President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Sunday stressed that the success of the Free Senior High School policy of his government required that all sections of the Ghanaian populace supported the programme.
“If the Free SHS policy is to succeed, and if we are to build the modern, progressive and prosperous Ghana we desire, each and every one of us here – political leaders, traditional rulers, teachers, parents, students – has a major stake in ensuring that we achieve excellence in our educational system. The policy is not about the NPP or the NDC.”
Addressing the 65th Speech and Prize-giving Day of Seventh Day Adventist Senior High School, in Bekwai, in the Ashanti Region, President Akufo-Addo noted that the beneficiaries of the Free SHS policy were not only sympathisers of his party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), but Ghanaians from every section of national life.
“They are 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. All Ghanaians should support the policy to ensure its success,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo stressed that prior to the launch of the Free Senior High School Policy, in September 2017, available data indicated that Ghanaian children were falling out of the educational system at every stage.
Over the four years, prior to the last one, for example, an average of 100,000 BECE graduates, who were placed in our public senior high schools each year, did not take up their places.
“This means that, in the next decade, about one million of our young men and women would have had their education terminated at junior high school. Such a situation was totally unacceptable, and I was determined to end it,” the President said.
“Free SHS has ensured, and will continue to ensure, that all our children will be educated to at least secondary level, and the lack of money will no longer mean a denial of education. The policy has already led to an increase of over 90,000 children, who entered secondary school in 2017, than in 2016.”
President Akufo-Addo was not in doubt that “the cost of providing free secondary school education will be cheaper than the cost of the alternative of a semi-educated and unskilled workforce, that has the capacity to retard our country’s development.”
He stated that the delivery to the schools of some 69,500 mono desks, 13,100 bunk beds, furniture for dining halls, staff rooms of teachers, computer laboratories, and marker boards for classrooms, had begun, to ameliorate the initial challenges of the programme.
“We will spare no effort in ensuring that this policy succeeds. Free SHS is here to stay!” he said, to a rapturous applause from the gathering.
While Government does its utmost to ensure that it provides the requisite tools and environment for learning, President Akufo-Addo noted that heads of schools must supervise teaching and learning, check absenteeism of both teachers and students, and develop innovative strategies to monitor effectively activities of the school.
“Towards the success of the Free SHS policy, no headmaster or headmistress is to charge any unapproved or illegal fees, or charge fees already exempted under the policy.
“Government will be strict about this, and sanction any school head who flouts this directive. We have a sacred duty to our children, and to the generations beyond, to ensure that, irrespective of their circumstances of birth, their right to an education is preserved,” he said.
The President underscored the critical importance of the commitment of teachers to the attainment of quality education and urged them to play their roles effectively, and to set the bar for excellence, and project excellence to their students.
He implored teachers not to compromise on discipline and school regulations, as the two were synonymous with academic excellence.
“On the part of government, we recognise that a well-trained, confident and contented teacher is at the heart of the delivery of quality education.
“The views of teachers are being sought on education policy, innovation and implementation. Their professional development and needs are being treated with respect, and we are making sure that teachers’ salaries and allowances are paid regularly and on time.
“My administration will also concentrate on the provision of incentives that will motivate teachers, and reward their hard work in the classroom,” the President said.
President Akufo-Addo urged the students of the SDA SHS, to be minded by the fact that indiscipline undermined academic work and progress.
“Self-discipline and the effective use of your time are some of the key ingredients to your success. A disciplined student is focused and hardworking, and always seeks to challenge himself or herself beyond mediocrity.
“I urge all of you to abide by the rules and regulations of the School, and set the highest standard of discipline to enable you complete your education successfully,” he added.