ABOUT 400, 000 day students in public Senior High Schools in the country are to benefit from the free education programme, beginning September 2015, Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang, the Minister of Education has announced.
The move, she said was in line with the Constitutional provision which required the government to ensure progressively free secondary education to Ghanaians.
Prof Opoku-Agyemang, who disclosed this at a Meet-the-Press series in Accra yesterday, said an advisory committee had been tasked to guide the ministry in the implementation of the programme.
While ensuring a holistic realization of the programme, the minister said stakeholders’ would painstakingly select beneficiaries to ensure success.
President John Mahama on February 25, 2014, in his State-of the Nation Address, announced that his administration would implement the “Free Senior High School Education in consonance with the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.
Article 25(b) of the Constitution states that: “Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational education, shall be generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by progressive introduction of free education”.
“This roadmap will be presented to Cabinet for approval and subsequent implementation. Under the guidance of this roadmap, we can anticipate that fees for day students, will be abolished at an estimated cost of Gh¢71 million in 2015/2016 academic year,” President Mahama said.
“The Ministry of Education, following consultations with stakeholders has prepared a report on the roadmap for a progressive introduction of free secondary education in Ghana as required under the 1992 constitution,” President Mahama added.
The introduction of free secondary education, popularly referred to as “Free SHS” was a contentious issue in Ghana during the 2012 elections, with the population divided as to its implementation. While a section of the public believed that ‘Free SHS’ will enable many deprived Ghanaians to access secondary education, others expressed fears that it could affect the quality of education in secondary institution.
“We must make education a priority again. The students of this nation deserve to have the confidence that comes from knowing that the education they are receiving will adequately prepare them to navigate this competitive global workplace,” President Mahama said.
Cataloguing successes made in the area of access, enhancement, teaching and training, Prof. Opoku-Agyemang said Ghana had done creditably in spite of the challenges.
She observed that all facets of education had seen significant progress in terms of expansion, bridging gender gap, improving equity, quality, rebranding and inclusiveness.
She noted that the introduction of students’ loan in Colleges of Education to replace teacher allowances had increased enrollment from 9,000 to 15,400 in 2014, representing an increase of 60 per cent.
Currently, about 4,800 students have accessed the loan, while the colleges provide feeding to the students.
Touching on infrastructure, she said 1,614 schools out of the 2,578 had been eliminated under trees.
Describing the introduction of re-sit at the Basic Education Certificate Examination as a relief to guardians, Prof Opoku-Agyemang said 1,181 candidates were given opportunity in March 2015 to better their grades.
Additionally, 158 of the 159 projects under United States Aid for International Development support to the government for the construction of district education offices, sanitary blocks, kindergarten, Primary and Junior High classroom blocks have been completed.
Government, she said paid for 423,000 final year pupils in the 2013/14 Basic Education Certificate Examination.
Similarly, subsidies were paid for a total of 444,100 for 2014/15 academic year, recording an increase of 21,100 over the previous year.
In the area of distribution of educational materials, she said the ministry procured 500,000 school uniforms and 15 million exercise books for distribution to 36, 685 basic schools across the country.
She hinted that President Mahama’s promise of distributing locally-made shoes to pupils would soon commence to give impetus to patronizing goods manufactured in Ghana and ensure the survival of the local industries.
Professor Opoku-Agyemang said the ministry was gearing efforts to attain 95 per cent trained teachers by 2020 at the basic level.
Besides, she noted that the number of trained teachers during the academic year increased from 54.8 per cent to 61.6 per cent at the kindergarten level, 70 per cent to 75.8 per cent at the primary level and at the JHS level, it increased from 84. 5 per cent to 87.8 per cent.
To address teacher absenteeism, she said effective monitoring and supervision by district directors of education, circuit supervisors and the Parent Teacher Associations had yielded positively, adding that absenteeism reduced from 27 per cent in January, 2013 to 11per cent in July 2014.
Acknowledging that the increase was a step towards excellence, the minister said about 50, 000 of the teachers were trained in information and communications technology under the Basic School Computerizations Programme.
She said 1,000 mathematics teachers across the 10 regions were trained to improve teaching and learning of science and mathematics at the basic level.
Other interventions introduced by the ministry included equipping teacher training institutions with requisite science laboratories to train 20, 000 teachers, resourcing of national and regional centres, provision of equipment in basic science and mathematics and building capacity of master coaches and teacher educators.
Prof Opoku-Agyemang said tremendous gains were made in student’s performance at the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations with a 28.1 per cent increase in 2014 over the 12. 5 per cent in 2006.
By Malik Sullemana