The Deputy Education Minister, Yaw Osei Adutwum, has admitted that the Free SHS has had challenges from the very beginning. Labeling them as “teething problems,” he spoke about how the infrastructure and other logistics have brought issues but assured that the ministry is working to address them.
“Every new policy, like a baby, will have teething problems. But such problems are always temporary. So, it is with the Free SHS, and we acknowledge the challenges with infrastructure that has led to an interim introduction,” a speech read for him at the 13th Harmattan School of the University for Development Studies (UDS) said.
The Free SHS policy, the speech said, is here to stay and that it will “help ensure the sustainability and equal access to education by all persons in the country as well as relieve parents of heavy financial burden that has been compelling most parents to halt the education of their children who are the future leaders of the country”.
The Harmattan School is organised by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Consultancy Service (IIRaCS) of the UDS on the theme: “Education for National Development: Shifting focus from problems to solutions.”
According to the Deputy Minister, government will address the infrastructure deficit in the educational institutions through GETFund and other government sources to enhance quality education in the country. He noted that plans are being made to centralise admission policy for the public universities to save parents the burden of having to buy from all or many institutions only to respond to one admission.
“As government, we are undertaking various reforms at the tertiary level to forestall any challenges that these increased numbers are likely to bring,” he stated.
He announced that the Bill for the creation of the university of Business and Integrated Development Studies in Wa and University for Technology and Applied Sciences at Navrongo in the Upper West and Upper East regions respectively will soon be laid before parliament for ratification.
He said other universities are also being constructed by government in the country as a way of expanding access to tertiary education, especially in view of increasing secondary school enrolment fostered by Free SHS.
He therefore challenged the management of UDS and other public universities to work through the National Council for Tertiary Education and the National Accreditation Board to develop and introduce additional programmes, especially in areas that will meet the demands of industry to grow the economy.
“The government’s One District, One Factory policy is designed to take advantage of the country’s huge natural resources and add value to our raw materials which requires expertise in managing the processes and therefore needs the tertiary sector to take advantage of the opportunity to design programmes in agro-processing and manufacturing,” he said.
The Harmattan School was instituted in 2007 by the UDS to provide a platform for civil society organisations, development practitioners, policy makers and researchers, on an annual basis, to meet and discuss pertinent development issues that affect northern Ghana in particular and Ghana as a whole, which is usually held in February towards the end of the Harmattan season.
The Vice Chancellor of UDS. Prof. Gabriel Ayum Teye, said a cursory observation made revealed that many school children, especially in the Junior and Senior High Schools of late spend most part of their night busily engaging in what is known as “sakawa or internet fraud and thereby abandoning school for quick money.
“If efforts are not made to address the issue of sakawa and graduate unemployment, our classrooms will soon be empty despite the Free SHS policy. When this happens, the doors of opportunity and hope open to our young people by the implementation of this policy will be scuttled,” he stated.
In view of this, he said government needs to fashion out an education system that will encourage children to remain in school and imbue in them time tested values of honesty, hard work and patriotism.