Opinion: Bawumia Thinks Atuguba Has a Trick Up His Sleeve on SHS Policy Initiative – By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

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Dr Raymond Atuguba

Ordinarily, I would have staunchly backed Dr. Raymond Atuguba’s call for the fee-free Senior High School policy initiative to be enacted into a binding legal instrument, to ensure that any future non-New Patriotic Party government that assumes residency at the Flagstaff House does not roll back or backtrack on this otherwise most progressive educational policy initiative, since President Nkrumah’s promulgation of a fee-free primary and middle education system in the wake of the country’s landmark declaration of independence from British colonial rule.

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But, of course, I am not going to do so here because I have incredulously watched some of the key operatives of the National Democratic Congress, of which Dr. Atuguba is a leading light, deviously attempt to cannibalize the Kufuor-initiated National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) initiative, as well as other quality-of-life programs initiated under the watch of the New Patriotic Party, in order to make it seem like a pre-established constitutionally mandated edict (See “Bawumia Shoots Down Proposal for ‘Free SHS Law’” Kasapafmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 12/3/17).

Unfortunately, I have to side with the former Executive-Secretary to former President John Dramani Mahama and presently a Senior Law Lecturer at the University of Ghana, that about the only way by which to make a fee-free Senior High School system a permanent feature of our national political landscape and culture, is to enact this veritable Akufo-Addo initiative into the law of the land. Obviously, Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia was thinking about his own future presidential election campaign when he vehemently shot up his disapproval while, reportedly, addressing a graduating class of students at his alma mater, to wit, Tamale Secondary School (TAMASCO) recently.

Indeed, should the Akufo-Addo-led government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) keep up its good job performance as it has been doing so far, there is every reason to believe that the three-time Akufo-Addo running-mate ought to be sanguinely looking towards a two-term vice-presidency and another two terms as Chief Resident of the Flagstaff House, barring any unforeseen or uncontrollable circumstances. In other words, for as long as the fee-free SHS remains the exclusive bragging right of the key operatives of the New Patriotic Party, and not one that is constitutionally etched into law, together with other equally landmark achievements of the NPP that are apt to be notched down the road, the operatives of the National Democratic Congress may very well be looking towards life on the gray margins of opposition politics for at least a generation, if sanity prevails among the overwhelming majority of the Ghanaian electorate.

Of course, there is absolutely no guarantee of NPP’s domination of the national political landscape for at least the next sixteen to twenty years. But, of course, it can also not be gainsaid that the need to assure the younger generations and posterity of a sound fee-free basic and secondary education cannot be made into a cynical political contest of wills and/or ideologies. By the same token ought to be underscored the inescapable fact that merely writing into law or a constitutional mandate, the imperative need for the government of the day to provide all Ghanaians with a fee-free SHS education would not automatically guarantee the same.

We know this to be the case because in the lead-up to the 2016 general election, both the presidential incumbent, Mr. John Dramani Mahama, and minor opposition leaders like Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom, kept claiming cavalierly that there was absolutely nothing new about the proposed Akufo-Addo campaign policy agenda of a fee-free SHS system, and that the 1992 Constitution already mandated the same.

Well, as to why the Rawlings government, which assumed the seminal reins of governance in Ghana’s Fourth Republic, had not guaranteed our youths a fee-free SHS education, Mr. Mahama and his nay-saying associates insisted that the problem was one of logistics or resources and not an abject lack of will, as Messrs. Akufo-Addo and Bawumia had been claiming. A year on, it has become crystal clear that, indeed, it was the abject lack of will and leadership foresight that had unduly stalled the salutary implementation of a fee-free Senior High School policy initiative. Which is why Dr. Atuguba’s call for the enactment of a fee-free SHS law may only be good or philosophically and morally sound in theory but not in practice.

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