Former President John Dramani Mahama appears to be reeling under pressure after suggesting that a future National Democratic Congress (NDC) is going to scrap the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy of President Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) government.
The former president is blowing hot and cold air on the Free SHS, having realized the political implications of his position to scrap it in the event of him winning the 2020 presidential election.
Mr Mahama said during the NDC’s ‘unity walk’ held for him in Tarkwa, Western Region, last Saturday that it was not by force for President Akufo-Addo to implement the Free SHS policy, which experts say is going to serve as a catalyst for future development of the country.
The ex-president, who is lacing his boots to contest again as NDC presidential candidate after suffering a humiliating defeat on December 7, 2016 as incumbent, did not understand why President Akufo-Addo should implement the programme when he (Mahama) had claimed that the country was not ready for it.
The NDC had argued that it would take the next 20 years before Free SHS could be implemented.
Mr Mahama pointed out that since it took 15 years to implement the universal education (F-CUBE) at the basic level, there was no need to rush for free education.
He took a swipe at President Akufo-Addo for rushing to implement the policy before hinting of a possible reversal of it by a future NDC government, saying it is not mandatory.
“Why should the government introduce free education now when the Constitution says it should be done progressively? In fact, it is not by force to introduce free SHS now,” Mr. Mahama underscored at Tarkwa.
He said that the challenges associated with the policy would not cease unless there was a comprehensive funding strategy, and added that the NPP government should have organized a national stakeholders’ conference on the policy to enable Ghanaians to make suggestions as to how it could be implemented effectively.
“But there was no consultation prior to the implementation of the policy. I want to advise the president that it is not too late. He should immediately organize a consultative forum to discuss funding options for the policy as was done prior to the establishment of the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) during President Rawlings’ regime and the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), introduced by former President Kufuor,” he charged.
However, when he came under fire from his opponents, the former president has started blowing ‘hot and cold’ air over whether or not the Free SHS is a good policy for the country.
He posted on social media platform – Facebook – yesterday that a future NDC government would not reverse the Free SHS policy.
“There are no ‘naysayers’ when it comes to free SHS. After all, it was recognized and enshrined in our constitution by the ordinary people of this nation who gathered at the Consultative Assembly and drew up the 1992 Constitution.”
He said the disagreement over the programme “is about the optimal pace of implementation,” adding “a more carefully considered plan of implementation adopted by broad stakeholder consultation would have resulted in clear policies and guidelines, which would have avoided the current challenges plaguing the programme…..”
The former president observed, “This view is not mine only. Many in the NPP and non-partisan civil society hold the same opinion.”
“It is not too late to hold a national stakeholders’ forum on the Free SHS programme in order to carry the whole nation along. The current legacy-seeking and ad hoc manner of implementation will multiply the current implementational problems over the next three years.
“The false publication by a newspaper that the NDC will reverse free SHS is most laughable, false and diversionary,” he posited.
Mr Mahama emphasized that the Free SHS “is constitutional, it must be implemented, but it must be implemented properly according to a clear plan that carries all stakeholders along.”
When he was ruling the country he consistently ridiculed the opposition NPP’s Free SHS proposal but after he had realized that the NDC was going to lose more votes for opposing it, he made a spectacular u-turn in the heat of the campaign in 2016, saying that his government was also going to implement the programme because he claimed he had put infrastructure in place for a smooth take-off.
Yesterday, NPP MP for Nsawam-Adoagyiri, Frank Annor-Dompreh, cynically suggested to Mr. Mahama and his NDC MPs to tour the various constituencies and gauge the backlash it would receive from the public if they continued to insist on scrapping the policy.
By William Yaw Owusu