Parties Differ On Free SHS Policy

Accessibility and funding of pre-tertiary education dominated proceedings at a town hall meeting on the December 7 elections.

While some of the panelists, made up of representatives of political parties, said it must be free and accessible to all pupils and students, others were of the view that the time had not yet come for that, taking into consideration limited infrastructure and funds.

The town hall meeting, which was organised and funded by the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), under the theme: “Presenting Key Issues for Election 2012” created a common platform for the political parties to defend their electioneering campaign messages.

The panelists were Mr Kwasi Aboagye, the Volta Regional Chairman of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Dr Martin Opoku Prempeh, New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Manhyia, Mrs Jemima Ehonam Lorin, Convention People’s Party (CPP) parliamentary candidate for North Dayi and the People’s Progressive Party parliamentary candidate for Hohoe North, Mr Rich Doh Agbenyega.

Present were a number of dignitaries such as the Volta Regional Minister, Mr Henry Ford Kamel, and the General Manager in charge of Technical Services of the GCGL, Mr K. A. Kersi, who represented the Managing Director, Mr Kenneth Ashigbey.

Mr Aboagye of the NDC who was the first to make his party's presentation, said pupils were at the moment enjoying free and compulsory basic education which must be extended to the senior high level gradually after improving school infrastructure and human resource (teachers) to take care of the students.

He said making SHS free now would therefore not be in the interest of the students and the country because of limited school buildings, teachers and funding.

Mr Aboagye stated that the NDC realised the need to make education up to the SHS level accessible to all students and that was why it had in its manifesto, plans to build more schools and 10 new colleges of education to train teachers to cater for the pupils and students.

With regard to the other areas of the economy, he said the NDC would maintain the present single digit inflation, improve health facilities and modernise agriculture by adding value to raw materials to make it possible for Ghana to generate additional income to attain $2,300 per capita income.

On his part, Mr Agbenyega of the PPP said his party, on assumption of power, would replace the BECE with an assessment by teachers to determine academically good pupils to continue to the SHS which he indicated would be free.

Those who would not be able to make it to the SHS level, he stated, would benefit from vocational and technical training.

On health, Mr Agbenyega said the PPP would come out with an elaborate programme to clean the environment to prevent diseases, adding that such an initiative had become necessary since the health insurance scheme had not been very helpful.

The PPP, he further stated, would provide market for foodstuffs and also process bamboo to produce a number of items.

When it came to her turn, Mrs Ehonam Lorin of the CPP promised that the party would provide free quality education from the kindergarten to the SHS level.

She explained that this would bridge the gap between people in the rural areas, most of whom could not access education, and those in the urban areas and cities.

The CPP, she also indicated, would fight corruption, reduce state borrowing and embark on a grandiose housing programme for the people.

The NPP representative, Dr Martin Opoku Prempeh, defended the party’s free SHS policy which he said would be implemented if the party won the December elections.

He said the NPP did a lot when it was in power to improve education, some of which were providing furniture for pupils who hitherto carried their own tables and chairs to and from school daily and the provision of additional classrooms.

Dr Opoku Prempeh who indicated that it was the NPP which started giving free meals to pupils in basic schools said an NPP-led government would also carry out a functional literacy programme for the people while tertiary education would be equally accessible to the people.

With regard to health, the NPP representative said the importation of fake drugs would also be prevented.

Earlier, the Sectional Head of GBC Volta Star Radio, Asafoatse Obeng Akyea, who was the moderator, said the country’s democratic dispensation, which started in 1996, had gained grounds for which reason all the political parties should play their part to sustain it.

He expressed his appreciation to the GCGL for organising the forum which, he said, would further enhance democracy.