Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) running mate for the 2020 election says the NDC government started the free SHS program but in a more prudent way that focused on improving learning outcomes.
She said the previous government investment in expanding infrastructure and provision of needed facilities to improve upon the quality of education as it looked at getting more students enrolled.
Speaking on The Point of View on Citi TV, she said the NDC government’s view on waiving fees for students was to target students who actually needed support rather than granting every student including those who could have afforded it free education.
She indicated that the Akufo-Addo government’s “full scale” approach to free SHS was problematic.
“Our approach was to look at the needy students, the students who would otherwise not go [to school]. Our concept was to reach the vulnerable, to bring the school as close to the doorstep of the learners as possible and to make sure that those schools were of high quality. That is why we put in the labs, that is why we stocked the libraries, that is why we set up proper offices for the headmasters and teachers. They were all very important,” she said.
She added that, “Our position on free SHS has been very clear. We started the progressively free [education]… We were doing progressively free because to operate it on a full scale at once was going to be highly problematic… We want them to come and learn, but they need the classroom, the laboratories and so on.”
Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang who is a former Minister for Education said the NDC government expanded 125 schools and selected some 175 other schools for a programme aimed at improving upon the quality of education.
She mentioned that the government at the time noticed that some schools were performing poorly in specific subjects and so after a review, introduced intervention programmes to address the challenge.
“We expanded 125 schools. We have the list and all the items we put there. Washrooms, labs, dinning and so on. We also picked another 175 for what we call the quality improvement…We started [free SHS], but we didn’t think that we should just go ahead and do en masse,” she said.
The free Senior High School programme has become a highly controversial subject in Ghana’s politics after the New Patriotic Party (NPP), while in opposition, touted it as its major campaign promise for the 2012 and 2016 elections.
The programme ensures that all Senior High School students in public schools in Ghana go to school at no cost, but the NDC has also claimed that it started the programme but approached it systematically by putting in place infrastructure and making education free for day students.