President John Dramani Mahama on Thursday inaugurated the first completed community Day Senior High Secondary school at Otuam in the Central Region, announcing that the government has released an amount of GHC12.1 million to kick start the academic year.
The school named after the late President John Evans Atta Mills in his honour, has facilities such as 24 classrooms, four laboratories, two libraries, eight offices, eight ICT laboratories, a headmaster’s office and staff common room.
President Mahama said a total of 9,300 teachers would be recruited to man the new community day SHS across the country.
He said that out of the 200 new community schools to be built, 123 were currently being worked on and called on the Ministry of Education to facilitate the completion of the rest of the schools on schedule.
The inauguration also coincided with the launch of the progressively free secondary education programme, which seeks to absorb the fees of all day students who are not on any other form of scholarship in the 2015/16 academic year.
President Mahama indicated that there has been a progressive increase in enrolment in many of the schools, adding that enrolment in KG in 2011 stood at 700,000 which have shot up to 2.1 million in 2015 with primary enrolment moving from 2.5 million to 4.3 million within the same period.
He said enrolment figures had also increased at the senior secondary level and that in 2011, the enrolment at the SHS was 860,000 and was currently at 1.6 million, thereby justifying the expansion of SHSs in the country.
The President said the progressively free education road map was on course and that starting from this academic year, school fees would be removed for day students attending public SHS, adding that would be extended to cover boarding students who required similar support in the 2017/18 academic year.
He appealed to parents to take advantage of the programme and send their children to school and ensure that they stayed in school.
The Minister of Education, Professor Naana Jane Opoku Agyeman, said the two complementary initiatives of government in the secondary education sub-sector amply demonstrated government’s commitment towards making secondary education accessible and equitable.
She said the 1992 Constitution provides for secondary education to be made generally available and accessible to all, and in particular, the progressive introduction of free secondary education, adding that, the number of SHS has increased from 556 in 2004 to 650 in 2015.
Prof. Agyeman said the community day SHS seek to expand capacity of secondary education to enroll the increasing number of students from the basic schools, adding that, it would help make secondary education physically accessible especially in underserved communities.
She indicated that under the project, the government would increase the number of public SHS from 854 to 1,054 when all the 200 schools are completed, representing 23 per cent increase in the number of public secondary schools as well as increase in the capacity of secondary education by 240,000 seats.
The Minister of Education said the absorption of the fee was intended to ease the cost burden on day students towards making secondary education progressively free.
She reminded school authorities that any additional, unapproved and un-receipted levies on students outside of the standardized fees will negate the positive effect of the programme and push students away from the classrooms.
She warned that the Ministry of Education would not tolerate the charging of unapproved fees as it contradicted the commitment of the initiative of easing the cost burden on students.
The Central Regional Minister, Mr Aquinas Tawiah Quansah commended the government for allocating about six of the new community day schools to the region, stressing that it would go a long way to create jobs for people in the regions.
He also expressed gratitude for the number of development projects including the water project at Ensaakyire and the building of assembly blocks and roads among others being executed across the region.
Nana Edan XII, acting President of Ekumfiman Traditional area, commended the government for selecting Otuam for the community day school project and naming it after the late Prof. Mills.
He appealed to the government to ensure that the boundary between Ekumfi and Mfantseman district was properly demarcated to stem any boundary disputes, and to also enable the Ekumfi district to get its needed revenue.
He also appealed for the tarring of the roads in the district. GNA