President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has reiterated the government’s determination to deal with the challenges confronting the implementation of the free senior high school (SHS) policy.
“We have taken that first step in Ghana and we shall deal with the challenges. In dealing with them, tenders have already gone out and, soon, contracts will be awarded for the provision of some 69,500 mono desks and some 13,100 bunk beds,” he said.
Addressing the 68th Speech and Prize-giving Day of Prempeh College in Kumasi last Saturday, the President said “tender notices have been issued for the supply of furniture for dining halls, staff rooms and computer laboratories and the provision of marker boards for classrooms”.
He also used the occasion to launch the 70th anniversary of the school.
The event, which also attracted some prominent old students of the school, including former President John Agyekum Kufuor, was on the theme: “Educating the boy child: The role of stakeholders in contemporary times”.
‘Free SHS has come to stay’
He said the free SHS policy had come to stay, saying that the policy would ensure that Ghana’s children would be educated to at least secondary level and money, or the lack of it, would no longer mean denial of education.
“Already, the policy has led to an increase of over 90,000 children who have entered SHS this academic year and who would otherwise have dropped out at this stage,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo announced that the government had secured a $40-million loan from the World Bank under the Secondary Education Improvement Project for the expansion and upgrading of facilities in 75 SHSs across the country.
He said construction work on existing community day schools were also ongoing, adding that the “government will also upgrade 42 SHSs into model school status”.
He assured Ghanaians that the free SHS would be sustained, contrary to claims that the policy would crash in five years.
“Let me burst their bubble again. Free SHS is here to stay because leadership is about choices and I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Ghanaians support the choice that I have made. They recognise the importance of the investment we are making in the youth and in the future of our country. The investment will be sustained,” he declared.
Prior to the launch of the free SHS policy, the President noted, available data indicated that Ghanaian children were falling out of the educational system in alarming numbers at every stage.
He revealed that over the last four years, for example, an average of 100,000 JHS graduates who were placed in public SHSs each year did not take up their places.
“This means that in the next decade, at least one million of our young men and women, without any employable skills, would have had their education terminated at junior high school. It would have been too dangerous for Ghana’s stability, as we would have been building a future of hopelessness for our youth,” he said.
Such a situation, the President bemoaned, “was totally unacceptable and intolerable”.
He said in the next five years, the government would increase the number of students studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and train over 38,000 basic school teachers to strengthen the foundational skills in the study of Science and Mathematics.
The idea, according to him, was to make Ghanaian students marketable in the global economic world and position them to be the best.
“The best way to create opportunities for all children and build potential is through access to quality education. It is the most effective way to change the fortunes of our country and join the group of developing nations,” he said.
The Headmaster of Prempeh College, Mr Samuel K. Fordjour, appealed to the government to upgrade and expand facilities in the school which had been overstretched because of the increase in intake.
He called for total rehabilitation of the facilities and a redesign of the Sofoline main road which blocked the entrance of the school.
Former President Kufuor called for a redirection and focus on Science and Technology-related programmes in the school.
He later inaugurated a new Science laboratory dubbed the Aidan Heavey Science Lab sponsored by Tullow Oil to mark the 10th year of Ghana’s discovery of oil in commercial quantities.
In a message sent through his Adontenhene, Nana Adu Gyamfi, the Asantehene called for judicious use of time by students and urged them to develop a plan to keep them on track.
He congratulated the school on making the region proud by winning the National Science and Maths Quiz.