President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has taken a swipe at the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) for being insensitive to the plight of less privileged in Ghana by scrapping polices meant to improve their lives.
According to the president, the party has over the years shown that it does not have in its plans a place for policies and initiatives aimed at bettering the lives of the majority of Ghanaians.
Making reference to the nursing and teacher trainee allowances which were insensitively scrapped by the erstwhile NDC government, President Akufo-Addo said the party has a track-record for scrapping pro-poor policies. The president, who was reacting to varying views expressed mainly by the opposition NDC with regard to the implementation of the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy introduced in September, 2017, gave the assurance that the policy has come to stay.
The NDC government scrapped the teacher trainee allowances in 2013 and this generated a tirade of displeasure among students in colleges of education across the country, as well as their parents/guardians. The NDC government, at the time, claimed the decision was borne out of the need for “equity and social justice” and that it opens more opportunities to young Ghanaians who want to change the profession. Former President John Dramani Mahama, who justified the then government’s decision to scrap the policy, also stated that he would rather lose the election than restore the allowances of teacher and nursing trainees, and indeed, embarrassingly lost the 2016 presidential poll in an unprecedented fashion. The policy was belatedly replaced with the student loan system, but some students were denied the opportunity to access the loan. The NDC government abolished the trainee nurses’ allowance, in 2015, arguing that it was to allow the various nursing training institutions admit more students.
The then Vice President Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, speaking at the Nalerigu Nursing and Midwifery College while on a campaign tour of the Northern Region, stated that any attempt to restore the allowances would have negative consequences on the quality of education provided to trainee nurses. Although some trainee nurses challenged the government and called on it to rescind its decision, it remained adamant, claiming the decision was in the best interest of the country, only to dole out cash to the student nurses a few weeks to the elections under the pretext of paying their allowances.
However, President Akufo-Addo, who was then the candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), rode on the back of a pledge to restore the allowances, and when he was voted into power, he truly restored the nursing and teacher trainee allowances in October this year.
Speaking at the 60th Anniversary celebration of Kumasi Academy, in the Ashanti Regional capital, Kumasi, the president rubbished the previous administration’s decision to scrap the policy, which was meant to alleviate the financial burden on the students and parents/guardians. “We know those who have a record for scrapping pro-poor policies – nursing and teacher trainees will bear testimony,” he teased the NDC. He reiterated, “My government believes that we have a sacred duty to our children, and the generations beyond in ensuring that irrespective of their circumstances, whether of birth, status, class, ethnic or religious affiliations, their right to an education is preserved.”
On the teething challenges confronting the Free SHS policy, President Akufo-Addo acknowledged that “there would be challenges with any new, bold initiative.” He told the gathering that he was inspired by the famous Chinese adage which says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,” explaining that “We have taken that first step in Ghana, and we shall deal with the challenges.”
In 2003, the NDC then in minority, could not fathom how the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) could be successfully implemented and demonstrated their disbelief by walking out of parliament when the NHIS Bill came to the house for passage. The NHIS bill was eventually passed into law without the input of the NDC and came into operation in 2004.
The party, after winning the 2008 polls, changed the modalities of the NHIS to a one-time premium payment module, which nearly collapsed the scheme, until it was resuscitated by the NPP government which took office this year.
Free SHS The implementation of the policy has already led to an increase of over 90,000 students who have entered senior high schools this academic year.
President Akufo-Addo said, “The Free SHS has lifted the financial burden of parents, and the heart-rending anxiety that accompanies the beginning of every school term.”
He also warned the prophets of doom who are predicting that the Free SHS policy is not sustainable.
“I wish to assure them that Free SHS will be sustained, that Free SHS is here to stay. The overwhelming majority of Ghanaians support the choice that I have made in implementing Free SHS,” he said with emphasis.
He reiterated the resolve of the government to confront the challenges associated with the programme one at a time to ensure its success.