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Free SHS to start from 2015/2016 academic year

BY: Kwame Asare Boadu & Sabastian Syme / Daily Graphic / Ghana

Beginning from the 2015/2016 academic year, the payment of fees by day students in senior high schools (SHS) will be abolished, President John Dramani Mahama has announced.

Delivering the State of the Nation Address to Parliament yesterday, the President said the programme, which would cost the government about GH¢71 million in the first year of implementation, was in line with the government’s move to progressively make SHS education wholly free.

The mention of free education by the President drew cacophonous noise from both the Minority and the Majority sides in the House.

While the Majority hailed the announcement, the Minority jeered, apparently against the background that the policy of free education, which was the main campaign message of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the December 2012 general election, was attacked by the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

But the President explained that the 1992 Constitution mentioned progressive free compulsory education and that was exactly what the government was implementing.

Quality education

President Mahama said the government was systematically implementing its educational promises and nothing would be left to chance to bring qualitative improvement in the sector.

He touched on the 200 community SHSs which he promised to construct during the electioneering in 2012 and indicated that all the bottlenecks involved in the implementation had been removed for a smooth take-off of the project.

Architectural drawings for the first batch of schools, he said, had been completed and sites secured, while the procurement process was on course, adding that actual work would commence in March this year.

President Mahama referred to the illegal charging of fees in schools and said he had tasked the Minister of Education to address the matter once and for all.

Technical universities 

The President said the electoral promise to provide every region with a public university was also being carried through, with the first one in the Eastern Region coming on board soon.

He said the decision to expand facilities in existing SHSs was to ensure an increase in intake and added that it had led to some schools increasing enrolment to as high as 3,000.

By the end of the year, the President said, he would announce the process for the conversion of the 10 polytechnics to technical universities.

To address the issue of graduate unemployment, he said he had directed the ministries of Education and Employment and Labour Relations to conduct a joint survey to establish the professions and skills needed in the job market.

Youth and Sports

While stressing that the nation needed a vibrant workforce to play a leading role in national development, he said the government was coming up with a number of initiatives to develop the skills of the youth to enable them to compete on the job market.

President Mahama said a new initiative, known as the Youth Enterprises Support (YES), which would give entrepreneurship training to the youth for them to lead productive lives was coming on board.

The YES, he said, would be launched next Tuesday with an initial capital of GH¢10 million which could be accessed by the trainees to create decent jobs for themselves.