Former President John Dramani Mahama is still berating President Akufo-Addo for implementing the free Senior High School (SHS) policy which is intended to serve as a catalyst for the country’s development.He said President Akufo-Addo, who had turned himself into what he called ‘Jack Toronto,’ was trying to do everything at once.
“The free SHS policy is enshrined in the constitution but it says we will introduce it progressively. Someone called Jack Toronto has come in and says he wants to implement it at once!” the former president said in the Western Region during a campaign tour yesterday.
Amidst cheers from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) supporters in Prestea, he said humorously that “don’t report me! The constitution is saying we should do it progressively but Jack Toronto says he is doing it at once, and this is the reason why we are encountering all these problems with the free SHS.”
“You ask the kids to go to school for 41 days and return home and go for a second semester for another 41 days. Put together we have 82 days. So therefore, out of 365 days in a year our children are attending school for only 81 days and then go ahead to write exams. Is it the way to go?”
Speaking at Bodi, he criticized the double-track system, which has been designed to ease congestion in schools and promote quality teaching.
“The current government is confused and mishandling the implementation of the free SHS policy to the extent that it has to introduce ‘traffic light’ in the policy.
“The congestion in classes was evidence of the ill-planned free SHS policy.”
He indicated that “the government will say today it is the turn of the green light to go to school then tomorrow the yellow light should go. Recently they have come out with a confused time table”.
“We know the 2nd and 3rd year students are not among, but now they say the 2nd year students would go to school in March,” Mr Mahama told the NDC supporters.
“Anytime you hear President Mahama say when he comes back he will abolish free SHS, tell the person that I came to Prestea and stood at this multipurpose sports ground and said it is not true. I haven’t said that anywhere.”
He also claimed at Bodi that the NPP government was investing a chunk of the nation’s funds into the free SHS policy to the detriment of the other sectors of the economy.
He said if the government concentrates on developing other sectors of the economy to improve the living standards, parents would be financially sound and pay for their children’s fees at the SHS level.
“When you go to the NHIS, they say there are no cards because the money had been invested in free SHS. Free education is important but you should also consider the provision of better health care, improved agriculture and cocoa farming,” Mr Mahama noted.
Mr. Mahama asserted that because the current government was implementing the free SHS system haphazardly, most of the parents had to look for private teachers to teach their wards in extra classes.
He added “in Accra, private teachers charge GH¢100 per subject so if your child is doing six subjects the parents had to pay GH¢600.00”
Mr. Mahama continued, “Progressively free education is in the constitution but that did not mean you have to invest all the country’s money in free SHS.”
In spite of the criticisms, President Akufo-Addo reiterated the commitment of the New Patriotic Party (NDC) government to giving children in the country a better future.
“Leadership is about choices – I have chosen to invest in the future of our youth and of our country. To ensure that no child is denied access to secondary education, we are removing one of the biggest obstacles that currently stand in their way- cost,” he said during the launch of the free SHS.
Dept Education Minister Reacts
Reacting to claims by the former President on Okay FM yesterday, Osei Yaw Adutwum, a Deputy Minister of Education, indicated that Mr. Mahama was confused and does not understand the policy.
The deputy minister, therefore, pleaded with the former president to seek clarification on the policy from his outfit.
“He is a former president and so people tend to believe what he says, but I will plead with him that he can even contact me for certain clarification of the policy before going public,” he declared.