General News of Saturday, 29 September 2018
Former president John Mahama’s suggestion for a review of the free Senior High School policy has left President Akufo-Addo “alarmed,” he told a crowd Friday at a town hall meeting in Washington D.C.
“I am alarmed by this concept of review,” Akufo-Addo lamented. “This is because anytime our political opponents try anything of this sort, it leads the policy in question into a coma. We all remember the NHIS one-term premium payment review pledge. Not only did the review not materialize, but they also succeeded in degrading the policy,” the President said.
Free SHS is an initiative that was introduced to Ghana in 2017 under the MPP-led administration. Under the policy, according to its website, government would remove cost barriers, expand infrastructure, improve quality and equity, and develop employable skills via a free education.
Since its inception, 270,000 more Ghanaian children have gained access to school, he said. Prior to the implementation of free SHS, an average of 100,000 students was dropping out due to high costs.
So for the NDC to review the policy – should they be voted into office – would spell its demise.
“I honestly suspect reviewing the Free SHS policy means collapsing it. But, I doubt the Ghanaian people will allow this brilliant policy to be collapsed by anyone,” he explained.
He further added that his decision to introduce SHS meant Africa could compete with other world leaders in education including Asia, Europe and America, he said.
The decision to create free SHS was a “big decision because of its effect on our finances. I was particularly subjected to a lot of public ridicule.”
Akufo-Addo continued: “‘The policy is a hoax.’ ‘The bearer is a liar.’ ‘It is undoable.’ ‘We need more time.’ ‘It’s not a good idea…’ are just some phrases used to describe their reactions. But this, obviously, is the nature of our politics, so we understood.”
Meanwhile, Mahama stands by his argument that the policy comes at a bad time. Instead of free SHS, he says he would revisit the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND), originally introduced in 2000, which provided scholarships to underprivileged youth.
“Our NPP friends…they don’t listen to advice. They think they know everything,” Mahama said while on tour in the Cape Coast Friday.
He argued that the better approach would be to examine a comprehensive policy draft that would blanket all national sectors, including education.
Mahama said part of free SHS’ inevitable collapse will come from the NPP’s failure to consider overcrowding and how that would impact schools.
But Akufo-Addo said that challenge was tackled successfully by the introduction of the double-track system, a game-changing move that will split the entire student body into two separate tracks.
Additionally, over 8,000 teachers will be recruited to minimize the number of students in each classroom.