The Minister of State in charge of Private Sector Development, Alhaji Rashid Pelpuo insists the free Senior High School (SHS) education announced by President John Dramani Mahama during Tuesday’s reading of the State of the Nation Address was a policy already captured in the party’s manifesto.
Dismissing suggestions that government had stolen the opposition party’s policy, he stressed that the announcement by the president was just a public declaration of the NDC’s intent and commitment to make SHS education free.
“We (NDC)) are in power and we are reflecting our manifesto. This thing (free SHS education) the president talked about is in our manifesto,…he’s made several pronouncements about it that we will make secondary education progressively free,” he said.
The free SHS policy, a catchphrase trumpeted by the NPP in 2008 which was restructured for 2012 elections, was fiercely resisted by the NDC who argued that more emphasis be placed on quality and access rather than making it free. President Mahama later wrote on his official twitter and facebook accounts in 2012 that "Free SHS is a misplaced priority if primary school pupils still pay fees. Let's make primary free first".
Then Minister of Education, Lee Ocran, at a press conference even accused the NPP of building castles in the air with its promise of a free SHS education.
He insisted the policy would have been implemented a long time ago by Ghana’s first president Dr Kwame Nkrumah if it was achievable.
However, President Mahama, delivering his State of the Nation Address to Parliament on Tuesday February 25, 2014, announced the abolishing of fees in Day Senior High Schools by 2015/1016 academic year and the introduction of a progressively free SHS that year.
“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,” the President said.
“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 GHȻ71 million in 2015/2016 academic year,” he added
But the announcement has been met with mixed reactions with the NPP accusing the Mahama-led administration of ‘stealing’ its idea- an allegation government has vehemently denied.
Alhaji Rashid Pelpuo stated categorically on Asempa FM that, “The NDC did not steal NPP’s policy of free SHS education. What we (NDC) said from the beginning is what the president is still saying. We said that its unrealistic…you can’t just want power and as the result you make a big pronouncement saying I am going to make secondary education free and when they ask about the cost, he (Nana Addo) is quoting in millions..…We are saying in accordance with the article 25 of the constitution, we have solution for secondary education to become free progressively. First of all we will make sure the access is there before we can talk about freedom. You can have a situation where people even don’t know where the secondary school is, they don’t have it…but yet you said it’s free. You have to make it available to them then you make it free that is part of our (NDC) idea to make secondary education free,”
Speaking to Kaba, host of the show, Hon Rashid Pelpuo, when asked if the implementation of the policy in the 2015/2016 academic year was not a move by government to "deflate the tyres" of the NPP in the 2016 election replied; "....the declaration of free SHS education by Mahama has nothing to do with what was proposed by the NPP…i don't know what it means by preparing to win an election. Everything all politicians do is to maintain themselves in power and to do the good things we want to do. So if that (free SHS) will convince the people of Ghana that we are doing well, why not? And keep his Excellency John Dramani Mahama because he is the man of the moment...if this is paving the way for his second term, i'll support it 100% and encourage every other person to do so.”
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