The quote “if you think education is expensive try ignorance” is popular in Ghana for very good reasons. Most people believe education is the key to success in life and thus without education your talent can only take you “that far”.
It is on the backdrop of this quote that I write this article to share my opinion on the FREE SHS DOUBLE TRACK SYSTEM. I do not want to bore readers with the history of the Free SHS in Ghana because it is already well-documented and has been a prominent and controversial topic in political discourse for at least a decade.
It is also a well-documented fact that the ruling government won the 2016 election with their major campaign message centering on making SHS free for all. It was therefore not surprising that in their first year in power, the NPP government started implementing the Free SHS programme albeit for first year students only.
WHERE FROM DOUBLE TRACK?
As the new school year approached in the second year of the NPP government, then the talk of the Double Track system started. The government announced that starting 2018/2019 academic year some selected schools will be running what will be known as a Double Track education system. This system essentially means that two streams of students or batches of students will be attending school in turns within the same calendar year as opposed to what used to exist prior to the introduction of the Free SHS.
According to the government what has necessitated this is that an additional 181,000 students will be included to the number which would have been admitted without Free SHS. Opponents of the government have criticized it vehemently accusing it of destroying the educational system in Ghana. They also accuse the government of not building infrastructure first before implementing Free SHS.
My contention is that, if we will all be a little level headed in our arguments, we will admit that, the previous system, where after writing the BECE some students get placed, and others who don’t get grades within the cut-off point but have equally passed, are left to sit at home or find a solution to their educational needs themselves was never the best. Given the yearly complaints and hassle parents endure when it’s time for their wards to progress to SHS I don’t understand why someone will criticize a policy that paves the way for all students who passed the BECE to gain admission.
Given the arguments and opposition to the policy, are these critics suggesting we leave those 181,000 students who have passed the BECE to just stay at home and waste their talents? Again, the current government is barely two years old, so, how can someone even think of blaming them for the lack of infrastructure in the educational sector?
Finally, will these critics be happy if their children who had passed exams were asked to stay home because they could not meet a cut-off point?
MY PERSONAL PROBLEM WITH DOUBLE TRACK
Although I am not a critic of the Double Track system, I also believe it is not ideal for a country and it is not sustainable policy long term. Therefore the six year timeline given as the duration within which the system will run is unacceptable to me. I believe at worst the double track system should not exceed three years and the government should as a matter of urgency construct enough classrooms, dormitories and school buildings to accommodate the excess intake.
I share the opinion of the Deputy Education Minister Dr. Yaw Adutwum, that “this is a very smart approach by government to end the cutoffs during admission of SHS students”. We should therefore be mindful of the quote which says “if you think education is expensive try ignorance” and as a matter of urgency support this government to successfully implement this Free SHS because it is a real catalyst for change in this country and can potentially turn our fortunes around. No matter the cost in putting up the necessary infrastructure to support FREE SHS, it should be done.