President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has assured Ghanaians that the government still remains committed to ensuring that the youth gain access not only to senior high school education but also to tertiary education, since it is the surest way of equipping the citizenry with the requisite skills for national development.
He said the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy which commenced in September 2017 would from next month have all students from SHS One to SHS Three benefiting.
President Akufo-Addo observed that about 1.2 million students would be in high schools across the country, thus making it the largest number of students enrolled in the country’s history.
The President, who was speaking at the fourth congregation of the University of Energy and Natural Resources in Sunyani in the Bono Region last Saturday, stated that it was inevitable that from 2020, when the first batch of the free SHS students would graduate, the universities and other tertiary educational institutions would be confronted with the challenge of higher numbers of students seeking admission.
To address that challenge, President Akufo-Addo, said the government was undertaking a comprehensive programme to expand infrastructure in the various tertiary institutions to accommodate the expected higher numbers.
“This intervention will provide increased opportunities for our young people to further their education, pursue their dreams and ultimately contribute their quota to the development of our country,” he said, adding that something must be done about the significant number of the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) projects that had come to a standstill, thereby putting enormous pressure on the limited facilities in the various universities.
He stated it had come to his attention that directives to the GETFund (dating back to the previous administration) to place some of the uncompleted projects on their priority lists, had not yielded much results.
President Akufo-Addo said the situation would change and assured Ghanaians that he preferred to let his deeds, and not his words, do the talking.
Recounting the reasons for the establishment of the university, he charged its authorities not to deviate too much from its core mandate of being a natural resource, science and engineering-based university set up specifically to train the critical manpower required for the growth and development of the energy and natural resource sectors of the country.
While applauding the decision by the authorities of the university to establish a medical school for the training of doctors to serve communities in the western corridor of the country, he asked the university not to rest on its oars to stimulate research in science and technology to become a research hub of energy and natural resources in Africa.
He stated that while the government worked to address the infrastructural challenges of the university, the five-kilometre road on the university campus had been awarded on contract at a cost of GH¢7.9 million.
President Akufo-Addo said the government would continue to initiate policies and programmes to enhance the capacities of graduates from the various tertiary institutions to enable them to contribute to the country’s socio-economic transformation.
He expressed the hope that the UENR would continue to produce graduates who were moulded to take up opportunities and possibilities for higher achievement through innovation and creativity in today’s science and technology-led, knowledge-driven global economy to help generate prosperity for the people.
President Akufo-Addo announced that the year-long impasse between the government and the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) had finally been resolved and expressed his appreciation to members of the association for their show of solidarity and commitment to the country’s development.
President Akufo-Addo hinted that the university would be renamed after the Prime Minister of the 2nd Republic, Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia.
He said the decision to rename the UENR was taken by the Governing Council of the university on August, 3, 2018, in accordance with the statutes of the university.
“The decision is an excellent one which will receive the blessing of the President of the Republic so that, once the parliamentary process has been completed, this university will, thereafter, be called the K.A. Busia University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani,” President Akufo-Addo said.
He added: “It is wholly fitting that this great man, who viewed freedom as a great ally of progress, should be properly honoured by a grateful posterity, and, especially, by citizens of his native Bono Region.”
According to President Akufo-Addo, Dr Busia believed that individual freedoms were not just about the space and ability to speak freely, associate and assemble freely, and to vote freely, seminal as they are, but also about their capacity to stimulate enterprise, creativity and innovation, and, thereby, provide the inspiration for rapid economic development.
“I am sure that you can appreciate what a special moment it will be for me to be the President who will have the privilege to assent to this decision. Long may we cherish his memory!,” he said.
In his address, the Vice Chancellor of UENR, Professor Harrison Kwame Dapaah, said as a young and growing university, it was faced with a lot of challenges that hindered its quest to deliver on its mandate and increase access to tertiary education.
He, therefore, called on the government to endow the university with a seed capital of GH¢50 million in addition to an annual cash allocation of GH¢10 million for the next 10 years to enable it to meet the high cost of running a multi-campus system and also implement a 10-Year Strategic Plan.
A total of 1,113 students, including 30 postgraduate students, graduated from the university’s seven schools.
The UENR, which began academic work in 2012 with 154 students, currently has a student population of 6,556 students, including postgraduate students, across the seven schools.
Students who excelled in the various schools were given special awards, with Mr Mac-Ocloo Kwese Maxwell Junior emerging as the Best Graduating Student.
He was given a cash award of GH¢3,000.