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Free SHS : A Sustainable Attribute To Education?
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The Coalition for Democratic Governance (CDG) observes that practical and pragmatic free education is a provision in the 1992 constitution. The constitution however, emphasizes that the SHS education should be progressively free.

In September 2017, the NPP Government rolled out its lead campaign promise, the free SHS;
1. without recourse to the limitations of the constitutional clause,
2. without stake holder involvement,
3. without conceptualizing the risk, monitoring and implementation on pilot basis,
4. without considering overcrowding due to increases in population growth,
5. without increasing infrastructure to correspond to increases in numbers,
6. Without considering the health risks likely to come up should numbers exceed limited infrastructure,
7. Without considering the absolute financial cost and its long term sustainability.

This was not surprising, because the President had much earlier told Ghanaians, that he is in a hurry to carry out his campaign promises ; a precursor to the unprofessional manner he was going to run the country. As a result of bad planning, lack of policy guide lines, confused and uncoordinated implementation, the free SHS, a little over two months after its implementation is facing structural defects and challenges.

There are serious challenges, recorded in many of the schools, including Damango SHS and some SHS in the Eastern Region. The Headmasters are silent for fear of intimidation. The free SHS has massively increased enrollment which cannot be sustained by the existing limited infrastructure. Generally, high enrollment with inadequate infrastructure, leads to overcrowding. In our SHS, system, we have four hundred and seventy five (475) SHS with about 500 students in each school. This gives two hundred and thirty seven thousand and five hundred ( 237,500) students under overcrowding condition due to inadequate infrastructure.

This write up, seeks to point out flaws in implementation, and to address the poor and unacceptable health conditions which is the result of these flaws. The CDG calls on the MOH, GHS and MMDAs forthwith :
a. to activate or set up infirmary in all the SHS with facilities for doctors and nurses
b. to detect early symptoms of diseases and to prompt management and referral hospitals,
c. to adequately resource the infirmary,
d. to provide free health care for SHS students,
e. to actively monitor all cases of meningitis and H1N1; focusing on key symptoms,
f. to vaccinate all SHS students against identified diseases such as H1N1 and meningitis
g. to intensify Public Education,
h. to ventilate and decongest the classrooms and dormitories.

The causal relationship between overcrowded SHSs and the ever increasing deaths in the SHSs has been established and proved. Our condolences go to about ten students from Kumasi Academy, who died from meningitis and H1N1 flu. In our view, all remaining students have to be vaccinated including those living in Asokore, Mamapong, Parkoso and Sepa communities all in the Ashanti Region.

Similarly, our condolences go to the Koforidua SECTECH student, who also died of meningitis and wish the twenty others under surveillance well. These are but only a few of the many students in our SHSs suffering under terrible conditions as a result of the free SHS; not to forget those who defecate into rubber bags because there are no latrines.

Source: Dr. E. K. Hayford, Chief Convener for CDG

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