The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has stated that the free senior high school (SHS) policy is the most significant social intervention introduced in the country since independence.
He said the policy was the best way a government could invest and build the capacity of students for the future of the country.
Speaking at the 61st Speech and Prize-giving Day of the Swedru SHS (SWESCO) last Saturday, the Vice-President said: “The future of this nation depends largely on the kind of education that is provided for its citizenry.”
He said it was against that background that the President’s focus had been on the provision of quality education for every Ghanaian child, irrespective of his or her social or economic status in society.
“Every Ghanaian child, through quality education, must be empowered to become economically independent,” he stated.
The speech and prize-giving day was organised by the 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 year groups of the school on the theme: “Free SHS: A scheme for developing human capital through practical, scientific and technological education”.
The ceremony was interspersed with performances by the school’s cadet corps, cultural troupe and masquerade group.
The Vice-President said parents and all well-meaning Ghanaians could attest to the fact that the free SHS policy was a good and viable one.
Three years into the policy, he said, enrolment in SHSs had increased to about 69 per cent.
He said in response to the increase in enrolment, the double-track system was introduced as a temporary solution to the growing numbers, while the provision of infrastructure continued.
“Without the double-track system, hundreds of students will not be able to access free SHS,” he added.
Ending double track
Dr Bawumia said the government was investing in the construction of new infrastructural facilities in SHSs across the country towards ending the double-track system.
He said the government was seriously expanding infrastructure in all public academic institutions, particularly in SHSs, to improve access and reduce congestion in the classrooms.
“The double-track system will, therefore, be over in just a few years in all schools when the infrastructure is completed,” he said.
When all was complete, he said, the schools would revert to the single-track system.
Directive to contractors
Dr Bawumia revealed that the government had issued a directive to all contractors working on various infrastructural projects, such as classroom blocks and dormitories, to work within the scheduled time of completion, so that spaces would be made available to end the infrastructural deficit that necessitated the introduction of the double-track system.
He added that the free SHS policy was irreversible, and that the government would continue to commit to and invest heavily in infrastructure and other logistics and facilities towards achieving the aim for which the policy was introduced.
The Vice-President noted that work had begun on the construction of 20 state-of-the-art Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions across the country, as well as the upgrading of the national vocational training institutes (NVTIs) to help train the needed human capital for the country.
“The government is in the process of extending the free SHS policy to cover TVET institutions, so that such institutions will train the required human resource to contribute to the transformation of the nation,” he stated.
Delivering quality education
Dr Bawumia said the government would continue to play its role towards the provision of quality education through free SHS and, therefore, required otherstakeholders, such as parents, teachers and students, to complement the effort of the government to provide the needed education for students.
He admonished the students to take their academic work seriously to excel in their final examinations to enable them to gain admission to the tertiary institutions of their choice.
The Vice-President donated GH₵20,000 to the school and also promised to provide it with a pick-up vehicle and a bus.
The Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, Prof. Kwesi Yankah, who was the guest speaker, asked parents not to leave everything about the education of their children in the hands of the schools but collaborate with school authorities to improve the performance of their children.
He said free SHS was a relief, but it should not lead parents to completely abandon their responsibilities towards their children, adding: “Children can only become future leaders if parents discharge part of their responsibilities for nurturing.”
“What we need as a country is a partnership between parents and teachers towards the proper welfare of children,” he added.
In her report, the Headmistress of the school, Mrs Alberta Obiriwaa Rigg-Stewart, commended President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for not only implementing the free SHS policy but also introducing the double-track system that had made it possible for a significant number of junior high school graduates to gain admission to the school.
She noted that despite the challenges the school faced, 677 out of the 883 students it presented for the 2019 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), representing 76.6 per cent, qualified for tertiary education.
She lauded successive governments and the old students for adding to the infrastructure of the school and further appealed to the government to fast-track the completion of all abandoned infrastructural projects to enhance teaching and learning.
Mrs Rigg-Stewart further appealed for the rehabilitation of roads in the school, since they were all in a deplorable state.
A former Director of the Ghana School of Law and old student of SWESCO, Mr George Agyemang Sarpong, who chaired the event, donated GH₵5,000 towards the establishment of an endowment fund, from which the overall best General Arts student would be rewarded annually.
At the event, the immediate past chairman of the school’s Board of Governors, Mr Bernard Joe Appeah, and the headmistress were honoured with citations for their immense contributions towards the growth of the school.
Additionally, the refurbished Chemistry laboratory, which was fully funded by Mr George Owusu of the 1967-Year group, and a new dais at the ceremonial grounds, constructed by Ms Esther Hanson of the 1975-Year group, were inaugurated.