OVER the past week, the news item which dominated the Ghanaian media milieu, both print and electronic, was the launch and implementation of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) government’s Free Senior High School (SHS) project.
The project has been defined as a flagship programme of the NPP. Indeed, it was a major campaign promise to the Ghanaian populace, hence the euphoria which greeted its birth.
In actual fact, it is estimated that more than 400,000 graduates from various Junior High Schools (JHS) across the country would benefit from the project. This then is a great boon to parents, many of who struggle to make ends meet, but consider educating their children a necessary task that must be done.
Indeed, such parents are heaving massive sighs of relief, since their yokes have eased.
Estimates have it that the project would cost the Ghanaian government about $100 million, out of which amount 25 per cent has been disbursed to the schools to run the Free SHS  project with a promise by the Ministry of Education to address the challenges that may arise. So far, so good!
If education is really the bedrock of development, then one needs to pat the back of every government which makes it a priority and ensures that the youth get enrolled in the schools, stay on and complete their studies.
This way, the country could be spared agitations by the youth which may culminate in instability, chaos and anarchy, and truncate our march towards, development.
This is why the Ghanain Times lauds this effort of the NPP government, and looks forward earnestly to the success of the programme.
We are, however, unhappy that the SHS project has run into problems, even at its very formative stage. We are referring to the dismissal of the headmasters of two SHSs allegedly over extortion during admission process. Were they dismissed, relieved from their posts or re-assigned?
The Ghana Education Service (GES) statement on the fate of the two educationists as released on Thursday is as conflicting as confusing. The service must, therefore, come clear on the issue.
Then come the seven school administrators, who have also been interdicted, allegedly for charging unapproved fess, and in essence, seemingly sabotaging the project.
If in the first place, headmasters, who together with their teaching staff and administrators as the implementers, were made aware that the SHS project is absolutely free, and they disregarded this stipulation and went beyond it and charged some fees, then this is unfortunate on their part.
If they were not aware and in consequence went ahead to ask for the payment of some incidentals, should they be blamed, and slammed with dismissals, interdiction, or removed from their posts?
In any case were the grievance handling procedures of the GES involved and exploited and the officers in question found culpable?
If these were not done, then would their union, the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) not be justified, describing the GES’ decision on them as harsh? Could they not have been given soften punishments as advocated by Mr David Ofori Aceampong, the GNAT General Secretary?
The Times holds the view that as the fulcrum around which the success of the Free SHS scheme evolves, the Ministry of Education and its implementing agent, the GES, must be in constant dialogue to discuss all thorny issues and  reach a consensus.
This is to avoid any of them falling prey to some unseen hands, and subjected to humiliation and opprobrium, even at this very formative stage, as happened to the two headmasters and the seven administrators.
Politicians and policy formulators and implementers should remember, they are products of our untiring headmasters, their teaching and ancillary staff and should, therefore, treat them with modicum of respect and decorum, rather than subjecting them to ridicule, and dismissing them through press releases.
School heads and their ancillary staff are critical stakeholders in the implementation and success of the Free SHS project and they should, therefore, not be frustrated in the scheme of things.
They should also not be made to resort to a culture of silence; as their aloofness would not bode well for all of us.
The Free SHS project is with us, and we all must make it work and attainable; school heads and all their staff included.
The Times wishes the project well!

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