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General News of Monday, 3 March 2014

Source: myjoyonline.com

New SHS: Mahama’s minimum target is 100 for 2014

President Mahama may soon cut the sod for the construction of another set of 50 day senior high schools bringing the number to 100 for this year, says Deputy Education Minister, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa.

President Mahama, Monday, cut a sod to start the construction of 50 schools, which has been delayed for a year, as per the 2012 manifesto of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), which promised to complete 200 schools before ending his first term in 2016.

In order to meet his timeline of putting up 50 schools each year, Mr. Ablakwa told Joy FM’s Top Story on Monday that the government would not wait till August 2015 deadline for completing the first 50 schools projects before starting new ones.

“Fifty is out of the way, nothing stops us from even, in two weeks or in a month’s time, commissioning work on another 50 or another 100.

“There are a couple of funding options we are looking at. The President hinted today that we have been in talks with the World Bank, who have pledged some support. As soon as we draw down on that funding, we can start another 50 or another 100...

“We will be working very assiduously, and we are hopeful that as the President has said on January 7, his minimum target is that by the close of this year we should have started with 100 senior high school projects,” the deputy education minister intimated.

The project is expected to pave way for the progressive introduction of free senior high education, expected to start in the 2015/16 academic year.

Wading into the controversy of funding the free SHS, Mr. Ablakwa defended his earlier position that government would source for funds from the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund).

“Certainly, that was the truth,” he insisted, and rejected reports that the sector minister herself does not know how the free SHS policy would be financed. The minister is "contesting" this, the deputy education minister placed on record.

The policy is estimated to cost the nation GHc71 million every year, according to President Mahama in his 2014 state of the nation address.

The Deputy Minister remarked that the Minister of Education, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang has submitted documents with details on funding, cost and analysis among others to cabinet for consideration.

Mr. Okudzeto Ablakwa has therefore described the debate on the funding of the school projects as petty.

But Kofi Bentil, Vice President of Imani Ghana, cautioned the Deputy Minister to stay off in describing matters of education as petty.

In his view, everybody is passionate about education in the country and everything must be done to get it right.

Though he considers free SHS as good, he doubted if that is what the country needs for now in the midst of challenging quality education.

Quality education is a major problem in Ghana, he said, warning that if care is not taken, the country would be “churning out illiterate graduates”.

“It seems we have not properly thought through [the free SHS policy],”he observed.

But Mr. Ablakwa said government is not relenting on its efforts at improving quality education, mentioning the fight against teacher absenteeism as well as sanctioning teachers, who are seen not to be teaching.

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