Ghana’s Free SHS Debate: Maintain or Cancel?

It seems the debate of free education is not ending anytime soon; I am therefore writing this piece to register my opinion on the matter.

Achieving universal free secondary education is great for intellectual capacity for the development of any nation. The issue of quality and quantity should be considered when making the argument for free in any debate. In this piece, I will highlight extensively some ingredients that should be used to measure qualified education vis-a-vis the current “free SHS education” in the country.

To begin with, is it economically wise under this current status quo to maintain this form of “free SHS”? The first president to consider some form of free secondary education was Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in the year 1960. The total population then was 6.7 million with 22.3% representing age 0 to 20 years, which is supposed to be the school-going age of learners under basic education, including secondary education. That percentage is estimated to have been 1.5 million in the entire country at the time. The question is why didn’t Dr. Nkrumah implement free education in the entire nation considering the number at that time? Why the northern sector of the country although he was an Nzema? The only two reasons that come to mind are economic and urgency. Even the supposed free secondary education meant for that part of Ghana was later reviewed due to its replica effect on the economy.

To add to the above is the issue to do with quality. Quality education has its anchors in the teacher, teaching and learning material, and the learner. The current free SHS focuses only on the learner ignoring the other two anchors as stated. The ‘free SHS’ which was supposed to be a progressive thing was done in a rush ignoring other vital ingredients that will ensure quality education just to score a political point. The teacher who is supposed to be the pivot of implantation has not been treated any better from Adam. Teaching is in three stages, preparation, presentation and evaluation. A good presentation is always a reflection of its preparation. If the thinking of politicians is that ” you cannot be a billionaire in teaching.” The signal it sends is that use that time for preparation to do other business if being a billionaire is the wish of teachers. As a teacher, I can say that most teachers go to class with no preparation or limited one not because they do not know the right thing to do but they do that for survival.

Also teaching and learning material which is the second most important tool to ensure quality education has not been a priority for this government at all. The demand for textbooks for the successful implementation of the new curriculum has fallen on deaf ears upon several attempts. Is this deliberate? I believe it is not deliberate but borne out of economic challenge the country is going through. The great environmentalist of education says,” structure the environment, and learning will follow.” Absolutely free education is good but current financial muscle calls for a review of the policy.

Dr. Nkrumah with a population of 6.7 million did not give free education to all simply because it was economically unwise to do so then, why are we rushing to do it now with a high population of 32 million with all the red lines boldly written on the wall?

I believe that every worker should be paid well so that they would be responsible for their own children’s education.

3 thoughts on “Ghana’s Free SHS Debate: Maintain or Cancel?”

  1. Good article raising valid and strong points. The new curriculum at the basic school is one of the causes of student failure in secondary school exams.


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