Ghanaians of all ages and from all political divides on Tuesday flooded the West Africa Senior High School at Adenta near Accra to witness the official launch of the much-awaited Free Senior High School Policy.
Some adults, beautifully dressed to suit the occasion and beaming with smiles, took their seats under well-arranged pavilions decorated in the national colours of red, yellow and green.
Primary school pupils and students from junior and senior high schools thronged the grounds in their uniforms, while some put on white T-shirts with the inscription: “Free SHS is Here, Access, Equity and Quality” with green skirts to match.
Some neatly dressed students paraded the grounds with placards with the inscriptions: “Free SHS: Success is not an accident,” “Education is passport to success,” and ‘‘Free SHS is a reality,” among other interesting ones, which attracted the crowd’s attention.
Interestingly some adults added humour to the ceremony by wearing the public school uniform (cream and brown pinafore) carrying wooden boxes, pillows and mats, thus indicating their readiness to go to school.
Songs, interspersed with lyrics of the benefits of the Free SHS Policy was blaring in the background amidst shouts of; “Free SHS, N’ky3waba… N’ky3waba,” meaning free SHS is finally here.
There were poetry recitals by some students who hammered home the benefits of the Policy, while a drama troupe performed a sketch to educate the public.
The gathering welcomed Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, the Vice President, with spontaneous shouts when he arrived at the venue around 0937 hours with his entourage.
The crowd stood up in reverence as the Second Gentleman of the land moved courteously around the pavilions to exchange pleasantries with the gathering.
He was beaming with smiles and waved to the crowd, an indication of his delight for the Government’s efforts at rolling out its flagship campaign promise.
The First Gentleman of the Land, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, arrived at the venue around 0954 hours with his entourage wearing a white shirt with red, yellow and green strips at the wrist and neck.
With gentle and majestic steps, the President went round the pavilions to exchange pleasantries with the public amidst shouts of “Free SHS, n’ky3waba…n’ky3waba’’.
The ruling New Patriotic Party’s colours of red, blue and white were visible with supporters and sympathisers expressing happiness with the implementation of the Policy.
The security agencies were not left out as the Police and Military were strategically positioned within and around the precincts to maintain law and order.
The ceremony was well attended with all the relevant stakeholders in the education sector including, parents, students, teachers, traditional rulers, members of Parliament, the diplomatic corps, and ministers of state.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, at Okuapeman SHS earlier this year, spelt out fees that would be absorbed by the Government under the Free SHS Policy.
The President said apart from the tuition fees, which is already free, other fees would be scrapped including admission fees, library fees, science centre fees and computer laboratory fees.
The Government is also giving free textbooks, free boarding fees and meals, and absorbing the examination fees, utility levies. The day students will get a free hot meal a day.
The policy would also cover agricultural, vocational and technical institutions at the high school level, while government continues with the construction of new public senior high schools.
The Free SHS Policy is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs- 4) Target One, which stipulates that; ‘‘By 2030, all boys and girls complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education, leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes’’.
It also stated that by 2030, all girls and boys will have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education, so that they are ready for primary education.
The Government has projected to spend GHC480 million in the 2017/2018 academic year on more than 400,000 Basic Education Certificate Examination candidates, who gained admissions to second cycle institutions of their choice, which would be funded through the Annual Budget Funding.