At a ceremony at the West Africa Senior High School, President Akufo-Addo noted that he made the Free SHS pledge “because I know that knowledge and talent are not for the rich and privileged alone, and that free education widens the gates of opportunities to every child, especially those whose talents are arrested because of poverty.”
President Akufo-Addo noted that the countries that have made rapid progress around the world put education at the heart of their development, referencing the transition to publicly funded high school education by the United States in the mid nineteenth century.
“It must have been a daunting prospect at the time – paying for the education of so many children, for such an extended period of time out of limited public resources, transferring a potential workforce away from immediate productivity for an investment like schooling. But the experiment paid off,” the President said.
He continued, “America set herself up for 20th century success, creating a workforce fit for rapid economic development, which has inspired the emergence of the most powerful economy so far known to human history. Indeed, other nations, who began their lives as independent states at the same time as we did, like Singapore, Malaysia and Korea, have emulated a similar model and have also achieved great economic success. In fact, in their case, they followed Japan’s excellent example.”
It is for this reason, the President noted that, Ghana, under his leadership, is determined to follow suit.
Bemoaning the numbers of children falling out of the educational system, President Akufo-Addo noted that over the last four years, an average of 100,000 BECE graduates, who are placed in public senior high schools each year, do not take up their place.
This, he added, means that, in the next decade, about one million young men and women would have had their education terminated at junior high school.
“Such a situation is totally unacceptable, and I am determined to end it. This is why my government is, today, beginning the implementation of the Free Senior High School Policy,” he added.
Thus, to ensure that no child is denied access to secondary education, President Akucfo-Addo noted that his government is removing one of the biggest obstacles that currently stand in their way: cost.
“The cost of providing free secondary school education will be cheaper than the cost of the alternative of an uneducated and unskilled workforce that has the capacity to retard our development. Leadership is about choices – I have chosen to invest in the future of our youth and of our country,” he said.
Government, the President added, has decided to use the proceeds from the country’s natural resources to help educate the population to drive our economic transformation, stressing that instead of the revenues from the country’s mineral and oil resources ending up in the hands of a few people, the most equitable and progressive way of using these revenues is to educate and empower the population to strengthen the nation.
“In so doing, we would be on the way to achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal no. 4, which calls for inclusive and equitable education, and the promotion of lifelong opportunities for all. As co-Chair of the Advocacy Group of Eminent Persons of the SDGs, their implementation is a matter of the highest public priority for me,” the President added.
From this day on, President Akufo-Addo added “we lift the financial burden off our parents, and the heart-rending anxiety that accompanies the beginning of every school term. We have a sacred duty to our children and the generations beyond in ensuring that, irrespective of their circumstances, their right to an education is preserved. That is why government has decided to absorb all senior high school fees that have been agreed between the Ghana Education Service Council and the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS).”