The Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has stated the tremendous impact the free Senior High School policy and the Double-Track system have had on enrollment for senior high school education since the government of Nana Akufo-Addo introduced the policy in 2017.
Speaking at Abirew in the Eastern Region on Saturday during the climax of the 30th Anniversary celebration of the enstoolment of Ogyeahoho Kwame Henaku II, Abirewhene and Werepimhene of Akuapem, Dr Bawumia revealed that the free SHS policy has resulted in an increase in SHS enrollment by 69%.
“In the first three years of this policy (Free SHS), we have seen enrollment in Ghana for senior high school education increased by 69%. That is a very high level of increase,” Dr Bawumia said.
“Many of these children, if it had not been for free Senior High School education would’ve been seated at home, and we would have had to contend with the problems, later on in life, of these children.”
Dr Bawumia noted that the huge increase in SHS enrollment following the introduction of the Free SHS policy, brought about challenges, and the government acted swiftly with the introduction of the double-track system to ensure that no qualified child was left at home, in line with President Akufo-Addo’s vision of free secondary education for all.
“We had to introduce the double-track system as a way of dealing with the temporary increase in the students,” said the Vice President.
“We said it was important that we start this now. Because of this 69%, if we hadn’t started and brought the double-track system, many would have been seated at home. But whose child should stay home and whose child should go to school? Nana Akufo Addo said, let’s have an innovation, let everybody go, and that is the double track.”
The Vice President added that having introduced the double-track system to accommodate the massive enrollment, the government has been working hard to improve infrastructure and facilities in schools throughout the country to end the system in a few years.
“Even though we haven’t dealt with all the challenges, we are dealing with them. We are building infrastructure in schools and in a few years, the double-track system will be history,” the Vice President assured. He noted those criticizing the double-track system have never been able to offer a concrete alternative.
Dr Bawumia likened the free SHS/double track system to a church whose membership has grown, and the church has introduced two services to ensure no one misses out on the word of God due to congestion.
“It’s like when you have a church and the church membership grows so high. Now all of them cannot go into the church for one service so you say okay, I will do the first service, some of you will come; second service and others will come. In a not too distant future, we will build a big enough church where everybody will come and we will have the first service. But in the meantime, you cannot say some people should not hear the word of God. We want everybody to hear the word of God, just as we want everybody to attend school.”
Using another analogy to buttress the importance of free SHS and the double-track system, Dr Bawumia said the logic of critics of free SHS and the double-track system, is akin to the logic of saying former President Kufuor should not have introduced the National Health Insurance Scheme in 2003 until he had finished building hospitals in every district in the country.
“If we followed the logic that we had to build hospitals in every district before implementing National Health Insurance, would we have done so? We wouldn’t. But we introduced it in 2003 and we are still building the hospitals but the people are benefitting from national health insurance and it is good for Ghana. That is the same logic that we are applying to our education with the free SHS policy.”
The Vice President also underlined the significance of educating children and how it is directly linked to the future of this country, adding that it is for these reasons that President Akufo-Addo has been so keen on his flagship policy on education, the Free SHS.
“This policy is so critical for the future of this country because the key to the development of any nation is education for its people,” Dr Bawumia said.
“If you have an educated population, evidence show from economic history that the countries that have educated their people have risen up the development ladder. This is why Nana Akufo-Addo was very keen on the introduction of the Free Senior High School education.”