Free SHS: Ignore Ofori-Atta's "Dead Opinion"; "He Has No Locus" – Says Mustapha Hamid

Information Minister Dr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid has asked the public to ignore Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta’s opinion that the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy be reviewed to target the poor while the rich are made to pay for their children’s second-cycle education.

According to him, the vision of President Nana Akufo-Addo is a free-for-all SHS programme and that is what government will pursue.

The Minister told journalists at the Regional Coordinating Council in Tamale on Tuesday, 31 July 2018 that government will not reverse the policy.

“… The person whose vision we are driving is the vision of the President of the Republic of Ghana and the President of the Republic of Ghana’s vision is that every child who goes to secondary should go to the secondary for free.

“The Finance Minister’s opinion does not stand in the face of the President’s vision. It’s not going to happen. The Finance Minister does not have a locus. His opinion is dead”, Dr Abdul-Hamid said.

According to him, “It is not even in his [Mr Ofori-Atta’s] bosom to bring an educational matter to Cabinet. It is only the Education Minister who can, so he can only go and lobby the Education Minister to come to Parliament and there is no Cabinet decision that must go contrary to the NPP manifesto, finished.”

Mr Ofori-Atta had suggested that the Free SHS policy must be implemented discriminatorily so that those who have the means are made to pay for their children’s second-cycle education.

Implementation of the policy started in September 2017 with about 90,000 students. It covers the full fees of students who attend public senior high schools.

Speaking to Bernard Avle in an interview on Citi TV, Mr Ofori-Atta said: “I don’t think it [Free SHS] is something any of us can compromise on”, adding that: “It may be that there have to be changes in the way in which we are administering it”.

“I can’t take my child to Achimota or Odorgonno and then leave him or her and drive away and Ken Ofori-Atta not pay anything while I can pay for 10 people. … You need to get the data to then be discriminatory in how and who pays and who doesn’t pay”, he said.

Speaking about the next academic year, he said: “You actually going to have, maybe, 180,000 more people but it’s so important, you’d rather make that mistake – if it is a mistake – to get everybody in the system for the nation to then begin to have a conversation and say: ‘OK, this is good for us because we want that human capital and to a certain level, but maybe let’s begin to adjust it this way’”

But Mr Hamid maintained that: “If we go into another election and we want to revise the manifesto that’s another matter but now the 2016 manifesto says that we are implementing Free SHS for rich children and for poor children and that is what it shall be.”