Hon Alex Kyeremeh writes: Our Children are Starving in School under Free SHS Program

The problems that have come with the hastily and unplanned implementation of the much touted FSHS program are not ending anytime soon. The problems, my checks in the schools, have reached alarming stage where headmasters of secondary schools are having sleepless nights on how to feed the students.

I recently took some time off and visited some of the secondary schools. Apparently, many parents had complained to me of the unfortunate situation that their wards are being subjected to under the poorly implemented FSHS program. The lamentation of parents took center stage in the editorials igniting discussion of the issue on the media with parents on one side and government on the other side. The minister of education Hon Yaw Adutwum was all over the media desperately offering unconvincing explanations. So I decided to go to the schools to ascertain the true situation.

I discovered many but the damning of all the challenges that I discovered was the acute shortage of food. It’s worrying to know that our students are fed with what is available and not what they should be fed with. The problem is so serious that, headmasters now engage in bater with other secondary schools. Headmasters will reach out to their colleagues and arrange exchange of food stuff with them. For instance, one who has sugar will exchange some for rice with another school. It is that serious!

If we recall, there was a publication in the media that, students now go to dinning hall with their own sugar and bread. The schools could only provide raw porridge and so a student who needed anything to blend with the porridge will have to provide that for himself. We perhaps thought it was one of these media exaggerations and so very little attention was paid to the story. Unfortunately, today this is where the situation has deteriorated to. The quantity of food served to a student in the dinning hall is one ladle per student. In some cases they are served with less than a ladle of rice without stew! It is also worth mentioning that, the shortage of food has significantly affected the quality of food that is served to the students.

My checks further revealed that, the problem is faced by almost all the secondary schools but it is profound in the village schools. Their situation is much more severe than I have described earlier.

What is more alarming is the negative impact that the problem will have on the students especially the final year students. They are currently writing the WASSCE and I can only imagine the suffering that they will be going through having to struggle to feed and to also study to write their exams.

Then I asked the headmasters why they were not complaining about their situation? Most of them were emphatic in their responses, they fear they will loose the headship. If they complain publicly, they will be misconstrued to be sabotaging the government as has been the new excuse by the government to victimize public sector workers. Even as they spoke with me, they constantly pleaded that I don’t disclose their names in any conversation. One headmaster told me, “I’m left with few months to go on retirement, therefore I will not speak up to be demoted. What we can do is what we are doing”. I think parents who’s wards are writing the WASSCE should take keen interest in what their wards are being fed with. If possible they should provide their wards with convenient foods to supplement the inadequately poor food that the schools are feeding the children with.

Before I end, I want to ask the government, where is the FSHS money? Where is the money and students are starved to death? Where is the money and headmasters are running helter skelter looking for food to feed students? So after all the noise about the program, this is the sorry state of the flagship FSHS program 4 years into its implementation? Indeed our education is in serious crises and something urgent must be done to avert further deterioration of the program.

Hon Alexander Kyeremeh
Former Dep. Education Minister

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