General News of Wed, 17 May 201718

I never said free SHS would only apply to brilliant JHS graduates - Napo

Mathew Opoku Prempeh, Education Minister

Education Minister, Mathew Opoku Prempeh, has denied saying the free Senior High School (SHS) policy would apply only to brilliant JHS graduates.

The minister has come under fire for saying only brilliant students qualify for the policy with some critics suggesting that government appears to be flip-flopping on its major campaign promise.

However, in a statement released Wednesday, the minister said, “I categorically wish to place on record that at no point during the interview did I state or even imply, however remotely, that Free SHS would apply only to brilliant JHS graduates. What I made clear was that starting in September 2017, any JHS graduate who passes the BECE and is placed in a public senior high school will benefit from Free SHS. This has been our consistent position as a government.

Below is the full statement:

For Immediate Release

REJOINDER: STARRFMONLINE.COM NEWS ITEM ON FREE SHS POLICY.

My attention has been drawn to a news item on Starrfmonline’s website, published yesterday 16th May 2017 and headlined ‘Only Brilliant Students will Enjoy Free SHS-NAPO’. The news item was based on an interview I granted earlier to Mr. Francis Abban of Starr FM, and which was aired on Monday 15th May 2017.

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I categorically wish to place on record that at no point during the interview did I state or even imply, however remotely, that Free SHS would apply only to brilliant JHS graduates. What I made clear was that starting in September 2017, any JHS graduate who passes the BECE and is placed in a public senior high school will benefit from Free SHS. This has been our consistent position as a government.

My disappointment with the news item is exacerbated by the fact that in a conversation with Mr. Abban just before the formal interview started, I specifically raised concerns about misleading headline on the basis of past experiences. Mr. Abban promised not to be mischievous as others had been, and yet exactly the opposite has taken place in this instance, giving a completely false, twisted and misleading headline to my comments on access to free SHS.

I strongly believe it is important for journalists to honour their word and be thoroughly professional and meticulous, as accuracy is paramount in their line of work. I would fervently hope that there are no ulterior motives to this obviously false headline or that the mischief was not at anyone’s bidding.

The media, as the fourth estate, are crucial partners in nation building, and it is important for public officials to develop and maintain a warm relationship with the fraternity. However, incidents like this threaten to mar this relationship as they lead to suspicion and wariness on the part of public officials. That is not a healthy development.

I expect that the management of Starr FM will take the necessary steps to address this lack of professionalism as a matter of extreme urgency.

Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh

Minster

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