Free SHS: Thank God Mahama agrees with me now

Three-time flag-bearer of the main opposition New Patriotic Party, Nana Akufo-Addo has said: “If President Mahama is, indeed, introducing free SHS in the 2015-2016 academic year, I would say alleluia and be thankful to the Almighty for this particular road to Damascus moment.”

“It means that we all now agree that it is both doable and necessary. Amen,” Akufo-Addo said when he delivered the second Aliu Mahama memorial lecture at the Banquet Hall in Accra on the theme: “One Ghana: Securing one future”.

Deputy Minister in charge of tertiary education, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa recently announced to Parliament that the Government has fashioned out a detailed programme more than 3,000 day students are expected to benefit from a free Senior High School policy which will be rolled out next year.

“We are implementing progressive free SHS which will begin with some 36,500 day students at a cost of GHC 42.7 million,” he told Parliament.

The free SHS policy was the main campaign message of the NPP in the 2012 general elections. It was spearheaded by the party’s presidential candidate Akufo-Addo, who said his Government would spend Ghc78 million on the first phase of the implementation, should he win the election.

The governing party, at the time, argued that the policy was not the preserve of the NPP and Nana Akufo-Addo, but a provision of the 1992 Constitution.

Responding to what he saw as the Mahama administration’s volte-face, Akufo-Addo told his audience at the lecture that he was happy the current Government has now bought into his idea.

He said the NPP was willing to share knowledge with the Government on the implementation of the free SHS policy if a request were made.

“I understand that some people are curious to find out what I think of the recent announcement by the government of the adoption of a free SHS policy. I will say this: a lot of work was done on our free SHS policy. There are, in this country today, several people who are quite knowledgeable on the subject and who spent a lot of time anticipating the various difficulties that would confront the country in implementing the policy. They will be happy to share their knowledge if they are asked.”

“I need to state here one of my fundamental beliefs: the NPP’s fortunes do not depend on the NDC failing.

He said while striving to provide free education at the SHS level, “we have at the same time to insist that technical and vocational education receive the attention that had been designated for it in the education reforms of 2007 and under the Education Act of 2008.”

The former Attorney General added: “We must support and encourage tertiary level education to provide the intellectual muscle for our development. Much of what needs to be done in the educational front requires a lot of money and this must necessarily come from public resources, but a lot can be done by inspiring the people of Ghana to bring their ideas and enterprise.”

“Securing our future means our educational system, and especially the public schools must have a reputation for quality and for excellence across board. We cannot afford to have differing standards of education depending on how rich or poor a parent is.

“The tragedy for our education is that the middle classes have opted out of the public school system at the most critical stage, which is the basic school level. They put their children in private schools and the public schools are deprived of the inputs the articulate middle classes would otherwise contribute to the running of the public schools. It is in all our interests that the public schools are as well-equipped as possible so all our children get a fair chance at realizing their potential. It is in the circumstances for government to make a conscious effort to redress the balance. One Ghana is dependent on a sound education for all Ghana’s children.”

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