The New Patriotic Party’s free Senior High School education policy was sugarcoated, well calculated and packaged with the ultimate aim of winning an election, Deputy Education Minister, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has indicated.
Distinguishing between the National Democratic Congress (NDC)-led government’s progressively free SHS policy, and the free SHS hyped by the NPP’s presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo in 2012, he said the latter adopted a “whimsical approach” just to get votes and form the next government.
Presenting the 2015 financial statement to Parliament last month, Finance Minister Seth Terkper stated that government’s progressively free senior high education was set to take off in the 2015/2016 academic year.
Also on Monday, Mr. Ablakwa announced on the floor of Parliament that a total of 365,000 day students are to benefit from the free SHS policy.
Speaking on MultiTV/Joy FM’s news analysis show, Newsfile, Okudzeto Ablakwa asserted that Nana Akufo-Addo’s policy was not thought through.
“We have said that we should be careful about promises that appear to just aim at winning an election; mouthwatering, vote catching promises which are not properly thought through, that was our concern,” he analysed the two approaches.
He said under the NDC’s Secondary Education Improvement project where the progressively free policy is being played out, considered access and quality first before moving on to make education affordable.
“You noticed that President Mahama did not begin with free SHS immediately as Nana Akufo-Addo had promised. He started with cutting the sod for the construction of 200 Senior High School by 2016 and as I speak to you by September 2015, we expect the first 50 of these senior high schools to be ready.
“He (Mahama) also managed to secure [a] $156 million facility from the World Bank which is helping us improve quality in selected senior high school; we selected 125 out of 838 senior high school that we have, and we are improving the quality by ensuring that we move in to provide good science labs, computers, chemicals for science students, science equipment, rehabilitation, renovation.
“It is quite a detailed programme which we have presented under the secondary education improvement Project, and then we are launching the progressively free to take off 2015 by which time the access issue, the quality issue we talked about would have been addressed.”
He reiterated that the government used 2013 to do feasibility study and other preliminary works for the policy to take off.
Mr. Okudzeto Ablakwa also, vehemently, denied that the NDC ever said it will build 50 SHS each year. What the party said was that 200 SHS would be constructed by 2016, he emphasized.
However, Editor in Chief of the New Crusading Guide newspaper, Malik Kweku Baako rather accused the ruling NDC of intentionally “creating a distortion of what NPP said for political gains”.
Nonetheless, he noted that President Mahama’s progressively free SHS has been welcomed by all including Nana Akufo-Addo because it is of national interest.
He also read voluminously, a document prepared by the NPP which suggested that the free SHS policy was, in a large scale, going to be progressive.
Former Director of Ghana Education Service, Michael Nsowah stated that the NPP’s free SHS policy would have ensure that quality education was across board and not a selected number of students.
Nana Akufo-Addo would have removed all payable fees which affects both day and boarding students.
He wondered how the government would differentiate between students in boarding houses and day students staying in hostels.
In his view, the government should have rather done a study to find out students who are actually vulnerable.