President Akufo-Addo yesterday gave a chilling account of what he went through to become what he is today, including borrowing to pay for school fees.
He talked of the ordeal his late father and Ghana’s former president, Edward Akufo-Addo, went through raising him as a child, in a bid to inspire the country’s youth.
This perhaps might have influenced his conviction for free education to secondary level which is undoubtedly a flagship programme of his administration, beginning September 2017.
The president gave the narration when he was awarding 60 students who distinguished themselves in the 2015/2016 Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
Results of the 2016 BECE have been described by the Ghana Education Service (GES) as the best so far.
Out of 46,113 students who sat for the examination, the 60 awardees were given a laptop computer each.
Speaking at the occasion, President Akufo-Addo, who spent over three decades pursuing his long-held ambition of becoming president, stated, “You deserve all the commendation and recognition being accorded to you today, congratulations!”
“I am inspired and honoured because I know I am looking into the eyes of Ghana’s future; you remind me of the fact that as president, I must work harder to guarantee that knowledge becomes the backbone of our modern economy and prosperity. Education should be a right which all of Ghana’s youth must exercise. Today’s youth, running barefoot to school, could be a future leader of business, industry or government.”
Nana Akufo-Addo articulated, “I am in this position as President of the Republic because of education” – recalling how his late father lost both parents at a tender age but through perseverance and borrowing money from a relative, burned the midnight oil to become a barrister and the historic figure that he is.
“Indeed, at the time I was born, my dad was still paying money borrowed from that benevolent relative,” Nana Addo recalled to the surprise of many who were hearing the story for the first time.
As he travelled and interacted with people across the length and breadth of the country during the 2016 electioneering campaign which saw him becoming the head of state, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said he realized people had astounding dreams.
But over time, as the concerns of day-to-day living creep in, he indicated, “Those dreams are put away somewhere; of fond memory, they look back on as they focus instead on their everyday toil. But some of us managed to hang on to our dreams; they are our little secrets, the inspiration that drives us to build a better world,” he stressed, and charged the country’s youth to become dreamers.
“To be a stronger and more innovative nation, Ghana must do all it can to keep the dreamers dreaming,” he charged.
The president stated, “We are now at the point where we need big dreams to complete the transformation of our country into a modern 21st century nation that remains distinctly and uniquely Ghanaian.”
That, he said, was the reason why investing in the country’s educational system has become a key priority of his government, leading to the adoption of a ‘free SHS’ policy to ensure that Ghanaian children of school going age are, at least, beneficiaries of secondary education.
According to him, “Ghana needs well-trained, well-qualified and skilled human resources to set us on the path of economic development and transformation.”
President Nana Akufo-Addo also expressed concern about the working and living conditions of Ghanaian teachers, saying, “Nearly 60 years ago, being a teacher, even a pupil teacher, was a responsible and fulfilling job and a teacher could build a two-bedroom house for himself and his family through his salary alone.
“Can you imagine such a scenario for today’s qualified teacher or even teachers who are near retirement? Whatever the route by which our teachers come into teaching, we must recognize that putting our teachers first is the reverse side of the adage, ‘every Ghanaian child matters.’”
He believes that “All modern, successful societies that have had outstanding results in economic development such as Singapore, Finland, Korea and Canada, have shown that teacher quality is the single most important determinant of their successes,” and for him, “that is why the policy to improve educational outcomes as spelt in this year’s budget will be teacher-centered.”
To that end, he indicated, “Teaching will no more be a stop-gap measure or a job of last resort but a viable choice to enter well-paid, well-respected profession with long-term career prospect and good benefits.”
This policy, he said, “will not only meet the professional and economic needs of existing teachers, but it will also look at the way new teachers are trained and treated.”
He further stated, “Whatever policies and plans we are implementing today are geared towards mobilizing for Ghana’s future; we are preparing you for the creation of a prosperous society, a society which creates opportunities for all its citizens, rewards creativity and enterprise, honesty and hard work, a society where there is discipline and fairness, where people go about their lives in a free and responsible manner, a society where there are safety nets for the vulnerable and decent retirement for the elderly, an open society protected by well-resourced and motivated security forces.”
The fundamental premise of the society of aspirations and opportunities President Akufo-Addo talked about, according to him, “is that every child must be the author of his or her own destiny, free of the circumstances of his or her birth because each and every child will have the opportunity to have the requisite tools to survive and prosper in a free and open Ghanaian society.”
He therefore emphasized, “We are determined to lay the basis for the birth of a new Ghanaian polity which will make its own unique contribution to African and the world civilization; we have the resources, the men, the women, the values and the history to do it.”
The president has since challenged the Ghanaian youth “to take advantage of the opportunities that will be afforded you in the years ahead.”
Present were Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia; Education Minister Dr Mathew Opoku-Prempeh; Senior Minister Yaw Osafo-Maafo and other leading members of the governing party, including Acting Chairman Freddie Blay.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu, Presidential Correspondent