Ken Ofori-Atta Hot Over Free SHS Comment

The soft spoken Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Ken Ofori-Atta has incurred the wrath of his party members for suggesting that, the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy must target the vulnerable ones who lack the financial capacity and allow those with the means to pay for their children continue to pay fees, Today can report.

Mr Ofori Atta’s comments came after the government last week through President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo revealed that, it was going to implement a dual tracking system at the SHS level due to the huge challenges in financing its flagship programme.

According to Mr. Ofori Atta, “there must be changes in the way the policy is being administered in the future”.

He, however, added that it was important to get everybody on the policy before considering other ways to improve it.

“The issue of free education, I don’t think it’s something that any of us can compromise on…It may be that there have to be changes in the way which we are administering it,” Mr Ofori-Atta said last Monday in an interview on Citi FM.

He added “I can’t take my child to Achimota or Ordogonnor 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 be able to get the data to then be discriminatory in how and who pays and who doesn’t pay”.

But it looks like, Mr Ofori-Atta who is feeling the heat as the minister of finance who is supposed to look for money to fund the policy did not consult the leadership of the ruling New Patriotic Party(NPP) government when he made those remarks.

Some members of the government’s economic team headed by Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawuma which Mr Ofori-Atta is a member, sources at the seat of government said, were not happy with the finance minister.

“His suggestion is a clear admission of a policy failure, and that is not good for the image of the government”, a member of the economic team who spoke to this reporter on condition of anonymity said.

“Ken is not a politician, he is a technocrat, and his behavior is like Terkper. If we continue to allow him to talk to the media on issues about how our programmes are funded, he will expose us”, a Presidential Staffer also averred.

“You (referring to this reporter) know our opponent’s wish is to see the collapse of this policy, so they will capitalise on anything to spew lies about the policy, and that is why some of us are worried about Mr Ofori Atta’s comment”, he added.

Our checks also at the Jubilee House showed that, President Akufo-Adoo although was also not equally happy with his cousin’s comment, has called for cool heads to prevail as” the party tries to do damage control of the statement”

Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum has distanced government from the comments made by the finance minister.

According to him, what Mr. Ofori-Atta said, was his own opinion and not that of the government.

Double Track System if implemented will be similar to the semester mode of learning applicable in the universities at the SHS level.

With this system, each track will be in school for specific days for each semester and go on vacation and come back for the second semester.

While the first track is in school, the second track will be on vacation and vice versa. The objectives of the Double-track School Calendar are to create room to accommodate increase in enrolment, reduce class sizes, increase contact hours and to increase the number of holidays.

The Double-track calendar is an intervention that allows schools to accommodate more students within the same facility and is often motivated by its potential to improve overcrowding as well as to save costs relative to new school construction in the short term. It is very popular in Australia, Costa Rica, Japan, some schools in the US and Kenya.

Based on last year’s enrollment, government has projected 2018 SHS enrollment as 472,730 students against available seats of 290, 737 leaving a gap of 181, 993 to be created in order to accommodate the expected number of enrollment.

The new system will therefore provide the available seats, reduce the number of teaching days from 180days to 162 days a year, increase teaching hours from 1,080 hours to 1,134 hours a year, increase vacation days for students and teachers from 84days a year to 112 days a year.