“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.”
These were the words of the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on Sunday, 18th March, 2018, when he addressed the 65th Speech and Prize-giving Day of Seventh Day Adventist Senior High School, in Bekwai, in the Ashanti Region.
According to President Akufo-Addo, the beneficiaries of the Free SHS policy are not only NPP members of sympathisers.
“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.
He continued, “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.”
The President was unequivocal 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.”
In addressing the teething challenges confronting the policy, 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, has begun.
“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.
Whilst 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 indicated that the commitment of teachers to the attainment of quality education at any level is critical, and urged teachers to bear in mind that they are role models to students, and they set the bar for excellence, and must, therefore, project excellence to their students.
Discipline and academic excellence, he added, go hand- in-hand, and so teachers should not compromise on the rules and regulations of the School.
“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.
To the students of SDA SHS, President Akufo-Addo urged them to be minded by the fact that indiscipline undermines 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.
President Akufo-Addo reiterated the commitment of his government to support all senior high schools across the country, to deliver quality education.
“The challenges of logistics and infrastructure, associated with the introduction of the Free SHS policy, will be satisfactorily addressed. The policy is here to stay. An education that will produce dedicated, disciplined and determined students, who will be eager and willing to participate in developing our beloved Ghana, and to become her patriotic future citizens and leaders, remains our objective,” the President stated.