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Free Education is Giving Rise to Good but Exorbitant Private Schools in Ghana

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As the saying goes, ‘Free things are very costly.’ Free Education is undoubtedly a beautiful and relieving system for anyone in the country. However, since its implementation in Ghana, it has never been free from criticism and concern from stakeholders.

For the government, it may have been a promising manifesto to garner votes, while for many parents and guardians, it offered relief from financial burdens. Unfortunately, not enough input was sought from various stakeholders, including parents, teachers, educators, and other well-meaning Ghanaians who prioritize education.

While the current government and some Ghanaians take pride in the existence of free education in the country, we must also acknowledge the practical challenges of making it work and, more importantly, sustaining it.

The level of commitment from stakeholders such as parents and educators has decreased, and most schools have overcrowded classrooms and stretched resources. As a result, many parents feel compelled to hire additional tutors for their children on weekends and during holidays.

Due to overcrowding in most school facilities, children are forced to run on a shift system, where some kids stay home for nearly four months before going back to school. If parents can’t arrange for additional tutoring or engagement during this period, the child may return to school unprepared.

Consequently, academic performance has suffered, and there has been an increase in immoral behavior among students, along with a decline in discipline. These challenges highlight the need for a comprehensive approach to address or review issues surrounding Free Education in Ghana.

The natural notion that ‘good work and behavior drive good rewards, while shoddy or lazy work generates no reward but rather the opportunity to try again’ has been eroded. As part of the Free Education policies, no pupil or student is allowed to be held back in a class if they don’t perform well in a promotion examination.

This mindset has gradually permeated the thoughts of many children, leading to a perception that learning has become leisure time. Many children express sentiments such as, ‘Even if I score aggregate 50 in the examination, I’ll still advance to the next level anyway, so what’s the point of straining myself?’ This mentality creates significant challenges at the tertiary level of education, as weak fundamentals are exposed.

On the flip side, the low performance of free public schools has led to the proliferation of expensive private schools in the country.

Parents who understand the importance of education for their children are doing everything possible to enroll them in these upscale schools. The Akan adage ‘Be bi shi na be bi ye yie’ (As one side or place is burning, another is doing well or strengthening) aptly describes this situation.

Interestingly, many of these private schools are owned or operated by politicians, influencers in society, affluent individuals, and churches. This trend is gradually exacerbating the divide between ‘rich kids’ and ‘poor kids.’ In my opinion, this was not the intended outcome of Free Education in the country.

If we’re not careful, the existing socioeconomic class divides in many societies could worsen, perpetuating divisions between the poor and the rich, or even along racial lines in the minds of these children.

For now, I strongly suggest that the Free Education policy in the country should be based on merit. A certain grade or fixed score could be established for all students. Once a student attains that mark, they should qualify for the free package, similar to a scholarship scheme. In regions facing severe challenges, such as underdeveloped areas, the grading system could be adjusted upwards to incentivize interest and participation.

Students who do not meet the pass mark or grade could be required to rewrite the following year. Parents who wish their children to continue without meeting the pass mark should cover the expenses.

This approach would save considerable money for the country, encourage seriousness in public schools, foster healthy competition among students, motivate teachers to support their students in achieving the required grade, and encourage greater parental involvement in their children’s education in public schools. It could also help restore a sense of normalcy between public and private schools.

Furthermore, I believe that certain sectors in every country, such as education and health, should have long-term policies that are reviewed periodically by all stakeholders. I strongly disapprove of political parties prioritizing these sectors as part of their manifestos, as frequent changes can be confusing for students, daunting for parents, and overwhelming for teachers. Instead, there should be stability and consistency to ensure effective learning and development.

Nicholas Nibetol Aazine, SVD Coordinator: Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Society of the Divine Word, Ghana Province A Catholic Religious Congregation (Serving God through the people) Email: nicholasbetol@gmail.com”

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  1. Father, you have said it all. I also entreat that the Catholic Bishop Conference adds their voice to this your piece of writing, roll it out and reach out to the government. “If it must be done it must be done well”. Politicians have attained their aim and are boasting of the implementation of the free SHS but to be honest “the roof leaks a lot”. As at now there’s been changes in the curriculum yet no single book has been approved by government to foster teaching. Teachers leave on the Internet for salient points to enhance their teaching. Infact, education in Ghana is at bleak especially in the government sector. Today, JHS girls are allowed to sit in the classroom with pregnancy and those on delivery ,their babies are brought to the school for them to be fed/ breast feed. Which advanced country does this? It’s time the churches leave their shells and speak straight to the politicians/government for the good and the good of this nation.

  2. Very well written, Padre. I am happy you put this down in black and white. Politics must be taken out of our Education sector. The so-called “free” program needs a review very badly.
    However, this Free Education Program has collapsed many private SHSs, especially in Northern Ghana. To save their investments, many had to transform into Basic Schools.


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