President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Tuesday officially launched Government’s Free Senior High School Policy, making good his resolve to ensure accessible, equitable, quality and life-changing education for every Ghanaian child.
“Today, we throw open the doors of opportunity and hope to our young people… We have a sacred duty to our children and the generations beyond in ensuring that, irrespective of their circumstances, their right to education is preserved,” the President said to an ecstatic crowd at the West Africa Senior High School premises at Adenta, near Accra.
“I want every Ghanaian child to attend secondary school not just for what they learn in books, but for the life experiences that they will gain. I want each of them to look in the mirror in the morning, every morning, and know that they can achieve anything they dream of when they complete their studies.
“I want them to be confident that what they study is relevant to the demands of today, and of tomorrow. I want every Ghanaian child to be comfortable in the knowledge that, when they work hard, they will be as capable as anyone else in the world. And I want parents to look upon their children with pride, as they watch them mature into self-confident adults,” the President said.
President Akufo-Addo said though government could not guarantee riches for every citizen, with the political will and responsible leadership, it could create a society of opportunities and empowerment for every citizen adding that there was no better way to do so but through access to education.
Noting the pivotal role of education to the development and transformation of the nation, he said Ghana’s dependence on the production and export of raw materials could not create prosperity for the masses, but that this could be guaranteed only through getting the country’s education policies right.
President Akufo-Addo observed that countries that achieved economic success and progressed rapidly made education central to their development, saying; “Ghana, under my leadership, is determined to follow suit.”
He noted that the cost of providing free secondary school education would be cheaper than the cost of the alternative of an uneducated and unskilled workforce that had the capacity to retard development.
“Leadership is about choices – I have chosen to invest in the future of our youth and of our country. To ensure that no child is denied access to secondary education, we are removing one of the biggest obstacles that currently stand in their way: cost,” he said.
On the funding mechanism to sustain the policy, the President said proceeds from Ghana’s natural resources would be utilised to educate the populace to drive Ghana’s economic transformation.
“Instead of the revenues from our mineral and oil resources ending up in the hands of a few people, the most equitable and progressive way of using these revenues is to educate and empower our population to strengthen our nation,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo disclosed that as an important step towards quality Free SHS programme, government would upgrade 42 existing senior high schools to model schools
The Free SHS Policy will also cover pupils who gain admission to technical, vocational and agricultural institutions.
Government has also reserved 30 per cent of placements in the top 82 senior high schools to students from basic public schools. Currently, these top schools are almost wholly populated by students from junior high private schools with good performance at the Basic Education Certificate Examination, relative to the basic public schools.
“Under the Free SHS Policy, we will ensure that students from basic public schools have equal opportunity to enrol in any of the top senior high schools in the country,” the President said.
“We believe this is crucial in ensuring that we do not inadvertently encourage a permanent class divide, where a child from a background whose parents are unable to afford junior high private school education, is pre-destined to be excluded from the top senior high schools in the country. That is unconscionable and potentially dangerous for social cohesion,” President Akufo-Addo said.
He said the implementation stages of the policy may face challenges despite the efforts put into seeing it through adding; “We may falter, but, by the grace of the Almighty God, we shall not fall, for we will be ready, in all humility, to accept inputs and criticisms aimed at improving the Policy.”
“The Policy is not about the NPP or the NDC. The beneficiaries will not only be those belonging to NPP members or sympathisers. They will be Ghanaians from all walks of life and from all political persuasions.
“This is about Ghana, and how best to build a progressive and prosperous nation for this and future generations. Its constitutionality is not in doubt. All Ghanaians should support the Policy to ensure its success,” he said.
The President urged beneficiary students to study and work hard and avoid all negative tendencies to enable them to grow up to be responsible citizens and assets to the nation.
He said: “Seize the opportunity of having the good fortune to be admitted into this good school as pioneers of this exciting new venture in our national life. Ghana needs your skills and talents, and I know you will not fail us.”
The Free Senior High School programme is a flagship intervention by the Government to widen the gates of opportunities to every child, especially those whose talents are arrested because of poverty.
Under the Policy, all cost barriers to education has been absorbed by the Government. It would improve quality of education, address equity issues associated with education in the country and, importantly, ensure that every child acquires employable skills by the time they leave school.