The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo, yesterday silenced all ‘doubting Thomases’ who had for nine long years expressed skepticism about the feasibility of a fee-free senior high school in Ghana by rolling out his government’s free SHS Policy.
He assured Ghanaians that, contrary to the machinations of his political opponents, he would keep every single campaign promise he made ahead of the 2016 general elections.
Speaking at the launch of the policy at the West Africa Senior High School in Accra, the president stressed that the programme is not intended for political gains, adding that it would rather allow every Ghanaian child to have quality education no matter his or her financial background.
“The policy is not about the NPP or the NDC. The beneficiaries will not only be those in the NPP but Ghanaians from all walks of life and from all political parties.”
He noted that any country that aims at transforming itself into a modern productive player in the global market must get its educational policies right.
“Government may not be able to make every citizen rich but with political will and responsible leadership, we can help create a society of opportunities and empowerment for every citizen”, he added.
The president urged beneficiaries of the free SHS policy to study, work hard, and avoid all negative tendencies to enable them grow up to become responsible citizens and assets to the nation.
He encouraged them to start a new chapter in their education and have every reason to be proud of themselves.
“Seize the opportunity of having the good fortune to be admitted to this school as pioneers of this existing new venture. Ghana needs your skills and talents and I know you will not fail us”, he added.
Some students expressed excitement of the implementation of the free SHS policy. In an interview with our reporter the students hailed the president for introducing the policy and promised to study hard.
For his part, the Minister of Education, Hon. Mattew Opoku Prempeh, stressed that no matter the financial status of a child’s family, his or her dreams should never be shattered by what he described as ‘the manacles of school fees’.
“The days of promising students being left on the street because of poverty are over. The days of young students being driven from class to go home for fees are over. All these are the dreams of the president.”
According to the Minister, the president has ensured that even before one gets to school, 30% of the school fees have already been paid.
“To ensure that those who will not see anything good don’t come and criticize us, the president has ensured that feeding grants for the handicapped schools will be paid before school reopens. Capitation grants that have been in chronic arrears will be paid up to date”, he said.
The free SHS dream, which has been the flagship campaign message of the NPP since 2008, was always countered with harsh criticisms from the opposition National Democratic Congress, with some saying it can never see the light of day.
In a recent twist of events, the Minority NDC last week held a press conference stating that the President is not being truthful to Ghanaians because the policy would cover only first year students.
The programme seeks to increase enrollment in schools by removing the burden of all major mandatory fees from parents and making it a responsibility of the government.
Under this policy, all fees approved by the Ghana Education Service Council for first year students, other than PTA dues, will be absorbed by government.
The free SHS policy includes one-time fee items for 1st years, all recurrent fee items, feeding fees, subsidies for continuing students in forms 2 and 3, as well as free text books for 1st year students.
In attendance were the Vice President, Dr. Mahmoud Bawumia, Chief of staff, Hon. Frema Opare, the Senior Minister, Hon. Osafo Marfo, the Regional Minister, Hon. Ishmael Ashittey, other ministers of state, and some members of the Regional House of Chiefs.
Source: Emmanuel Yeboah Britwum/thepublisher