What the Education Minister, Matthew Opoku Prempeh actually said was “Pass before you enjoy Free SHS .” He explained that students who fail at the basic education level will not benefit from the policy as the government readies to roll it out.
But according to him, this statement he made in an interview with a local radio station has been misconstrued with some misleading headlines such as “Only brilliant students will enjoy Free SHS and “Bombshell! Free SHS only for brilliant students.
However, whatever meaning attributed to this statement does not seem to repose government’s constant promise that the policy would roll out in the next academic year, September 2017.
The Free SHS policy was a major campaign promise of the Akufo-Addo-led NPP in the 2016 polls. The government had given the indication that every Ghanaian student at the secondary level will benefit from the Policy.
In fact, whether it’s going to be only for brilliant students or not, Veteran broadcaster, Gifty Anti believes the free SHS policy should not be based on academic performance whatsoever. She had this to say in an Instagram post. Read her thoughts below:
oheneyere_gifty_anti: WHY I DISAGREE WITH ‘FREE SHS BASED ON ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE.’
For years, I covered stories of girls receiving financial support for education because they were ‘brilliant but needy’. I always felt there was a missing link. I felt some brilliant girls were being left behind because their ‘poverty situation’ was making it difficult for their brilliance to shine.
But well, it wasn’t my money. Who was I to complain?
So five years ago, when we started the Girl in Need Foundation, GiNF, I explained to people that our criteria is based on ‘girls 18 years and below, who find themselves in abusive environments, all because they need money to pay school fees or learn a trade or skill’.
And over the years, I have seen girls walk to my office looking broken, dejected, no confidence etc, who suddenly brighten up (mostly after crying) when we tell them YES, we will pay your school fees or support you to learn a trade or skill. (You cannot imagine what some the things these girls have been through. But that’s a story for another day)
We have seen girls improve academically (great improvement) because they know we will pay their school fees and give them a little money to buy a few provisions. We have seen girls become confident and bold because they now know where their next school fees is coming from. They don’t have to hassle for it.
Today, I signed a cheque for almost ghc5, 000 to pay the school fees of 8 SHS students. The JHS and primary students/pupils will also be sorted out later.
We have some of those we sponsored through JHS who are now in JHS and some through SHS who are now in tertiary institutions. You see, poverty and hardship have a way of affecting you negatively. How can you learn and do well when you know you have no one to pay your school fees? When you know you will be sacked from school or disgraced in school for not paying your school fees?
How can you concentrate and do well academically when you know the person who will pay your school fees will beat you, make you do harmful work or abuse you sexually before he or she pays your school feels?. Only few children have the resilience and the determined spirit to still do well academically.