang, who said she had been receiving calls from frustrated parents, described the situation as a “disturbing phenomenon.”
“I want to begin by expressing sympathy; to sympathize with the students, especially when they say ‘we are not learning anything.’.. we all have children in our families, in our communities and when they seem to be saying the same thing then it’s disturbing,” the former Education Minister said.