Free SHS : Can we sit and talk?


Free SHS. Sigh!

It’s important I start this post with a critical point. I am not against free SHS in any way. I mean how? The love I have for education cannot allow me to. So free SHS, why not?

So what is my problem and why do I keep talking about free SHS on social media? My problem is, with my four eyes, I cannot see the policy as well thought-out. A well thought-out policy should have some structure and plans. So the response of most people is why should we sit down and be thinking? Let the program start, we will solve the problems. Okay. Year 1, program has started. It’s year 2, can we start asking our questions now? Or must we wait till year 5? Year 10? Year 15 when my son is ready to go to SHS?

All of us make plans for our future. Yes, they may not go as planned, but as least we have a structure. The structure guides us.

So Year 1. The students all went to school. Great.
Challenges? Infrastructure.

Year 2. Solution to Infrastructure challenges : Double track-system.

Year 3. Solution to Double track-system challenges : We all don’t know.
And this, dear friends is what I want to know.

So can I please ask my questions?

1. The Minister mentioned earlier in the year that there will be a voluntary fund for those who wanted to contribute to the program. I haven’t heard any news/announcement about this fund. What happened to it?

2. Prior to Free SHS, several NGOs existed that sponsored SHS students based on their own set of criteria. Has government been engaging them this time around to possibly get a contribution from them?

And then specifically about the Double Track System :

3. Education is holistic. Sports in a component of our SHS education that unearths the talents of those who are better on the field than in the classroom (and relaxes the mind of everyone as well). With the Double Track System, what is going to happen to interhouses, interco and superzo?

4. From the calendar I have seen for this year, at a point, the form 2s will be on vacation while the two form 1 batches will be in school with the form 3s. While in SHS, form 2s were the ones mostly involved in the informal training given (scrubbing, table manners etc) since the form 3s will be busy preparing for WASSCE. How will this be restructured?

5. What will be the criteria used to allocate students to Track A or Track B? Alphabetical order? Odd numbered vs even numbered index numbers? I can already hear a mother asking why Panyin is in Track A while Kakra is in Track B. Or why all the friends of her child is in Track A and her child in Track B. Can the details of this be spelt out as soon as possible so people can start getting used to the idea before it does happen? Next year, can people ask to be in the same track as their older sibling?

6. Given the fact that people are usually apprehensive about teenagers being idle, what is the a structured program for their longer vacation? Eg. A continuation of club activities or various forms of project work?

7. In 2021, WASSCE will be written by the two tracks. What is the plan?

8. The Double Track System would not go on forever. Some posts say 3 years, others say 5 years. Infrastructure will be built during this period. What is the plan? Can we see it so we can track it?

9. In my school at least, teachers lived permanently on campus. Now that other teachers will come in to teach the other track, will teachers’ accommodation on campus become temporal?

10. Last one, seemingly unimportant, but can actually be. In most schools, mattresses, trunks, chopboxes are left in dormitories, pantries etc during the vacation. Since these rooms will be in use during the vacation, what is the plan for keeping these? Or will students bring them home? Or perhaps, schools will purchase these items going forward so whoever is in school will use them?

If you have answers to any of my questions, I am ready to listen.

If you know anyone sitting in on-going meetings for stakeholders in secondary school education, can you forward my questions? Are these meetings happening? I expect they should! And oh, if interested persons like me are invited to such meetings, can I have the details?

As a citizen and not a spectator, my humble appeal is let’s suggest. Let’s ask questions. Saying free SHS is good is not enough. Let’s forget those talking for or against free SHS for political gains. Let’s agree that you and I are talking about it as citizens who know that one day, it may be our children sitting on stones under trees. Keep that picture in mind and let’s start a dialogue. Those who can make changes to this policy are on these streets silently reading. If they realise we are talking about the deep issues enough, they will listen.

The next time you are tempted to put out post that is saying anything along the lines of “Free SHS is good for everyone”, don’t just stop there. Add a line or two that suggests a way in which the policy can be improved. Let’s talk more so that we will be heard.

Too long, didn’t read? (Sorry, sorry, the passion makes me talk too much) In summary, you are the CEO of a company in charge of implementing free SHS. What are your suggestions to implement a sustainable policy?