The Member of Parliament for North Tongu in the Volta Region, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has refuted claims by President Nana Akufo-Addo that the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) will scrap the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme should it win 2020 general elections.
President Akufo-Addo said recently said when former President John Mahama and the NDC say they intend to “review” the Free SHS policy, they actually mean to “cancel” it.
Speaking at a meeting with the leaders of the Ghana National Council for Private Schools (GNACOPS) in Accra in October this year, Mr Mahama, who is also the flag bearer of the NDC noted that “within the first 90 days after I take office as the President of Ghana, I will call for the arrangement of a very broad stakeholder and consultative meeting on the way forward for a better free SHS.”
“The NDC shall ensure that all issues raised, which are feasible and doable, will be factored into the NDC manifesto,” Mr Mahama noted.
However, the President told the management and students of St. Mary’s Senior High School in the Ablekuma South Constituency on the second day of his three-day tour of the Greater Accra Region on Tuesday, 3 December 2019 that it was important the final-year students passed their exams well so as to shame the Free SHS detractors who are bent on scrapping it.
“It is not everyone in this country that is happy about this free senior high school policy that the NPP government and I are pursuing”, the President told the teachers and students, explaining: “There are political forces in our country that are strongly opposed to the policy”, adding: “They began by saying that it was a gimmick; they then said that it could not be done for another twenty years”.
“They then said it was too expensive and now they are telling us that when they come back to power, only God knows when they are going to review it”, the President said, noting: “The word review means cancel”.
The President, however, said: “The people of Ghana are not going to stand by and watch these dreamers come back to power”.
Reacting to President Akufo-Addo’s comments, Mr Ablakwa told Benjamin Akakpo on Class91.3FM’s Executive Breakfast Show that: “With all due respect, the President should stay above the fray; he should leave this; this is not presidential, it’s not befitting of his status”.
“I mean, how can review mean cancellation? Let’s not do that; you review to enhance. We have said President Mahama has been clear that we will carry out a review to make Free SHS better because I was working at the Ministry of Education as a Deputy Minister and I know that President Mahama started a progressively Free SHS programme which was targeted”.
“He [Mahama] identified 10,400 students, gave them full scholarships; these were the poorest of the poor, so, they did not only have fees, they had extra stipends for their school bags; these days, you have to take care of everything on your prospectus on your own. Under President Mahama, all of that was taken care of.
“Then we also moved beyond the 10, 400 to day students because the data shows that day students are the most vulnerable. So, we were targeting because we needed to target to have resources to expand infrastructure to build more school; that’s why we were building the 124 E-blocks.”
Clarifying his party’s stance on the matter, Mr Ablakwa said should the NDC win power in the 2020 elections, the “first thing we’ll do” is to “abolish double-track; that’s the first thing we’ll do. It is really on the top of our priority”.
“Two, we want to go back to the 200 Community Day Schools; they’re abandoned all over the country. Remember that 50 of them were completed. President Mahama, personally, commissioned 46, he could not commission the remaining four and the records show that that even helped to ease the pressure and make the implementation of the Free SHS [policy] possible, though it still came with [the] double-track [system]. So, we will put in place an expedited programme to complete the 200 Community Day Schools,” Mr Ablakwa noted.