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General News Fri, 3 May 2019

Mahama should wait after 20 years before reviewing Free SHS policy - Ellembelle DCE fires

The District Chief Executive (DCE) of Ellembelle in the Western Region, Mr Kwasi Bonzoh says former President John Mahama should wait after twenty years before he can dream of ever coming back to review President Akufo-Addo's Free SHS programme.

Former President John Mahama who is the Presidential candidate of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has openly said he will review the Free SHS policy and abolish its Double Track System completely should he win the 2020 elections.

Mr Mahama first made this assurance last year in Cape Coast North Constituency in the Central Region during a tour before the party's presidential primaries.

He told his party's faithfuls that the policy was ill-timed.

Former President Mahama has been criticising the Akufo-Addo's government on the policy and opined that the policy is struggling because government has failed to assemble experts and stakeholders for a national conference on education to deliberate on the policy.

This solution, he said, was how the previous National Democratic Congress (NDC) government set up the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND) in 2000 to provide funding for educational infrastructure and scholarships to needy but brilliant students.

He lamented that the Akufo-Addo government continues to shun an all-inclusive approach to drafting national policies on sensitive subjects like education. "If Ghanaians come together, we can come out with a workable timetable for implementing free SHS," he said.

The former president said evidence of the ill-planned free SHS policy is seen in the challenges of overcrowding which it faces.

"Our NPP friends, they don't listen to advice, they think they know everything," he criticised.

But speaking to the media over the weekend after the sod cutting ceremony for the construction of a 12-unit classroom block for the Nkroful Agricultural Senior SHS to provide enough space for the school to enroll more students, the DCE expressed his disappointment in the former President's comment of reviewing the Free SHS policy if he is ever elected again in 2020.

The DCE therefore, called on Ghanaians not to take the former President's comment 'serious' adding that the former President and his NDC members were already against the Free SHS 2016 campaign even before its implementation.

He said the NDC in 2012 and 2016 labeled Nana Addo as a 'liar' and said the Free SHS would be possible in 20 years time.



"These NDC members at the time labeled President Akufo-Addo the then presidential candidate of the NPP as a liar who went on to state that Free SHS could only be possible in 20 years time so today if same people come out to condemn this very laudable policy then we have to be careful about them because they have track record of collapsing social intervention policies, just look at what they did to the National Health Insurance", he stressed.

He added that "I want to tell former President John Mahama that the Free SHS programme has come to stay so he should wait after thirty years time before coming to be the President again in Ghana and use his tenure to review it but for now majority of Ghanaians have embraced the program and some politicians are saying it that when they come to power they will cancel it, they should come and cancel it, we are waiting for them to come and cancel it".

He argued that since they (NDC) led their former Education Minister, Late Lee Ocran said in 2012 that the Free SHS could be only possible in 20 time then former President John Mahama and his NDC should wait for the NPP to implement it and come in 20 years time for review.

"These NDC members at the time labeled President Akufo-Addo the then presidential candidate of the NPP as a liar who went on to state that Free SHS could only be possible in 20 years time so today if same people come out to condemn this very laudable policy then we have to be careful about them because they have track record of collapsing social intervention policies, just look at what they did to the National Health Insurance", he stressed.

He added that "I want to tell former President John Mahama that the Free SHS programme has come to stay so he should wait after thirty years time before coming to be the President again in Ghana and use his tenure to review it but for now majority of Ghanaians have embraced the program and some politicians are saying it that when they come to power they will cancel it, they should come and cancel it, we are waiting for them to come and cancel it".

Addressing the students during the sod cutting, the DCE asked the students whether the Free SHS should be reviewed or cancelled, they shouted "no Free SHS programme should not been cancelled or reviewed.

He, therefore, urged the parents and students to embrace the Free SHS programme adding that the Free SHS programme has come to stay forever.

The DCE noted that since the inspection of the Free SHS programme enrollment has been increased significantly.

"Since the inspection of Free SHS policy by the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his administration of which I represent in this District, we have, have the numbers increased beyond our expectation, this has come as a result of government taken over the full cost of admission, tuition, boarding and lodging frees of students since 2017-2018 and 2019 academic year", he explained to the gathering.

He added that "The Free SHS policy is the single-largest social intervention that has ever seen and as a government we are very proud to be first government and the ruling government to have boldly to be implemented this policy".

"The record is there for us to see, obviously, if it is not because of the Free SHS programme like most of you students here will not be in school to witness this sod cutting ceremony", he told the students.

He revealed that "...and as a result of the policy it has brought shortage of academic facilities thus residential accommodation and classroom accommodation and some people said we should wait and build the classroom blocks before the Free SHS, we believe that the two can go together so we have started it and today we are here cutting a sod for the construction of a 12-unit classroom block for NASS".

The DCE said the Double Track System is being implemented to solve the problem of classroom accommodation adding that this facility will abolish the Double Track System in the school.

"This government will continue to work assiduously to provide the critical infrastructure that needed in out schools not only in Nkroful Agriculture SHS, recently the GETFund secured a lot of money to build these blocks all over the country and we are going to continue to make sure that every SHS, every Technical School, every school in this country that needs infrastructure to train our kids, has it so that we give full meaning to the Free SHS", he said.

He seized the opportunity to advise the students to take their studies seriously since they are the future leaders of this country.

The DCE who received his Secondary Education of the Nkroful Agriculture SHS, narrated his school lifestyle to the students and urged them to take his lifestyle into consideration.

He also called on their parents to support their children to achieve success after completion of their secondary education.

Background

Free SHS is an initiative that was introduced to Ghana in 2017 under the NPP-led administration. Under the policy, according to its website, government would remove cost barriers, expand infrastructure, improve quality and equity, and develop employable skills via a free education.

Since its inception, 270,000 more Ghanaian children have gained access to school.

Prior to the implementation of free SHS, an average of 100,000 students was dropping out due to high costs.

Source: Daniel Kaku
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