My Free SHS Migraine


In the software world, it’s okay to release an app or feature that is not fully completed for users to test it. The decision to do this however depends on how critical the effect of an error will be.

This is to say that if Facebook decides to release a feature to display our profile picture in a triangle rather than a circle, if it failed, it will just be me not seeing your forehead well. I mean that barely tickles me.
However, if airplane manufacturers wanted to introduce a new way of landing, they cannot afford to release it for testing on a plane that will carry passengers. Failure means death. That is too serious to play with.

The Free SHS Secretariat a month after the program was launched has come out to admit that yes, there are challenges. These include insufficient food, infrastructure issues, oversubscription, etc.

Wait, are these things new? Did we not know these problems existed in secondary schools? Did we not know that introducing Free SHS will lead to an increase in enrollment and hence put pressure on the already stressed infrastructure? Is this the time to fix these issues? When students are sleeping in box rooms? When teachers have to give up their staff common rooms to be converted to dormitories and as such sit under trees? When students are learning under trees? When students are sitting on cement blocks? Really, is this the time to fix this? What are students going to learn under such conditions?

To connect this to my software analogy above, is education to us not critical enough to get things right before implementing a Free SHS policy? Is it fair to give these students an alpha release or a beta release without thinking of the critical effects it will have on their future?

A priest once said semi-literacy is worse than illiteracy. I couldn’t agree more. An illiterate doesn’t know and knows he doesn’t know. A semi-literate doesn’t know and thinks he knows! Oh yes! These students will graduate and think they know. But what do they know? What can someone analyse while studying under a tree?

A semi-literate thinks he can rub shoulders with a true literate. She won’t be humble enough to be taught better. See, I have met SHS students who as at Form 2 do not know a space bar! I knew what a space bar was by age 6! And I was born in 1990! These children who went to school this year were born in the 2000s. Is it fair that through no fault of theirs that we have chosen sub-standard education for them in the name of free SHS?

Put in the seat of the government, I would have spent this year putting infrastructure in place. Spent the next two years piloting free SHS for students who attended public basic schools and then when I realise everything is well, I introduce it for all students.

But no, not in this country. Free for everyone is better than quality for a few. Everyone getting a sub-standard education is better than a few getting a high quality education.

I believe in education too much not to play politics with it. I don’t want to hear what NDC will have done better or why NPP is smart to stick to their campaign promise.

I believe in education so much to realise that what we are doing today is digging a grave for our future. These sub-standard educated people will be the ones making policies for Ghana tomorrow. These sub-standard educated people will be the ones taking care of you in the hospital tomorrow. These sub-standard educated people will be the ones teaching your children tomorrow. And you thought things will change tomorrow. I’m sorry to burst your bubble. It won’t change. And we are the ones endorsing it.

Is Free SHS good? Yes. Is the way it is currently being implemented good? No. And you shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that.