Former President John Dramani Mahama has stated he has never kicked against the initiation of free senior high education in the country, daring the media to expose him if he ever doubted the possibility of free SHS.
The NDC flagbearer who was speaking on Kumasi-based Abusua FM reiterated that he only suggested that the implementation of the free SHS policy be rolled out progressively while expanding infrastructure in the education sector.
“I have never said anywhere that free SHS is bad and that is impossible to implement. I was the one that started the progressively free SHS so how can I say it is bad,” Mr Mahama told host Kojo Marfo and explained that when he launched the Progressively Free SHS in 2015, there was not enough infrastructure across the country to absorb all students who will be on the stream for a completely free Senior High School programme.
“That is why my government started building Community Day Senior High Schools across the country,” the NDC leader said, “we built some of the schools at Kwabenya, Adenta Frafraha, at Otuam in the Central Region, the hometown of the late President Professor.”
To him, his concerns about the Free SHS policy promise by his opponent Nana Akufo-Addo who was then the opposition leader was that there was a possibility of getting the Senior High Schools overwhelmed, adding “that is why I kept saying we had to roll out the policy gradually to a time that the facilities in the schools will be enough.”
“I knew that when the Free SHS is rolled out at once, the schools would be overburdened like we are seeing now that is why my government started it gradually to absorb the fees of day students,” Mahama added and stressed, “I never said it would be impossible…the double track we are seeing today is what I wanted to prevent.”
“I dare the media to expose me if I did say implementing the policy was bad and impossible,” Mr Mahama said in Akan.
He also said if he had not started the progressively free SHS the Minister of Education, Dr Matthew Opoku-Prempeh “would not have come out to say they met some free SHS debts.”
Mr Mahama also rubbished claims that his next administration will collapse the free SHS programme and stated his government will complete the Community Day Senior High Schools and attach boarding facilities to some of the schools and cancel the double-track system.
Progressively Free SHS
Mr Mahama launched the ‘progressively’ free SHS education policy at Otuam in the Central Region on September 17, 2015, to fulfil a pledge made by his government to absolve the cost of secondary education in Ghana.
Mr Mahama at the launch of the policy said he was certain “we will eventually get to a stage where every Senior High Student will get to go to school for free.”
The policy absolved the fees of 27, 795 students from 54 schools in the Central Region; 38, 751 from 56 Schools in the Western Region; 64, 430 from 102 schools in the Ashanti Region and 17, 648 students out of 45 schools in the Northern Region.
38, 751 students from 56 schools also benefited from the policy in the Brong Ahafo Region while 1,395 students from 28 schools benefited from the policy in the Upper East Region. In the Upper West Region, 877 students from 23 schools benefited from the policy while 34,157 students from 82 schools in the Eastern Region benefited from the policy.
In the Greater Accra Region, 52,664 from 46 schools benefited from the policy while 36,859 from 88 schools in the Volta Region also benefited from the policy.