As the world marks this year’s UN International Day of Education amid a major health challenge, the COVID-19, the Member of Parliament for Old Tafo Constituency of the Eastern region, Hon. Vincent Ekow Assafuah, has touted and lauded the FREE SHS policy by the Akufo-Addo government as one of the best tools so far in bridging the education and literacy gap in Ghana.
According to him, the Free SHS is single-handedly, the biggest and most revolutionary social policy by any government in Ghana’s 4th republican democracy.
The Old Tafo legislator was addressing the floor of Parliament on International Day of Education which is celebrated every 24th day of January.
It would be recalled that on 3 December 2018, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution (resolution 73/25) proclaiming 24 January as International Day of Education,
He mentioned that it is in recognition of this policy that President Akufo-Addo received an award from the African Leadership University (ALU) in Kigali, Rwanda for his extraordinary commitment to education by implementing free universal education in Ghana.
“This has been the least of the laurels and endorsement this President has received for his singular ambition and commitment to the implementation of the now very popular FREE SHS policy,” he said.
Hon. Ekow Vincent said the United Nations recognizes Education as a human right, a public good, and public responsibility.
Below is the FULL STATEMENT by the Old TAFO MP.
I thank you for this opportunity to deliver a statement in commemoration of the International Day of Education: a day set aside by the United Nations to celebrate the role of Education for Peace and Development. The day fell on Sunday 24th January 2021 and was celebrated around the world yesterday 25th January 2021. Mr. Speaker, I believe now is an opportune time to make a statement in honour of the day.
Permit me, Rt. Hon. Speaker, to refer to one of the often-quoted assertions by the distinguished South African Statesman and global icon, Nelson Mandela, on the essence of education. “Education, Madiba says, is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. So authoritative is this statement that it has struck many chords; reverberating in halls around the world and inscribed on the walls of some of the most eminent institutions of higher learning around the world.
Mr. Speaker, for us as Africans and Ghanaians, so to speak, those hallowed words are inscribed on our hearts. I believe many of us seated here, are testaments of this fact that education really changes everything. Indeed, the acquisition of knowledge, Mr. Speaker, uplifts the downtrodden, gives a “village boy” a sense of hope and make global icons of people who grew up in tattered penury and would have otherwise not meant much for this world. We know the story of a little boy born in 1938 at Kumasi in the Gold Coast rising to become the 7th General Secretary of the United Nations in 1997. Education gave him this opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, there are many all too familiar stories around the globe; and as the son of a teacher myself and as many are aware of my last job as the Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Education, I have seen first-hand, this value I speak about and its many potentials; stories of change brought about by an excellent pedagogy, a highly rewarded teacher, a resourceful library, decent classrooms, tireless students, and a favourable government policy.
I’m also reminded, Mr. Speaker of the many challenges that need to be addressed to enhance the experience of education for Ghanaian children. Indeed, many honourable members would bear me out that there are still parents who are grappling with the choice of whether their kids should work on farms or go to school, there are still teachers whose rewards are nothing to write home about and in some parts of our rural areas especially, education is carried out under the most bizarre conditions. Mr. Speaker it’s for good reasons that the United Nation recognizes Education as a human right, a public good and a public responsibility. I believe as legislators, government officials and leaders in many spheres, this is a charge worthy of our reflection.
But Mr. Speaker, the Ghanaian story is not all gloomy; on 6th September 2018, President Akufo-Addo received an award from the African Leadership University (ALU) in Kigali, Rwanda in recognition of his extraordinary commitment to education by implementing free universal education in Ghana. This has been the least of the laurels and endorsement this President has received for his singular ambition and commitment to the implementation of the now very popular FREE SHS policy.
Free SHS is single-handedly, the biggest and most revolutionary social policy by any government in our 4th republican democracy in my view and I’m happy, based on the experience of the last election, that today, we have a better consensus on this policy as compared to previous elections. Mr. Speaker, education is about possibilities and potentials: it’s the potential of redefining basic education from Kindergarten to include SHS, covering vocational, agricultural as well as technical schools and the possibility of granting access to millions of children. It’s about the commitment to revive the lots of teachers by converting Teacher Training Colleges into Degree awarding institutions and making sure allowances due teacher trainees are paid.
Mr. Speaker it has very much to do with the potential benefits of over 1,011 projects initiated to expand access in senior high schools and the effort to revamp the learning of critical subjects such as Maths and Science by constructing 20 Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) centres across the country as well as the first Creative Arts school at the Senior High School level.
Most important of all Mr. Speaker, it’s about the possibility of reforming the curricular to ensure that children educated here in Ghana can compete with children anywhere in the world and improving quality at the basic education level. Mr. Speaker, I’m proud to belong to a side that believes that it’s possible and I have no doubt that there are many great feats to be chalked in the coming future.
And so, I would like to use this occasion, Mr. Speaker, to celebrate His Excellency the President NANA ADDO DANQUAH AKUFO-ADDO for his sterling vision on education. Of course, I cannot forget the venerable Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Hon. Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, Professor Kwesi Yankah Hon. Gifty Twum-Ampofo and the immediate past Deputy Minister of Education in charge of TVET, Mrs. Barbara Asher Ayisi, for their remarkable leadership the last four years at the Ministry of Education; driving the NPP’s vision of ensuring that no child is left behind.
We also celebrate past Ministers of Education and Directors of the GES and indeed all educationists and people in our country committed to the education of the Ghanaian child. And Mr. Speaker, our honourable MPs cannot be left behind; many of them have taken up the tasks of paying lots and lots of school fees although we are aware that in recent times, that FREE SHS has somewhat reduced this burden significantly.
Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, the theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation’. As highlighted by the United Nations, “now is the time to power education by stepping up collaboration and international solidarity to place education and lifelong learning at the centre of the recovery”.
Our nation would continue to be thankful to the many stakeholders of education as we continue to navigate the raging waters of learning and the impact of knowledge, even in a pandemic. Like the President has often said: This too shall pass.
Mr. Speaker I thank you once again and this honourable house for the kind attention.
I thank you.