By Ministry of Education
In January 2017 when the newly sworn-in President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, named his first set of ministers, there were surprise elements in the list but there was one particular person that many wondered why he was placed at a particular ministry.
Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh was that person who many, hitherto his ministerial appointment, wondered why an accomplished medical doctor many tipped right for the Ministry of Health was rather put in charge of Ministry of Education.
Today, the President of the Republic is being hailed in vindication, for making that important choice of Dr Prempeh as the man to handle and monumentally transform the country’s education sector in his first term; a job the medic did to perfection.
The Manhyia South Member of Parliament, popularly called ‘Napo’ has made history as he left a Golden Legacy at the education sector through hard work and commitment to duty especially so, in the prosecution of his government’s flagship project of Free Senior High School.
Starting his work on the right footage of gathering a team of reliable and experienced Directors as well as resolved workforce that he consistently dragged along, Napo ensured that the grounds were properly prepared for the smooth take-off of President Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s brainchild Free SHS programme.
In September 2017, the most talked-about Free SHS took off with Dr Prempeh in its driving-seat, to ensure its success; which means that he had to brace himself up to face anticipated challenges than could come with the programme which was first of its kind in the country.
In it, every Ghanaian child placed into a public second cycle institution by the Computerized School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) during the 2017 school placement season was eligible to enjoy Free SHS.
The government absorbed all fees as approved by the Ghana Education Service (GES) Council for 353, 053 students made up of 113, 622 Day students and 239, 431 Boarding Students.
The first batch of students under the programme, have thus graduated; and currently, a total Free SHS enrolment stands at 1,199,750 students with government spending over GH¢ 2.2 billion, since the launch of the programme.
Politics of Free SHS
The flagship programme of the government which was virtually accepted by all Ghanaians became a huge ‘political animal’ and that propelled Dr Prempeh and his team to devise strategies to deal effectively with teething problems that reared their ugly heads following the introduction of the Free SHS.
The bastardization of the programme from certain quarters would not deter Dr Prempeh, but rather buoyed him on as he dealt with various category of problems, one after the other.
The Double-Track System under which students went to school in batches was settled on, to make sure that no student was left behind and that made the whole programme more effective, although it was criticised in certain quarters.
Passionate about the success of the Free SHS, Dr Prempeh and the GES Council came out with well-thought-out plans, including the cancellation of Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) dues, as it was considered, the means of preventing certain students from enjoying the Free SHS.
The West African Examinations Council (WAEC)-organized West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) of the pioneer beneficiaries of the Free SHS released in 2020, revealed the students performed far better under the flagship programme of the government as compared to previous years’ results.
In English and Mathematics, for instance, the last three years saw a steady rise, each year, in the percentage of students obtaining A1-C6. In English, the figure rose from 46.8 per cent in 2018 to 49.1 per cent in 2019 and to 57.3 per cent in 2020, whilst Mathematics saw a rise from 38.2 per cent in 2018 t0 64.2 per cent in 2019 and to 65.7 per cent in 2020.
Significantly, 2020 was the only year in the last six years that more than 50% of candidates have scored between A1 and C6 in each of the four core subjects.
Dr Prempeh was deeply involved in motivating the teachers’ front and formed special relationship with heads of public SHSs to enable the education ministry appreciate problems that schools were going through.
No wonder countries, including Kenya had to travel to Ghana to learn how the Free SHS was moving on smoothly, under the sterling leadership of Dr Prempeh.