President John Dramani Mahama, yesterday effectively disarmed his possible contender in the 2016 Presidential election, Nana Akufo-Addo, when he revealed that the Ministry of Education (MoE), has drawn up a plan to enable Government execute a free Senior High School (SHS) education policy in the 2015/216 academic year.
The policy, when implemented by the Mahama led Government, means Nana Addo and his party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), will have no launch-pad to prosecute their 2016 campaign, having made “Free Senior High School” education their biggest policy statement for the country in the run-up to the 2012 election.
The implementation of a free secondary education programme, has been part of the national education policy of the country for years, since the inception of the 1992 Constitution (Article 25 under Educational Rights), but was made popular when it became part of the NPP’s 2008 and 2012 Presidential campaigns.
President Mahama, in his 2014 State of the Nation address to Parliament disclosed that “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.”
Present at the event were, Vice-President, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, ex-President, Jerry John Rawlings, the Chief Justice, Georgina Wood, the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), Vice-Admiral Quarshie and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Alhassan and political heads, including Madam Akua Donkor.
It also attracted Ministers of State, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Traditional Authorities, Security Commanders and other dignitaries.
“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 GH¢71 million in 2015/2016 academic year,” he added.
President Mahama, hoped these measures would reduce the burden on parents as spelt out by the 1992 Constitution.
The president said, Government was also looking to rationalize SHS fees and advised parents to report heads of high school institutions, who charge more than the approved fees.
The NPP, “Free Senior High School” campaign, went to the point of absurdity with 70-year old men and women, wearing school uniforms purposely made for them by the NPP, with some carrying chop boxes and metal trunks, claiming Nana Addo was leading them to the second cycle school.
Interestingly, most of them hadn’t even been to primary school.
T-sheets, books, bottled water among other products had “Free Senior High School” embossed on them, just to drum home the massage which was not accompanied by the budget.
The NDC, led by John Mahama, insisted that his opponents’ claim were not practicable as it had no budget accompanying it. Besides, there was nothing new about the proposal, as the 1992 Constitution had spelt out how and why basic education should be made progressively free in Ghana.
President Mahama, also said his government has initiated a campaign to encourage Ghanaians to patronize products made in Ghana.
He traced the economic problem the country faces to the colonial period, where he acknowledged the efforts made by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president and General Kutu Acheampong, who championed the cause to develop and use locally manufactured products.
He said the country is still largely dependent on imported products and the fundamental problem of our economy is that we don’t make use of what we produce. President Mahama said, last year the country spent 1.5 billion dollars in foreign currency on imports of rice, sugar, fish, tomato and basic cooking oil.
“If this money had been retained and spent in Ghana, it would have gone into the pockets of Ghanaian entrepreneurs which would subsequently remain here to boost the economy”, he added.
“We shall begin to see the benefits of the sacrifices every Ghanaian is making right now as a result of the economic challenges and I can assure all of you that the difficulties are temporary.”
He said, it was about time assistance is given to local investors to increase the production of local foods and that financing has been finalized for the construction of a new sugar processing plant in Komenda, to support the demand locally and reduce the level of imports.
He also hinted the joint agreement between the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) and Petro Saudi, which was being finalized to revamp operations of the refinery, which in turn would reduce the foreign exchange problems facing the country.
President Mahama said, he had tasked COCOBOD to enter strategic partnerships to produce Jute Sacks, which was currently imported and also requested the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to encourage the production of electrical materials locally.
He indicated that his shoe was made in Ghana and encouraged Ghanaians to appreciate locally made products.
President Mahama, reiterated his Government’s commitment to revive the railway sector in the country to supplement roads and aviation industry in the coming years.
He also promised that major highways and feeder roads throughout the country would be worked on to facilitate the road transport system in the country.
The President said, in spite of the energy challenges, Ghana still remained the highest provider of electricity of 75 percent to citizens, after South Africa in the sub-Saharan Africa.
He said, the launching of the LP Gas last year was to stimulate the use of gas for cooking and promised to distribute 50,000 cylinders free to people to stem the use of fuel wood in the country.
President Mahama said, for the next two years, water supply would increase to 158 million liters on daily basis through the expansion of Kpong and Teshie water projects.
He promised to pursue all measures that would stem corruption and ensure transparency and accountability in the country by empowering all institutions to play their roles meaningfully to achieve those goals.
He urged all Ghanaians to bury their political, social and ethnicity differences and forge ahead towards development as pettiness and difference would rather polarise the country.
He said, Government has released the sum of GH¢50 million to local pharmaceutical companies to produce Anti-Retroviral Drugs (ARVs) locally.
President Mahama, had earlier this month at a high-level meeting of the UNAIDS and Lancet Commission in London made a strong case for African nations and the developing world to be supported to produce the drugs locally to improve access to ARVs by persons living with HIV/AIDs.
President Mahama stated that the move constitutes one of the major approaches government is taking towards reducing the HIV/AIDS infection rate among the population and to save many more lives.
The president however stressed that the best form of influencing attitudinal change among the sexually active population is awareness creation through education, which he said government was committed to continuing with.
He also announced plans to construct 1,600 Community-based Health Planning Services (CHIPS) compounds across the country by 2016, as part of efforts by Government to improve basic health care in rural areas and peri-urban towns.
According to him; “Government is committed to pursuing the vision of bringing quality healthcare to the doorstep of people, irrespective of their geographical location.”
President Mahama, reaffirmed that the voluntary 10 per cent pay cuts by himself and his appointees, will be channelled into the construction of more CHIPS compounds to reduce maternal and infant mortalities because: “Healthy people make a healthy nation”.