There is, however, another side to that matter, Dear Reader. One, the directive not to charge first-year students any money whatsoever is a direct order from the GES, thus to ask or suggest to their parents or guardians to pay money for whatever reason violates a core rule of the free SHS policy.
And two, as a law Act 506 most likely spells out for head teachers specific procedures for dealing with official challenges or seeking solutions to problems in their respective schools. So here is the critical question: How can anyone who flouts a section of an Act and gets into trouble thereby, go and seek reliefs under another section of the same Act?
First, the free SHS policy is (now) a kind of PAMSCAD – programme of action to mitigate the cost of social adjustment. That is the name given to the set of programmes rolled out to provide some reliefs to Ghanaians when Rawlings’ dictatorship started conducting (from 1985) stringent macro-economic policy of servicing the economy under a Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP) prescribed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF.) And the role of PAMSCAD was to reduce the effects of the tough economic policies. Today, the macro-economic adjustment set in motion by John D. Mahama, which Nana Akufo-Addo is continuing, has, let us call the creature by name, created a tough economic environment. Hence the free SHS policy is bringing much needed reliefs to households.
Second, it is hard to comprehend how anyone for whatever reason will openly oppose a good policy that gives parents/guardians some relief and then quietly go to enjoy the reliefs supplied by that very policy. Surely, to ask wherefrom national administration will find money to implement the policy is a legitimate question. But to mount rooftops to affirm that the programme will fail and then (you and your doomsday-prophesying party colleagues) sending your children, wards and dependents to SHS 1 to enjoy the free SHS, certainly, raises grave issues.
True! Superficially, it lays bare the puzzling nature of the human being, but there is more. It is inherent with a contradiction that is both ironic and puzzling. Because the best course of action for such doomsday prophets is to avoid the free SHS programme by paying the required fees for their dependents. The strategic reasons are one, as a matter of consistency in principle; two, when the programme eventually collapses, they will not be partly culpable, and; three, they can then say, we told you so.
On the other hand, that contradiction contains a message that should always represent a yellow light for those officially outside the arena of partisan politics, especially public workers, because they are in a unique position. Eventually or ultimately, a public worker implements policy and programmes made by a national administration. Thus when a public worker flouts the directive of a good social-intervention policy rolled out by a particular national administration, he or she appears to be behaving like a party-political opponent (of that administration.) And that creates a kind of paradox, but one that goes against the public worker as opposed to the partisan-political opponent, who has nothing to lose but is rather looking to gain some electoral capital. Conversely, the public worker could be punished for breaking the laws of his or her employment.
No, Dear Reader, that is not to say the public worker, say a head teacher, faces, in his or her school, no challenges (on the good policy) that deserve attention of the Ghana Education Service. The point is that seek solutions to even challenges linked to a new, good policy is not synonymous with fighting the good policy by violating one of its directives. Yes, a head teacher had problems that have been exacerbated by the new policy, but his or her task as a public worker is to call the attention of the GES and national administration to the issues, not by flouting the rules of the policy; that is counter-progressive.
Is there a judge who will applaud a head teacher who violates a rule that is at the heart of a good social-intervention policy even if the reason for the violation is to deal with problems exacerbated by the implementation of the policy; especially when there are laid-down procedures for dealing with the problems?
Universally, it is justified, even if no law says so, to fight a bad law or policy. On the other hand, any public worker who fights a good social-intervention policy puts himself or herself across as a party-political opponent of the implementing national administration; especially (to repeat) when there are clear, laid-down procedure for seeking redress to the identified problems. It akin to not being where the big political opponents are fighting and yet taking oneself from wherever one is and planting oneself on the terrain where they are fighting. One suffers for nothing.
The party-political opponent will lose neither job nor sleep over his opposition and doomsday prophesying. On the other hand, the public worker who appears to be behaving like the party-political opponent could be reprimanded or punished for flouting a directive that is part of the package intended to make a good policy work. The public may view both the party-political opponent and that public worker as enemies of progress, but with a critical difference. With respect to the former, people are likely to take the position, dismissively, that he or she knows the policy is good, but is opposing it simply to reap electoral capital. In the case of the public worker, there will be no defence, not even the fact of palpable frustration over persisting official problem authorities are refusing to help him or her solve.
To borrow the concept of the maestro actor, Bob Cole, character in the African (Ghanaian) movie, I Told You So, the people will label that public worker an enemy of progress “without qualification.” Anyone who doubts that should go and talk to parents and guardians whose children are in SHS one this year. Paradoxically, the set of parents and guardians includes some of those screaming Armageddon for the free SHS policy. And that is why public workers should beware!
…with Yirenkyi Lamptey