President Mahama Replies Critics: Free SHS Cost Covered

President John Mahama has sharply responded to persons criticizing the Education Minister for saying she does not known the source of funding for the proposed free Senior High School education, saying it is not the duty of the Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang to determine the source of funding for the project.

Mrs. Opoku-Agyemang is reported to have stated in an interview with local television network, TV3 that, “I am not sure in practical ways how that funding is going to be raised. But first you need to sell the idea then you cost it and then you move on to find the money”.

Her comments drew criticisms from opposition members who say it was unacceptable for the minster to say she did not have an idea how the project was going to be funded after the president made firm statements in Parliament that fees for students would be absorbed by government starting from 2015.

Addressing a gathering at Nyanoa in the Upper West Akyem District of the Eastern Region at a ceremony to cut the sod for the construction of 50 new community day senior high schools (SHSs) president Mahama said, he should be held responsible for raising the GH¢71 million required to fund the project and not the minister.

The 50 schools form part of a total of 200 SHSs set to be constructed in communities across the country. This will be the first ever senior high school to be constructed for the people of Nyanoa and 50 other communities across the country.

President Mahama said Mrs. Opoku-Agyemang was tasked specifically to develop the roadmap for the free SHS but not to look for funding for its implementation.

“The Minster of Education was given a job to produce the roadmap for the implementation of free SHS; she has done that job, cost it and presented it to government…it is my duty as president of the Republic of Ghana to provide funding and not the duty of my minister,” the president responded.

President Mahama said Finance Minister Seth Terkper will provide a detailed plan regarding funding the free SHS policy when he presents the 2015 budget statement to Parliament.

President Mahama indicated that a lot of careful consideration went into selecting the locations of the new Community Day Senior High Schools.

“One key criterion”, he disclosed, “is that priority must be given to old and new districts, which are currently without Senior High Schools. Priority is also given to deprived districts. Another consideration is that there are several Senior High Schools struggling to address pressure for places because of over subscription, resulting in unacceptable congestion”.

President Mahama said the construction which started Monday should be completed within the next 18 months.

“While constructing the new schools, we are also continuing to expand the capacity of existing Senior High Schools. Under the Secondary Education Improvement project (SEIP), being supported by the World Bank, our existing Senior High Schools are going to benefit from the rehabilitation and expansion of their facilities, so that we can achieve overall improvements in the quality of teaching and learning” the president told the enthusiastic audience.

On the nature, design and quality of the buildings under construction, President Mahama said a lot of detailed work had gone into all the required processes and government arrived at a design concept that is associated with excellence.

He said the centerpiece of each project will be the four (4) storeys ‘E’ or ‘Excellence Block’ which has the following facilities:

Twenty-four (24) Classrooms, each having he capacity to accommodate up to forty-five (45) students;

Four (4) well-equipped Laboratories for Integrated Science; Physics; Chemistry and Biology

Two (2) Libraries – each capable of seating 150 students

Eight (8) Offices for Departmental Heads

ICT software/hardware Laboratories capable of seating 40 students each and

An Internet Learning area also capable of seating 40 students.
The new schools are designed to offer Science (Pure Science, Agricultural Science and Technical) General (Business, General Arts, vocational) and Technical subjects. They are also designed in such a way that allowance is made for future expansion and for the addition of more facilities.