President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has been honoured by the University of Cape Coast (UCC) for his unprecedented contribution to the development of education in the country, with particular reference to the implementation of the free senior high school policy.
The award, a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership (Honoris Causa), is the first to be given to a President by a Ghanaian university.
It is the third for the President — the first was an honorary Doctor of Laws degree conferred on him in May 2016 by the Fort Hare University of South Africa, while the second was conferred on him by the University of Liberia in December 2017.
The award was conferred on the President at a Special Congregation of the UCC, attended by dignitaries, including the Omanhen of the Oguaa Traditional Area, Osabarimba Kwesi Atta II; the Omanhene of Owirenkyiman, Ahunabobrim Pra Agyensaim; vice-chancellors of some public universities, some members of government and leading members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Attired in a light grey suit, President Akufo-Addo looked obviously elated when he stepped forward to be adorned with the academic gown.
He later took a few dance steps as his favourite choral song, ‘Oye’, was played.
A citation in his honour read: "You championed your vision to make the free SHS policy a reality. Though you conceived it as a campaign message, you did not forget your promise to the people but provided the impetus and resources to initiate and implement the policy within your first year in office as President.
“You were guided by the sustainable development goal (SDG) 4, which hinges on accessible, equal and quality education for all.”
"You have proved to be a firm believer of the notion that Africa must systematically invest in its youth for development. With the free SHS, you have positioned the youth to grow as an educated population for the future and for the good of the country," it added.
In his acceptance address, President Akufo-Addo thanked the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor and members of the Governing Council of the UCC for the award and pledged to uphold the highest standard associated with the honour.
He said with the award, he had now joined the many alumni of the university who were contributing immensely to national development.
The President said the free SHS policy, which had earned him the honorary doctorate degree, had expanded access to secondary education and enabled thousands of young people to access secondary education.
He said before the implementation of the free SHS policy, about 100,000 students could not access secondary education annually because of poverty, but said such students could now attend school.
He said 411 of the 465 students in English-speaking West Africa who obtained 8As in the recent West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) were beneficiaries of free SHS in Ghana, adding: "Not only has access been widened; quality has also been maintained; indeed, even enhanced."
He said the government had also expanded access to tertiary education through the removal of guarantor requirement to make it easier for students to access loans.
President Akufo-Addo said if Ghana was to make rapid social and economic transformation, educational policies must be geared towards human capital development.
He paid tribute to Cape Coast and its role in the development of education and the indelible role of some illustrious indigenes of the Central Region whose immense bravery and foresight and contribution towards the struggle for independence had made the country what it is today.
The Vice-Chancellor of the UCC, Professor Johnson Nyarko-Boampong, said the free SHS policy was a courageous decision by the President, considering the huge financial burden and the many uncertainties that surrounded its implementation.
He appealed to the President to build a hall of residence on the UCC campus to help ease the accommodation challenges facing the university, saying 75 per cent of its students were being accommodated in deplorable conditions.
For his part, the Chancellor of the UCC, Sir Sam Jonah, said honorary degrees of the university were conferred on distinguished people who had contributed immeasurably to the development of humanity.
He said the implementation of the free SHS policy had taken some financial burden off parents and expanded access to secondary education, describing it as the most momentous decision on education ever to be taken by any President.
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