Education Minister Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh said Tuesday that the Progressively Free SHS policy by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) when it was in government left GH¢30.1 million arrears for the 2015/16 academic year.
That, he said, was when the programme started with day students only, but that debt has since been paid by the Akufo-Addo led government.
Dr Prempeh said nothing at all was paid by the NDC in respect of the 120,000 boarding students to be catered for under, what he called “the high-sounding Progressively Free programme in the 2016/17 academic year”.
In a statement on “education and teacher reforms” to Parliament, in Osu-Accra, the Minister gave thumbs up to the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) on its policies in the education, and made mockery of critics who taunted the Government that the Free SHS programme would be unsuccessful.
He said: “Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the initial hiccups, the Free SHS programme is here to stay and we are confident that the generality of Ghanaians are fully behind it.”
Dr Prempeh said the focus on education and acquisition of essential 21st century skills for the new millennium learners is now pervasive than it was in the past, across the world.
He noted that it is on record, empirically, that every single year of schooling raises earnings by 10 percent, a rate of return that is obviously higher than alternative investments in bonds, stocks, deposits, among others, and gave assurance that the country is determined to develop its human capital capacity.
“The President, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, is committed to providing our citizens with the requisite knowledge, skills and experiences, needed to lift them from deprivation to the path of prosperity,” the Minister said, adding that “education is the shortest pathway between deprivation and opportunity, between despair and hope, between helplessness and promise.”
The Minister said the Government kept its promise of implementing the flagship Free SHS programme in September 2017, nine months after its first year in office.
Dr Prempeh announced that to date, over 1.2 million students have benefited from the Free SHS programme.
Hed said the poegramme has expanded access to secondary education and enabled an extra 400,000 students to enroll in Senior High School.
“Despite few initial challenges in respect of implementation, Ghanaians have largely embraced this programme and the testimonies are endless.
“Mr. Speaker, we all know that, in 2016, many ridiculed our capacity to implement the programme, citing unavailability of funding, inadequate physical classroom structures and other school facilities to support implementation, among others.
“Seeing how successful the programme’s implementation has been with such important policies such as the Double Track Year-Round Calendar, sustainable funding strategies, among others, our opponents are making a U-turn and promising a review of the programme if they win power in the 2020 elections, except they have failed to specifically say what aspect they will review, and to what end and purpose,” the Minister said.