The attention of the New Patriotic Party has been drawn to a press conference organised by the Minister of Education, Lee Ocran, on Monday, 10th September, 2012, where he described the NPP’s policy of free senior high school education as not feasible. This only shows how far the NDC has lost touch with the concerns and aspirations of ordinary Ghanaians.
It is only a reckless and uncaring government that can, like the NDC, see the urgency in finding some GH¢858 million in three years to pay judgement debts and, yet, cannot imagine how to find money to invest in the future of our children, most of whom are being failed today by the existing education system.
It gets worse. The Minister of Education went as far as to state that, to the NDC, led by President John Dramani Mahama, free SHS can only be possible after the year 2032 -- that is 20 years from now.
He went on to claim that free SHS cannot be possible because Ghana’s first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, did not implement it. Does that mean that what Nkrumah could not do, no Ghanaian or Ghanaian generation can or must achieve? That may be the NDC way, but that, certainly, is not the NPP way. We believe we can do it and we will choose to do it.
The Education Minister either chose to lie or not to abreast himself with the facts of our policy when he said that the NPP says its free SHS would cost an ‘unrealistic’ GH¢78 million for its first academic year of implementation. We have never said that.
Governments work with annual budgets and so what we have said and what we are saying is that the direct additional cost of implementing free SHS (which consists of the following fees: admission, library, computer, science centre, examination, boarding, feeding, entertainment, textbooks and utilities) is estimated to be GH¢78 million for the 2013 budget year, which will only involves the first academic term, from September 2013 to December 2013, and not the full academic year.
Having said that, we estimate the total additional cost of implementing the free SHS in 2013 alone at GH¢754.6 million. Which means, we anticipate spending that amount towards the free SHS policy in our first year in office, God willing. This cost will include training and recruitment of teachers, expansion of existing infrastructure, all in preparation for the anticipated intake of all JHS students into SHS in the 2014-2015 academic year, when our other policy initiative of extending basic education to include secondary education kicks in.
It is our policy and conviction that no Ghanaian child should be denied the right to free and compulsory education to the secondary school level. It is feasible, Ghanaians want it, we want to do it and we shall do it.
The NDC puts the cost of free SHS at GH¢1.2 billion in the first year. We are not going to argue against that since we don’t how they came about that estimate. This is their calculation and they, perhaps, took into consideration the inflated costs of infrastructure under the Mills-Mahama administration, which has seen the cost of building a six-unit classroom block jumped from around GH¢80,000 in 2008 to GH¢260,000 and beyond by 2010. We are determined to give the Ghanaian people value for money in spending public funds.
If the NDC believes that the 200,000 or so Ghanaian children who cannot get into SHS every year is acceptable and that a majority of our children should continue to be denied secondary school education for the next two decades, then that is up to them.
We of the NPP, on the other hand, are saying that we will not wait for 20 years before all our children get free SHS. The future of our children matter and we are determined to transform the lives of the majority of them who might, otherwise, face a bleak future without the proper foundation that secondary education offers.
As our Presidential Candidate has stated the cost involved in the implementation of this free SHS policy will be high, however, the benefit in investing in our children, and giving them the skills needed to build a more prosperous nation for us all and a brighter future is both morally right and economically sound.
We have outlined the cost implications and we have a funding plan to back it and the good people of Ghana know it. No amount of propaganda from the President, his ministers and propagandists can take away from the importance and popularity of this policy. The NDC doubted our resolve to implement the NHIS, and yes we did it, and we will prove them wrong again.
The NPP will take constructive, intelligent action to ensure that the major obstacles to having every Ghanaian child educated to secondary level are addressed simultaneously. These will mean:
•Improving the quality of tuition at the primary and JHS level
•Providing access to schools and learning facilities for all eligible students
•Making the cost of secondary education free in all public schools for every child in both SHS and TVETs.
We wish to take this opportunity to, once again, mention the cost implications of providing free SHS education. The cost will include recurrent expenditure, expenditure on expanding exiting SHS and TVET institutions, expenditure for upgrading existing JHS to include SHS (among cluster schools), and expenditure for provision of free bus ride and free meals for day students.
In the 2013-2014 academic year, which begins in September 2013 and ends in August 2014, we do not expect any unusually high numbers in enrolment. Therefore, additional payment for the recurrent expenditure for the first term of the 2013/2014 academic year will amount to GH¢78 million.
The NPP will, nevertheless, spend an additional amount of GH¢676.8 million every year, from 2013 to 2016, to expand the infrastructure of existing Senior High Schools and TVET institutions, upgrade some 350 JHS to include SHS (cluster schools), recruit more teachers and procure buses to transport day students to and from school.
For the avoidance of doubt, let me repeat, the NPP will in 2013 spend a total amount of GH¢754.6 million (i.e. GH¢78m on recurrent expenditure plus GH¢676.8 on additional infrastructures and teachers) to provide free SHS. In 2014, that figure will be GH¢965 million as enrolment shoots up, going up further to GH¢1.19 billion in 2015, and GH¢1.45 billion in 2016.
The provision of free SHS is feasible and under an Akufo-Addo administration it will be done. The NDC says free SHS can be achieved in 20 years. The NPP says free SHS can be provided now. The choice is for the good people of Ghana to make.
We say: Change Now to Move Ghana Forward.
NPP Campaign Manager