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06.10.2008 Education

FREE SECONDARY EDUCATION TO COST $22B ANNUALLY

By Ernest Best Anane, Kumasi - Ghanaian Chronicle

THE COMMUNICATIONS Director of the 2008 New Patriotic Party (NPP) Campaign Team, Dr. Arthur Kennedy, has told The Chronicle that countries like Malaysia and Singapore, which advanced from the third to first world economies, made education their prime focus to achieve their target.

According to him, this is what the next NPP government, under the leadership of the party's flagbearer, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, seeks to do, in order to achieve the modernisation of the Ghanaian society.

In an interview with the paper, Dr. Kennedy said the party was committed to its pledge of making the Senior High School (SHS) education free, because it had worked out and estimated the cost, which would be between US$20 to US$22 billion.

He disclosed that they had estimated conservatively, that the extra cost of making secondary level education free would be about US$75 million every year, rising to US$100 million before stabilising.

“We think that we have the money to pay for it. We think that it would be a worthwhile investment, because the only way we can modernise, is to have a nation where our young men and women are ready for the jobs of tomorrow,” he asserted.

According to the 2008 NPP Communications Director, funding for such exercise would come from a number of sources, including revenues from the growth of the economy, floating of Diaspora bonds and Ghana's oil find.

“We are estimating conservatively, that our pledges will cost US$20 to US$22 billion. We have taken the economy from a growth rate of 3% to 7% a year. When the economy grows, there is increased revenue coming into the threshold. We believe we can take it from 7% to 10%, and that will automatically bring additional revenue,” he explained.

Dr. Kennedy said the NPP would go and borrow from the private market, without the approval of the IMF and the World Bank, as a second source to fund the free secondary level education.

He continued that the NPP government recently borrowed US$750 million, which, he indicated, was over-subscribed to the tune of US$3.2 billion. Obviously, this shows that we can go to the world market and borrow,” he pointed out.

The Communications Director also stated that the party intended to float Diaspora bonds, for Ghanaians resident abroad to buy to help contribute to the development of the country, pointing out that Ghanaians in Diaspora brought home between US$4 to US$6 billion.

Touching on the oil find, Dr. Arthur Kennedy told this reporter that US$15 billion was expected to come from the oil, as revenue in the first five to six years. “From all these sources, we are very comfortable that we can pay all the promises,” he stressed.

He explained that what the NPP and its presidential nominee meant by free education at the secondary school level, was for government to take care of the basic cost of tuition and textbooks, excluding boarding fees, PTA dues, and other supplementary costs of secondary education.

To him, the construction and rehabilitation of 5,000 school buildings across the country would be financed through the same sources, because it would be “US$70 billion of income against US$22 billion worth of expenditure.”

Using analogical and philosophical concepts to explain himself, Dr. Kennedy said, “When you invest US$1 it triggers about US$2 to US$3 in private investments. We probably think we will not have to spend the US$22 billion, even though it will be spent; a lot of the money will come from sources.”

On the promise of ensuring that every region in Ghana had one public university, the NPP guru said the party's flagbearer believed a budget of US$15 million could build a decent university, and therefore, the NPP was budgeting between US$20 to US$25 million for each of the four universities, the party intends to build.

“We think that we can provide four first class universities. It is realistic to be achieved within four years. One in each year,” he submitted.

Dr. Kennedy continued that he was convinced his party, which is about to complete its second term in office, would finish all its outstanding promises, which he intimated were very few.

“We promised to improve the economy, and now we have quadrupled the size with lower inflation, lower interest rate and lower poverty rate. We have also banished the “cash and carry” and replaced it with health insurance.”

He believed that the remaining unfulfilled ones were so insignificant, such that they could not be used to form a full agenda for the next NPP government, hence, the 2008 manifesto.

Meanwhile, the immediate past Dean of the School of Engineering at the Kumasi Polytechnic, Dr. Owusu-Achiaw, has lauded the education segment of the NPP manifesto, because “it is a good idea, which is probably attainable.”

He told the paper in an interview, that although he was yet to read the NPP manifesto in detail, he was convinced on reading the highlights, on the face value, that the education polices were achievable, if it had a supporting budget.

According to him, Uganda was doing same, and therefore, Ghanaians should support the idea, “except that the NPP, which is making the promise, must be made to assure us that it is something the party will really do, when given the opportunity again.”

The K-Poly Lecturer said it would be useful for any government to provide free education at the secondary level, because the current regime had sought to deprive the poor of the opportunity to move up on the academic ladder.

Dr. Owusu-Achiaw was convinced a lot of talents had been left out, due to the high cost of secondary education, for which some parents could not afford. “The current regime where parents had to pay school fees, has left out many talents and probably, providing free education at secondary level will avail to the nation those lost talents, because their parents could not afford,” he affirmed.

On the establishment of four universities, as promised by Nana Akufo-Addo, the scholar said it was possible for any government to do, and substantiated his point that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government used its last four-year term in office to establish seven additional polytechnics.

“Why can't they establish four universities within the four years, if NDC government established seven polytechnics in four years?” he quizzed, and continued that it was erroneous and unnecessary for people to focus on the vast infrastructure and huge population of students, to consider establishing a university.

According to him, a university can start with one department, and grow from there, indicating that this feat was achievable by any government committed to education.

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