The Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has described the government’s flagship Frèe SHS program as the biggest social intervention initiative by any government in Ghana since Independence.
Speaking at the Government’s Town Hall Meeting in Kumasi to lay bare achievements of the Nana Akufo-Addo government in three years, Dr. Bawumia revealed that due to the success of the policy, SHS enrollment has tremendously increased by 69% i three years, leading to about 1.2m students benefiting from Free SHS .
“The free SHS has resulted in a 69% increase in enrollment. Today, 1.2 million children are benefiting from free SHS,” Dr. Bawumia said.
The Vice President said that providing access to secondary education to every Ghanaian child was an important concern to President Akufo-Addo and the government because developing human capital is crucial to the development of a nation, hence the government’s commitment to deliver on the Free SHS promise despite the initial challenges.
“The empirical evidence is very persuasive that the key to economic transformation is human capital, not natural resources. This is why President Akufo-Addo has placed an emphasis of making sure that every Ghanaian child, regardless of the financial circumstances of their parent will have access to free senior high school education,” said the Vice President
“This was a promise we made prior to the election in 2016 and one that we have fulfilled. It is the most significant social intervention introduced in Ghana since independence. We are investing and building capacity for the future of this country.”
Dr. Bawumia said the government had initial challenges in rolling out the Free SHS due to insufficient facilities in some schools to accommodate increment in enrollment. Bent on not denying any Ghanaian child access to Free SHS education, Dr. Bawumia said, the government had to be innovative by establishing the double track system in the interim to ensure access for all, while taking steps to build more facilities.
“We had a big challenge however. We did not have sufficient infrastructure in most schools to accommodate the increased numbers. Today, 1.2 million people are benefiting from Free SHS. The question we faced was “Whose Child Should be left at home?” In response to this challenge we introduced the double track system as a temporary solution to the problem while we construct new school infrastructure.”
“The thinking here is akin to how churches have first, second and even third services to deal with large numbers.”
” There are people who say that we should have finished building the schools before introducing free SHS but I would say that it is better to educate a child even under a tree than to have them sitting at home. With that same logic we would have had to finish building all the hospitals we need before introducing the NHIS.”
The opposition NDC has been vehement in its criticism of the double track system, but the Vice President said the NDC has not provided any alternative to double track, maintaining that without the double track system, hundreds of thousands of students who now have access to free secondary education would have been sitting at home.
“The fact is that without the double track system, hundreds of thousands of students would not be able to access free SHS.”
“Those who are criticizing the double track system have not been able to offer an alternative. Abolishing the double track system means abolishing free SHS as we know it. Whose child should stay at home?”
“This is why government is investing in the construction of new infrastructure at senior high schools across the country and some schools are no longer on the double track. . The double track system will therefore be over in just a few years for all schools when the infrastructure is completed.”
“Interestingly the Government of Kenya, facing similar challenges, has asked our Ministry of education to assist them to introduce the double track system in Kenya.”
Dr. Bawumia added that the best government to kove the Free SHS to the next level should be the President and the government which believed in it and implemented it, not a party which criticized the policy and was pessimistic about its success.
“We need a government that is committed to the free SHS system. A government that is prepared to commit the resources to finance it,” Dr. Bawumia said, obviously referring to President Akufo-Addo and the NPP.
“Can we entrust the Free SHS policy to someone who did not believe in it
in the first place? To someone who said it was a gimmick? To someone who said if he had GHC2 billion he would not spend it on Free SHS? To someone who says he would abolish double track but has no alternative to offer?”