By Gifty Arthur
President John Dramani Mahama, will today cut the sod, for the commencement of the construction of his 200 Community Senior High School (SHS) to be spread across the country, this is in fulfillment of his 2012 election promise he made to Ghanaians.
The sod cutting ceremony will be held at Nyanoa in the Upper West Akim District of the Eastern Region.
The project, which begins with the construction of 50 schools and are expected to be completed in August, next year (2015), will see Districts and Municipal Assemblies such as, Gomoa East, Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abirem (KEEA), Awutu Senya, Upper Denkyira West, Ahanta West, Nzema East, Tano South,
Kintampo South and Dormaa Municipality benefitting from these schools.
Others are; Obuasi Municipality, Sekyere Afram Plains, Akatsi South, Bia East, North Tongu, Nkwanta North, Adenta Municipality and Ga East and Central, Talensi, Lambussi, Kpandai, Bole Saboba, Garu, Agona West, Upper Denkyira East and Awutu Senya East.
When he visited Parliament to deliver the “State of the Nation” address last Tuesday, President Mahama, disclosed that the 200 Community SHS project will begin this week, and invited Members of Parliament (MP) to join him in the sod-cutting ceremony.
According to a Deputy Minister of Education, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, the buildings will comprise classrooms, state of the art administration block, modern sports arenas and an elaborate drainage system among other thing.
Though, it was announced that the schools will be day schools, government has hinted that they will later be converted into boarding schools.
One school is priced between GH¢5.1 to GH¢6.1 million.
The varying figures, Mr. Okudzeto Ablakwa explained at press briefing in his office last Friday, were due to the location of the schools and cost of transporting building materials to the land, where some of the schools are to be sited.
The building of these Community SHS was a 2012 campaign promise of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) to enable more Junior High School (JHS) graduates access secondary education.
They are also being built to reduce pressure on existing Senior High Schools (SHS) in the country, which are held to be endowed with facilities and resources conducive for learning.
Some newly created districts also has no senior secondary schools, and students in these places have had to trek long distances to attend school each day.
Meanwhile, President Mahama, last Friday, renewed Government’s commitment to abolish fees for both day and boarding students of Senior High schools in the 2015/2016 academic year.
He said, while the boarding students would pay only boarding and feeding fees after its inception, day students would pay virtually nothing for their education.
President Mahama, who was addressing students of the University of Education, Winneba as part of his two-day official visit to the Central Region, added that, the progressive free SHS education his administration would be implementing was in consonance with the Constitution of Ghana.
This comes on the heels of his address to parliament, where President Mahama, announced that his administration would from the 2015/2016 academic year implement what he termed as ‘progressive free SHS education’.
The announcement attracted criticisms from his political opponents citing him for ‘stealing’ the idea from Nana Akufo-Addo, 2012 Presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) as that formed the main substance of his electioneering campaign.
But hitting back at his critics, President Mahama said that the policy was not the exclusive right of anybody, since his checks at the Registrar General’s department revealed that nobody had the preserve of the phrase ‘Progressive Free SHS education’.
He said, in coming out with the decision or policy, Ghanaian students were placed higher than the exclusive rights that were being discussed, after his state of the nation’s address in Parliament.
He said, the payment of fees at the SHS level was becoming a huge burden on most parent and the abolishment would, therefore, serve as a breather for them to venture into other areas that could be beneficial to their families.
On the transfer of teachers nationwide, President Mahama said, government would continue to provide basic social amenities to encourage teachers to accept postings to any part of the country.
He said, the provision of the amenities would also help stem the lopsided distribution of teachers, where most of them were concentrated in the urban areas to the dereliction of rural communities.
Professor Akwasi Asabere Ameyaw, appealed to Government to step up the provision of infrastructure in the University to accommodate the over 50, 000 students throughout their campuses in the country.
He said, much as they were having the intentions of increasing enrolment in all their campuses; they would as well not compromise on quality.
Professor Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang, Minister of Education, gave the assurance that her outfit would continue to hold consultative workshops and surveys to find out areas that could create more jobs for students to be trained.
President John Mahama, denied stealing his 2012 arch political rival’s free SHS campaign promise, at a separate meeting during the Central regional tour.
He said that “nobody owns the copyright” to free SHS education.
According to him, the idea of free SHS has not been copyrighted at the Registrar General’s Department by any one individual.
Mr. Mahama said, his government was only seeking to comply with Article 25 of the 1992 Constitution, which talks about the Educational Rights, which provides that education be made progressively free.