Govt not oblivious of Free SHS challenges - President Akufo-Addo

BY: Shirley Asiedu-Addo

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said the government is not oblivious of the challenges of the Free senior high school (FSHS) policy implementation but is committed to working to surmount them and optimise the gains.

He said while there were challenges that would have to be dealt with in implementing the policy, “if teaching and learning outcomes are to improve, vehicles such as the Free SHS policy must be improved to become robust to serve its purpose.”

The President, who said this in a speech read on his behalf at the 58th Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) in Cape Coast, added that the government would work with groups such as CHASS to surmount the challenges.

The conference was on the theme, "The Role of Stakeholders in Ensuring Quality Education in the Face of the COVID-19 Pandemic".

Increase in enrolment

He noted that since the rolling out of the Free SHS policy, the total SHS enrolment had jumped from 800,000 in 2016 to 1.2 million, saying that was remarkable in providing opportunities, especially to children who would otherwise not have access to education.

"The government is fully committed to promoting quality education for all as a great tool for social mobility and for putting us on the path of real socio-economic development," President Akufo-Addo said.

However, the President said the reality was that the government could not do it alone and called on parents, teachers, non-governmental bodies and other stakeholders to play their roles in ensuring the success of placing the nation on the path of prosperity for all.

"Together with a purposeful mind we can change the face of education in this country and ultimately drive our developmental agenda for the good of our people," the President said, adding that no country had succeeded without investing in its human resource.

Impact of COVID 19

On the impact of the COVID-19 on education, President Akufo-Addo said the government had to ramp up its drive to take advantage of technology via online and other learning platforms to deliver effective teaching and learning.

"We have also had to find safe ways to open our schools for a limited cohort," he said, adding that it was necessary for all to appreciate the challenges that the pandemic had brought to lives, particularly on education, so as to be innovative to take advantage of educational technology to accelerate the teaching and learning process.

President Akufo-Addo commended CHASS and other educational stakeholders for their support in ensuring teaching and learning went on in spite of the ravages of the pandemic.

Perishable goods

The President of CHASS, Alhaji Yakub Ahmed Bin Abubakar, for his part, called for the upward review of the portion of feeding grants given to schools.

He noted that the 30 per cent given to schools for perishable goods was not enough and suggested a minimum of 40 per cent of the feeding grant should be given to schools to take care of the perishables.

That, Alhaji Abubakar said, would enable them to run the schools better.

Mr Abubakar also expressed worry about the activities of the Buffer Stock Company Ltd, which he said, many schools had complained that they did not receive their supplies on time or the quality and quantity were a problem.

Read also: Govt rejects CHASS' request to review free SHS to allow parents to pay levies

Code of conduct/discipline

On discipline, Alhaji Abubakar noted that CHASS was aware of a new code of conduct being developed for schools and called for its accelerated introduction to facilitate the work of the heads of schools.

“We wish to state that the process has kept too long and it is making the management of our schools more challenging, given the modern and current laws on child rights and related issues,” he stated.

Holistic training

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, Professor Johnson Nyarko Boampong, who was the guest speaker, called for total and holistic training of the nation's youth with the right morals and patriotic values to help orient them to contribute meaningfully towards national development.