Ghana: Free Education – Praiseworthy but Not Feasible

Ghana/28 de Noviembre de 2016/Allafrica

Resumen: La educación puede ser vista como una fábrica donde los seres humanos son refinados y enviados al mercado de trabajo. Los seres humanos no nacen en blanco como expresó John Locke.

Education can be seen as a factory where human beings are refined and sent out into the labour market. Humans are not born blank as John Locke expressed.

Rather every individual is born raw. This implies that an individual is born with certain concealed abilities.

These endowments of humans are also referred to as inborn potentialities. Human abilities are blunt not blank and need analogous devices to sharpen them.

It is these fundamental principles that informed great philosophers and educationists from the classical orientation to stress the importance of education.

In fact, education has ranked as the best legacy any conscientious leader, government or parent bequeaths their wards and people.

But in all these quality education determines the standard of growth achieved by any society.

Some erudite philosophers such as John Stuart Mill, Alfred Marshal, Karl Marx, among others had succinctly argued that state investment in education is the most costly of all capital input in human beings.

Likewise, a Nigerian political genius and educationalist, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, opined that if Nigerians wanted to modernize and live in peace, free education at all levels must be provided for all the citizens (Awolowo, 1968).

This was strongly supported by Fawehinmi (1974) who maintained that free education at all levels in Nigeria would save the country from slow, lopsided economic development and other socioeconomic ills that plague an illiterate society. In Ghana, some political parties have promised to provide free (progressively free) Senior High School education.

These promises are confirmation of the position above. But, realistically, can education actually be free? It is to provide some answers to this question that this piece posits that however praiseworthy the idea of free education is, it may not be feasible.

 The concept of free education is a very intricate one.

The concept ‘education’ itself is so complex that it has no universally conventional definition. According to Nwagwu, “free education” entails so many things.

In other words, free education means the removal of every constraint to sound and quality education. It means the establishment of various kinds of schools and expansion of school curriculum to ensure that each child develops according to their ability, age, interest and so on.

It means the establishment and provision of library facilities, technical and vocational equipment, recruitment and retention of qualified and adequate manpower. It means tuition free; free feeding, free books; free accommodation, free transportation, free uniform and other personal uses of the learner.

Free education also means the removal of every socio-cultural impediment to the child’s education. Only when these impediments are totally removed can we talk about education being free.

The partial implementation of the above can never qualify the system as free because the presence of any one of the above constitutes a critical constraint to the child’s access to education (Nwagwu, 1976).

 In Ghana the argument has reigned for sometime now that free education is a feasible option to ensure that those who cannot afford education can also have one.

And that, it is disingenuous for people who benefited from free education to now oppose one meant for the unfortunate poor.

 In fact, Nana Addo and the NPP, in the run-up to the 2012 general elections in Ghana, argued that less than one percent of Ghana’s GDP, which translates into about 78 million Ghana cedis at the time, could be used for the first three months of their free SHS implementation in 2013, if they won the December 7 polls.

Assuming without admitting that this calculation was right, it will mean about 234 million Ghana cedis of our GDP would have to be used every quarter for the project. What is even not clear was how much of the proposed expenditures would take care of household average spending on education.

Households on average spent GHC88.65 on a household member’s education, according to Ghana Living Standard Survey 2010 report. So, the argument is whether the economy can absorb the cost of free education or not. To that extent one would not be faulted to argue that the idea is praiseworthy but not feasible.

Rather than commit such an amount to just one sector of the economy, we need to grow the economy where jobs will be created to absorb the masses, especially, the unemployed graduates as well as the skilled ones.

When the economy expands and grows and people have gainful employment with well measured incomes, they will be able to afford high school education on their own without guaranteed financial support from the government.

Not only will this boosts consumption, it will in turn spur more investments. It will also help alleviate poverty and lead to improvements in the standards of living for the ordinary Ghanaian. Enhanced incomes will also result in savings, which savings the banks will make available as loans for more business growth.

The expedient thing for our politicians to do now is to make sure that the requisite infrastructure is in place to encourage the private sector to set up businesses by creating more jobs. Government has to make sure that the country has adequate and unlimited, uninterrupted 24/7 energy supply; adequate water supply for consumption, sanitation, and industrial purposes; more good roads to move goods and people faster; a fair legal system; a robust banking sector; small and medium enterprise/business development agency; investment tax incentives, modern communication and ICT systems to mention but a few.

How can we industrialize when the above are wanting? It is just simply impossible to achieve industrialization of the economy without needed infrastructure in place.

What we need is concrete and sustained efforts to move the economy to its fullest development.

Instead of free senior high school education, what we need to do in terms of education is to resource the schools adequately and restructure the education process to make it relevant to the development of the economy.

We need to produce graduates with the requisite knowledge and skills suited for employment or continued education to the tertiary level.

Our educational system needs to be retooled to produce entrepreneurs who would start their own businesses. Ghanaians need jobs in order to enable them to pay their own bills, including the cost of senior high school education.

Our schools need better classrooms, well equipped science and computer laboratories, well trained, better remunerated, and highly motivated teachers, and above all, relevant development oriented curriculum suited for the 21st century.

We must, therefore, be careful not to reduce education to mass literacy and mass copying or even mass certification.


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