Government will focus on pragmatic interventions in education – Okudzeto Ablakwa

The Government said on Monday that it would continue to focus on pragmatic solutions to address the quality of education in the country.

This is contained in a statement signed by Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Deputy Minister of Information, in reaction to the pledge by the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) that he would make Senior High School education free.

The following is the full statement of the Deputy Minister.

“Government has observed the NPP’s strategy around Nana Addo’s unrealistic proposal for funding his promise of free secondary school education with utter amusement.

“First of all, it is clear that Ghanaians have Stephen Sackur, host of BBC’s Hard Talk programme to thank for forcing the NPP to hurriedly put together the cost of their free secondary school promise after Nana Addo had been fatally exposed on the programme for not having thought through his promise.

“We all watched Hard Talk with embarrassing shock how the NPP presidential candidate in the space of one minute claimed rather ironically that his solemn pledge of free education policy “was being costed” then changed it to “it has been costed” and then it became “we have costed it but I wouldn’t tell you, I prefer to tell the Ghanaian people directly.”

“Shockingly, this is a campaign promise which has been bandied about for more than 5 years by Nana Addo. What becomes clear therefore is that the NPP has still not learnt to take the people of Ghana serious hence their penchant for continuously throwing wild and utopian promises at Ghanaians. We can never forget how the NPP in their 2000 manifesto made over 58 of such outlandish promises such as “Create jobs for all persons able and willing to work and to reward each of them appropriately”(Page 5 of NPP’s 2000 Manifesto), “Modernize and extend railway network from the south all the way to the North (Page 15 of NPP’s 2000 Manifesto), “Slums shall be replaced with apartment houses”(Page 20 of NPP’s 2000 Manifesto); may I limit your horror with just these few citations.

“Secondly, we need to remember that in the 2008 elections, Nana Akuffo Addo promised free education all the way to public universities (See GNA report of 12th July, 2008). We have not been told the reason for the depreciation of his promise and clear inconsistency and whether looking at the trend, this promise would not shrink to free Junior Secondary by 2016 when Nana Addo loses again and further shrink by 2020 to perhaps free Kindergarten.

“Thirdly, the NPP’s proposal is premised on the false assumption that basic education in Ghana today is totally free. We are honest to point out that the capitation grant which this NDC government increased by 50% from GHS 3 to GHS 4.50 has not made basic education free as pupils are still presented with bills every term. Some items on these bills include P.T.A. dues, Printing Fees, Extra Classes, Text Books (supplementary) etc. The reality shows that averagely parents in a year pay GHS 10 at the Kindergarten level, GHS 135 at the Primary level and GHS 191.5 at the Junior Secondary School level. If this is the kind of free secondary education Nana Addo is talking about then we are certain many Ghanaians will prefer he spares us his enticements. Again the NPP shows clearly that it lacks a full appreciation of what really pertains on the ground.

“Fourthly, it is clear that even though the NPP is yet to properly appreciate the enormity of their promise, it cannot be implemented and sustained without increases in taxes which will impose untold hardship on the Ghanaian. Ghanaians recall with anger how the NPP demonstrated against the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) when they were in opposition only to come to power maintain VAT and even reduce the threshold so that many more Ghanaians would be captured. We also remember how despite several protests at fuel increases, the NPP increased petroleum products by more than 800% before they were shown the exit in 2008.

“Fifthly, we ask, which existing policy will the NPP abrogate or sacrifice in order to fulfill its day dream? Is it the Single Spine Salary Structure? Is it the elimination of schools under trees? Is it the fertilizer subsidy to farmers? Is it the free uniforms and free exercise books policy? Is it the Maths and Science Scholarship Scheme? Is it the Free Computer Programme? Ghanaians need to know.

The claim by Prof Gyan Baffour that the NPP will not pay judgment debts so that it can finance this waffling promise only reveals the true character of the NPP as a lawless party that has no respect for the rule of law and the courts of Ghana.

“Whiles the NPP is struggling to salvage the battered credibility of their Flagbearer after the now infamous Hard Talk interview and cope with the public backlash about their voodoo figures which can’t add up, government will continue in a pragmatic fashion to address the issue of quality education in Ghana.

“To the NDC government, free secondary school education is meaningless if the structures aren’t provided first. We cannot continue to have schools under trees, lack of adequate secondary schools, high drop outs at the basic level and inability of pupils to pass the BECE examinations and be talking about free secondary school education. These are the challenges we will busy ourselves in solving by our numerous interventions in the educational sub sector including the recently announced policy by H.E. John Dramani Mahama about government’s readiness to construct 200 model secondary schools in all districts. Our focus will remain improving quality at the basic level, motivating teachers and expanding access rather than building castles in sky. If we do not get the structures right, we can even have free education to the university level but we will have churned out functional illiterates who will be more dangerous to our society.” GNA

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