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Free SHS Bill: I support any bill that will improve education but stakeholder consultation is required – Mahama

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Former President John Dramani Mahama has said he favours any bill that intends to improve education in Ghana.

Commenting on the Free Senior High School Bill introduced by the Akufo-Addo government, Mr Mahama said at a media engagement in Accra on Sunday, July 7 that the Bill must be subjected to stakeholder engagement.

“I support any bill that will improve our education, one to make it sustainable, two to afford quality education for our children, and also any bill that will achieve this is something that  I will support.

“I haven’t seen the Bill and I don’t think that it has been subjected yet to stakeholder consultation but we would want to see the Bill and I am sure that when Cabinet has approved it it will be laid in parliament when it is valid in parliament as parliamentarian the normal action is to refer it to the committee responsible.

“I am hoping that when that Bill is referred to the committee responsible it will do the proper stakeholder consultation so that we all can be of on board. If you are making fundamental changes to our educational system I think that parents, teachers and everybody who has a stake in education must be involved.”

Stakeholders have been asking the government to engage the, on the Bill.

For instance, the President of the Coalition of Concerned Teachers, King Ali Awudu said that with such a major Bill, it is only apt that key stakeholders such as the teacher unions are consulted.

“We have a law on pre-tertiary  education, and you are bringing this? What difference is it going to do? The 1992 Constitution already talks about the fact that after 50 years of coming into force basic  education should be free. So, there are already constitutional provisions backing the free Senior High School policy, so if you want to bring in a free SHS bill, it is just good that you carry us along,” he told TV3’s Daniel Opoku.

For his part, the General Secretary of The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), Thomas Musah Tanko, asked the government to consider introducing a funding Act instead of free SHS bill.

According to GNAT, government should also consider addressing challenges relating to capitation grant and other issues affecting the  education sector.

“Whilst we are talking now, School Feeding {Programme} is a problem, how do we sustain the 1.4 million students we have in school, how do we sustain them, how do we sustain the basic school and the KG? We need an Act now and the Act now is funding for pre-tertiary  education in Ghana, this law can be put aside for now,” he suggested.

Suspend free SHS Bill – Pre-tertiary unions tell Education Minister

On the Bill, Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin declared that the caucus will not be intimidated by the Minority’s opposition to the Free Senior High School (SHS) bill.

Speaking on Onua FM’s Yen Nsempa program, on Wednesday 3rd of July, the Effutu MP emphasized that the Free SHS policy is non-negotiable, and the Majority will push the bill through at all costs.

He asserted that the policy will be forced on the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and its parliamentarians.

“The ranking member on the  education committee, Nortsue-Kotoe, said they will not support the bill, so it is fair to say that the NDC does not support the Free SHS bill,” Afenyo-Markin stated.

He criticized the NDC for opposing the bill prematurely, noting that they had not even reviewed it. He compared this opposition to their initial resistance to the Free SHS policy and other major social interventions.

“There is no fear of anything. We only want to enact the law to bind all of us to build a new national psyche that Free SHS is not negotiable. No matter how the NDC opposes it, we will force it on them,” he added.

If passed into law, the bill would ensure that the Free SHS policy remains binding on successive governments, preventing any future administration from discontinuing it. Despite initial resistance, the NDC and Minority have now declared their support for the bill.

They have also announced their intention to push for a dedicated funding source for the Free SHS policy in the forthcoming proposed legislation by the government.

However, the Ranking Member on Parliament’s  Education Committee and Member of Parliament for Akatsi North Constituency, Nortsue-Kotoe, has dismissed claims by the NPP government regarding its concern for the country’s  education.

He pointed out that the current government has not prioritized  education as it claims, highlighting significant debts owed to suppliers of key  educational logistics.

“As we speak now, the government owes monies to those who supplied school uniforms two to three years ago to senior high school students. They owe monies to people who supplied textbooks and furniture to senior high schools. So, what are they trying to say?” he questioned.

Nortsue-Kotoe also revealed that the government still owes money to suppliers of food items for two years.

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