By Frank Amponsah
Contrary to what motivated propagandists and the professional naysayers would have Ghanaian people believe, the Free Senior High School policy, implemented by the Nana Addo-led government in September 2017, has come to stay, the President has stressed.
According to President Akufo-Addo, “Free SHS is going to be a permanent feature of the educational architecture of our country, and it is going to be a significant tool for the rapid socio-economic development of our nation.”
Speaking at the 70th anniversary celebration of the Ghana National College on Saturday, 28th July, 2018, the President indicated that he knows no better way to create a society of opportunities and empowerment for every Ghanaian than through education.
He stressed that all the countries, in the 20th century, which advanced, such as the United States of America, Japan, South Korea, Finland, Canada, China, and India, did so because they paid great attention to education.
“They paid attention to education, and invested in the development of their human capital. Today, the results are obvious. My Government is determined to follow suit, and use education as the spring board for us to get out of our problems. Hence, the introduction of the Free Senior High School policy,” he said.
With 90,000 more students entering Senior High School than they did in 2016, President acknowledged that the introduction of the policy meant that there would be challenges of infrastructure to attend to the large intake.
In tackling this, he indicated that Government, through the Ministry of Education, addressed substantially these challenges by providing 96,403 mono desks, 33,171 dining hall furniture, 3,033 tables and chairs for teachers, 12,953 bunk beds, 4,335 student mattresses, and 5,135 computer laboratory chairs to various Senior High Schools to meet the infrastructural deficit.
Government, President Akufo-Addo reiterated, cannot wait to address all the issues of infrastructure before it continues with the Free SHS policy.
“Indeed, that was very much the rationale behind Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah’s celebrated Accelerated Development Plan of Education in the 1950s, which ensured a decisive opening up of the educational space for thousands and thousands of young Ghanaians who had, hitherto, been outside the educational net, and which helped satisfy the manpower needs of the early years of our independence,” he said.
The President continued, “In the 2018/2019 academic year, which begins in September, four hundred and seventy-two thousand new students, i.e. an increase of some 31%, will be admitted into our Senior High Schools. We had to, and have found a way, therefore, to absorb this intake. We refer to it as the Double-Intake System.”
The double-intake system, he said, will mean the recruiting of some 8,000 more teachers and the use of a double track school calendar system for the new SHS entrants.
“The objectives of the double track system are to create room to accommodate the increase in enrolment. Furthermore, it will reduce class sizes, it will increase the contact hours between teachers and students, and increase the number of holidays. All this, ladies and gentlemen, is going to be achieved with the existing infrastructure,” he assured.
Far from the double-track system being a new intervention that is being experimented in Ghana, the President stated that it has been implemented elsewhere, and found to be successful in countries as diverse as the United States of America, Australia, Kenya and Japan.
“I am confident that the end-result of the system would lead to an increase in quality of our SHS structure. I am inviting everybody – parents, teachers, administrators, students, the Parent Teacher Associations, the Regional and District Directors of Education – to embrace this system, and work to make sure that it succeeds,” he said.
The youth and the future of the country, President Akufo-Addo noted, will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this increased intake of the free SHS policy.