Former Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier General Joseph Nunoo Mensah has lashed out at government over its free SHS programme, arguing it should have been first piloted to assess implementation challenges.
He pointed out that the failure by government to do this has resulted in unprecedented challenges as amenities in schools are put under extreme pressure.
The Klo-Agogo Senior High School in the Eastern region is one of many schools where dormitories are over-crowded. Some students say they have to defecate in the open because of inadequate toilet facilities in the school.
Enrolment at the Eastern Region secondary school increased by at least 650 more students due to the free SHS programme.
At Vitting SHS and Kalipohini SHS, both in the Northern Region, first-year students of the two schools – beneficiaries of the free education policy – sleep in the open or under trees, exposing them to attacks from both reptiles and robbers.
The government has said it expects the roll-out of the free SHS policy will throw up challenges but has pledged to resolve them.
The Education ministry has also explained, the number of students assigned to schools were influenced by the vacancies declared by the school heads.
Weighing in, Brigadier General Nunoo Mensah said the hurried launch of policies or programmes without any testing only happen in civilian institutions. It cannot happen in the military, he said.
“Let me be a bit frank here. You cannot launch a major policy like this and then there are all kinds of problems”, he said.
He blamed the rush to promise and deliver on the politician’s desire for votes.
“You make promises to win power and you find that it is difficult to implement the polices you have made..it happens everywhere”
The former Brigadier General wants politicians to be measured in the kinds of promises they make to secure power, to avoid some of these challenges.
Listen to Nunoo Mensah audio
President Akufo-Addo whiles accepting the challenges his free SHS policy faces, has also criticised the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) for exploiting these challenges for political gain.
The opposition NDC has moved into an ‘I-told-you-so’ mood after it advocated for a progressive introduction of free SHS. The NDC has said government first needed to put in place the infrastructure to accomodate an enrollment boom.
An NDC MP Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has predicted, the problematic implementation of the free SHS policy could lead to a collapse of Senior Secondary Education within five years.
But speaking at the 68th Speech and Prize-Giving Day of Prempeh College, President Akufo-Addo suggested the opposition to his government’s social intervention policies is unbecoming of a party of social democrats.
“I continue to be puzzled as to the vehemence with which so-called social democrats oppose and attempt to undermine measures designed to address poverty”
“Their opportunism will always be exposed”, rhe president said and announced that some 75 Senior High Schools will soon have its facilities upgraded.
The upgrade is expected to deal with challenges arising from implementation of the free SHS policy.
The President announced funds have been secured from the World Bank that will see 45 other schools also upgraded into model schools.