The Minister of State in charge of Private Sector Development, Alhaji Rashid Pelpuo insists the free Senior High School (SHS) education announced by President John Dramani Mahama during Tuesday’s reading of the State of the Nation Address was a policy already captured in the party’s manifesto.
Dismissing suggestions that government had stolen the opposition party’s policy, he stressed that the announcement by the president was just a public declaration of the NDC’s intent and commitment to make SHS education free.
“We (NDC)) are in power and we are reflecting our manifesto. This thing (free SHS education) the president talked about in our manifesto,…he’s made several pronouncements about it that we will make secondary education progressively free,” he said.
The free SHS policy, a catchphrase trumpeted by the NPP in 2008 which was restructured for 2012 elections, was fiercely resisted by the NDC who argued that more emphasis be placed on quality and access rather than making it free. President Mahama later wrote on his official twitter and facebook accounts in 2012 that “Free SHS is a misplaced priority if primary school pupils still pay fees. Let’s make primary free first”.
Then Minister of Education, Lee Ocran, at a press conference even accused the NPP of building castles in the air with its promise of a free SHS education.
He insisted the policy would have been implemented a long time ago by Ghana’s first president Dr Kwame Nkrumah if it was achievable.
However, President Mahama, delivering his State of the Nation Address to Parliament on Tuesday February 25, 2014, announced the abolishing of fees in Day Senior High Schools by 2015/1016 academic year and the introduction of a progressively free SHS that year.
“The Ministry of Education, following consultations with stakeholders has prepared a report on the roadmap for a progressive introduction of free secondary education in Ghana as required under the 1992 constitution,” the President said.
“This roadmap will be presented to Cabinet for approval and subsequent implementation. Under the guidance of this roadmap, we can anticipate that fees for day students will be abolished at an estimated cost of GHȻ71 million in 2015/2016 academic year,” he added
But the announcement has been met with mixed reactions with the NPP accusing the Mahama-led administration of ‘stealing’ its idea- an allegation government has vehemently denied.
Speaking on Asempa FM, Hon Rashid Pelpuo argued that “the declaration of free SHS education by Mahama has nothing to do with what was proposed by the NPP…it’s not what the NPP campaigned that it would implement once voted into power…If free SHS education will convince the people that we are performing or up to task, then we will keep it.”