The Minister for Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, has announced that at least 30 per cent of placement in the elite Senior High Schools (SHSs) will be reserved solely for students from the public Junior High Schools (JHSs) and deprived communities under the government’s free SHS policy.
He explained that the decision was to ensure that children from those schools and communities were also given the opportunity to benefit from quality education and the use of good facilities to realise their potentials.
Addressing regional and district directors of education, heads of schools, bursars, accountants, matrons, storekeepers and IPPD officers from across the country at a stakeholders’ forum in Kumasi on Tuesday, Dr. Opoku Prempeh described the decision as “social reengineering.”
The forum discussed ways of improving education in the country. It also allowed for questions, suggestions and recommendations to move the sector forward.
The new policy is different from the one where SHSs are enjoined to offer opportunities to pupils living in their catchment areas.
The minister said most of the students admitted to the 80 elite schools, out of more than 600 SHSs, were from private schools and well to do homes.
He added that majority of the people who were also able to give their children a head start through private basic schools, were also from the middle class or were among the elite class in the country, a situation, he said, was also good.
However, the minister was of the view that such privileged students had been denying brilliant, poor pupils from public schools and deprived communities the opportunity to also benefit from the teaching and learning that took place in these facilities.
Touching on the free SHS policy which would be implemented from September 2017, Dr. Opoku Prempeh said an implementation committee would soon commence work for the execution of the policy, adding that the flagship education policy was just therealisation of the vision of the founding fathers of the country.
He said education held the magic wand to reduce social ills, break the cycle of poverty, help attain the industrialization of the country, as well as most of the goals the country had set for itself.
It was for that reason that, he said, the government was ready to commit resources and supervise to ensure that least, the Ghanaians child, irrespective of the social standing of their parents, benefited from, at least, free education.
He explained that the implementation of the free SHS was just extending what some Ghanaians living in the north had been enjoying since independence.
Dr. Opoku Prempeh discounted claims that the free SHS would lead to the lowering of standards and contended that the free education in the three northern regions did not justify that claim, as it had led to the creation of presidents, scintists, Members of Parliament, medical doctors, academicians and excellent civil and public servants and international icons.
Dr. Matthtew Opoku Prempeh announced that the government will soon return the management and supervision of mission schools to religious bodies.
The move, according to the minister, would be in fulfilment of the 2016 manifesto pledge of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the run up to the December 7, 2016 general elections.
He stated that just as the government paid the salaries of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals of some mission hospitals in the country under the Christian Heath Association of Ghana (CHAG), the state would continue to pay the salaries of teachers in mission schools after the appropriate contract had been signed between the government and the religious organisations.
Dr. Opoku Prempeh was interacting with journalists after addressing a stakeholders’ forum on education in Kumasi.
The forum, attended by regional, metropolitan, municipal and district directors of education, heads of basic and senior high schools, domestic bursars, accountants, storekeepers and IPPD officers among others, was aimed at discussing how best the best the country could improve on the quality of education.
The event was also intended to brief the stakeholders on the implementation of the free senior high school policy.
Expatiating on the government’s intention to give the mission schools back to the religious bodies, Dr. Opoku Prempeh said the government was not running away from the fact that it had to allow the private sector to participate in the public space in the education sector.
He said just as the government paid for Ghanaians to seek medical attention at private health facilities through the National Health Insurance Scheme, a similar arrangement could be made in the case of education.
Sanitation in schools
Reacting to the menace of bedbugs in senior high schools in recent times, the minister urged the affected schools to ensure environmental sanitation by engaging students rather than giving cleaning job to private cleaners . He added that he learnt how to wash his clothes, clean the toilets, scrub gutters and clean bathrooms at the Prempeh College, where he had his secondary education.