Government’s flagship education policy, the Free SHS, dominated the Parliamentary Candidates Debate of the Ho West Constituency in the Volta Region.
The event, organized by the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), provided an opportunity for the candidates to highlight their programmes to the electorate ahead of the polls.
Although all candidates suggested readjusting the free SHS for efficiency, Mr Julius Kukah, the candidate for the National Democratic Party (NDP), stance on the review of the programme set-off of reactions from the electorates.
The 39-year-old Teacher from Tsito Awudome with a postgraduate Diploma in Management Information Systems said the programme must be reviewed because basic schools were left out.
“The cost is at the top, while the foundation has been neglected. It will collapse,” he said, adding that everyone needed to speak to improve the educational system.
“We will rebuild the basic school from the kindergarten level and will increase teacher allowances,” the candidate said.
He said the policy would also require some guarantees to cushion students during eventualities, including ill health, pregnancies, and other unforeseen occurrences that might cause students to dropout of school.
“We are not saying it is not good, but it has problems that need to be fixed. Let's all acknowledge there are challenges to a good policy and fix it,” Mr Kukah said.
Joshua Akutey Kumah, a 29-year-old accountant running on the ticket of the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP), said he would lobby for infrastructure support for the programme.
He said a PPP government would scrap the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and replaced it with promotional examinations to guarantee easy access to the senior high school.
Jackson Kweku Tsevi of the Great Consolidated Peoples Party (GCPP) said infrastructure was the main hindrance to the success of the free SHS that needed to be dealt with to ensure a good policy.
He said would engage NGOs committed to education to address the challenge.
Mr Emmanuel Kwasi Bedzrah, the incumbent National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for the Constituency, said the Party had already rolled out a progressive free education programme as stipulated in the constitution.
He said when reelected, the NDC would dedicate the first year to providing the needed infrastructure to end the double-track system being implemented under the free SHS.
The candidate also reechoed the Party’s resolve to extend the programme to the private school sector “so all could access the free SHS”.
On unemployment, Mr Bedzrah said the NDC’s Peoples Manifesto mapped out a route to job creation and industrialization, which includes year-long crop production and processing
The GCPP candidate encouraged “local consumption to end wastage”, and said he would ban imports of goods that could be produced locally to create jobs for the nation’s manufacturing sector.
The PPP touted the Party founder’s successes at establishing employment avenues including banks and factories and promised to help realize four factories in the District to employ 500 youths each.
The NDP candidate spoke of transforming agriculture, and engaging specialized hands to ensure efficiency while leveraging on quality packaging and local consumption to provide the needed economic turnaround.
Mr Francis Assong, Executive Director of the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), who chaired the debate, said access to information guaranteed increased voter participation and enabled them to make informed poll decisions.
He commended the NCCE for the effort and said the GII would remain a partner in ensuring an election that was free and fair and was without violence before, during and after.
All candidates present subscribed to peaceful coexistence and conduct through the electioneering period.
Candidates for the New Patriotic Party (NPP), and the Ghana Union Movement (GUM), were however not present.
Mr Enerst Apau, District Chief Executive for Ho West, said peace was important in the District and asked political actors to ensure that the peaceful processes towards the elections were sustained.