Imani is a think-tank in Ghana.
I support think-tanks because usually they offer an independent analysis of policies and political behaviour to enable media houses and scholars to best weigh up and present the advantages and disadvantages of any given policy.
Now on Imani's table is the debate over free Secondary Education in Ghana. This would sponsor all young people who make it into the Secondary tier of education in Ghana, to attend for free and is a promise made first by NPP but now also CPP (Kwame Nkrumah's party) and PPP.
According to an article I found on Ghanaweb Imani rejects the idea of free Secondary education claiming there is no constitutional requirement to make that part of education free for anyone. They also question the feasibility of such a policy and I personally have watched videos on YouTube from Ghanaian broadcasters where they argue the NPP have not considered the costs of this commitment - they've even gone as far as to say it is unattainable.
Trust me, I'm extremely sceptical of election promises. To be honest, evidence from Africa would show that election promises are more than just overly ambitious; they are most often pure lies. BUT! (and yes it's a big 'but')... politicians make major election promises because they know the people will vote for those promises and the people vote for those promises because on the off-chance that this year is a year of honesty, next year and the years following could be a year of unprecedented progression.
So what I expect from a think-tank like Imani is a more mature analysis of these promises. I totally accept them questioning the figures (although official estimates have not yet been released) after all, if you ask no questions before the voting, being frustrated after the fact, serves no end. However, my objection is to the assertion that the policy of free secondary education possesses no constitutional backing. Firstly, and I hate to begin with partisan objection, the constitution was written by the NDC party (or at least largely their sympathisers which is why there are a number of unjust actions protected by the constitution), and coincidentally the idea of free secondary education is not the brainchild of the NDC. This is probably my weakest argument which is why it comes first. I just wonder if we would be looking to constitutional backing had the idea orginated within the current government and not within its three largest opposers.
Secondly, Bright Simons in the poster-boy for Imani right now and he has led the criticisms. He has got there undoubtedly because he has obtained secondary and I'm guessing tertiary education either in Ghana or elsewhere. Supporting the commercialisation of education to the extent that students have to pay to be there is to support the narrowing of the secondary education population by way of finances. Now not every one will be lucky enough to secure a bursary or scholarship, there will not be enough scholarships to support putting every poor but intelligent child through school. That is a fact that we must live with. The biggest sponsor one will find, though, is the government and a substantial allocation of the national budget to secondary education could cover those intelligent kids. Understand that any other system would ensure that the offspring of the rich progress through school and better their career prospects regardless of their comparative intellectual abilities and that is not right.
Thirdly, discussing constitutional backing. Bright Simons' ingenious brainchild is mPedigree. Those of you who keep an eye on Africa may have heard of it already. I do not think that mPedigree had any of its foundations in the constitution. The fact remains it is a good idea. A needed idea. And one that I hope will grow from strength to strength. But if anything, Bright Simons' story tells us that some things may never be required by the constitution but morally - that we have a moral duty not to allow someone to die or a moral duty not to stall their progress in life - we are called to act. The promise of Free SHS is just that. A act of goodwill by those with the power to make it happen.
Finally, because I could go on forever. The argument that secondary education is not realistic is disgustingly false. Any Ghanaian who knows that there's more to life than Osu, will cite Europe, America, Latin America, South, South East and East Asia, Oceania and many parts of Africa as examples of free secondary education. I need not say more than that on this objection. So whilst Imani is contributing to becoming an obstacle to this election promise (be it ambitious, well thought out or just lies) they should remember when they speak at TED Talks or at governance conferences or mHealth summits that Bright Simons will be more than familiar with, that the people they interact with from outside Ghana mostly benefitted from free secondary education, regardless of their constitution - it is MORE than feasible.