President John Dramani Mahama has maintained that it would be dishonourable for NPP’s flag-bearer Nana Akufo-Addo to carry himself as the brain and force behind free senior high school education in the country.
He has therefore warned electorate to be mindful of what Nana Addo and other presidential candidates preach to them, adding that their promise to make senior high school education free is nothing but a whimsical pledge.
Addressing Ghanaians, when he took his turn at the IEA Encounter series with presidential candidates on Thursday, he explained the issue of free education is enshrined in the 1992 Constitution, and it is therefore binding on all, especially the executive, to work towards achieving it.
“Our vision for our education is in our constitution, so our work is cutout for us. As president, you must comply with the constitution, and the constitution says within 10 years basic education must be free, compulsory and universal. That is a given and so we all must work to achieve that.”
President Mahama said it would be an act of stealing if someone goes about portraying the national vision of making education free as a personal vision.
“Senior high school must be made progressively free and accessible on an equal, equitable balance. And so that is the vision for the country, it is not a single person’s vision, so nobody should attempt to steal the vision of the constitution drafters.”
The President was definite when he reiterated that the problem facing educational system, especially at the second cycle, is “equity of access and equality”.
He gave a breakdown of the percentage of pupils who are able to climb the education ladder to the SHS level to illustrate his point.
“The point here is that out of the 100 of children who start primary school, 93.7 per cent leave primary school, 66% continue into JHS and complete JHS, now only 34 per cent continue into senior high school.”
He acknowledged although basic education in the country is “supposedly free” in public schools, most parent prefer to pay more to send their wards to quality private schools, as the children are guaranteed to progress to the next level.
“So we are saying that free is not just the issue, the issue is about quality. At the secondary level, public schools are still preferred over private schools because we are paying fees and the schools are able to use the fees to keep the schools running, if you say you are going to take it away, in the manner that is being suggested; I am saying that we can take fees away in a certain manner that guarantees the quality is not affected.”
He indicated that there should be a well thought out plan to make SHS free in the country.
“Free senior high school must be implemented based on a proper roadmap and not just on a campaign promise of somebody who just wants to get elected as the president; that should not be the basis.
“There have been examples of it in Africa, and I could name countries and their reports that have appraised the implementation of free secondary in those countries that showed that they are flout with problems, because they were made on the whimsical promise of a politician.”