The Member of Parliament (MP) for Builsa South and Deputy Ranking Member of the Education Committee of Parliament, Dr Clement Apaak has described the announcement by the government to absorb the cost of examination fees of current final-year students in senior high schools as a means “to score political points.”
In Dr Apaak’s view, this action by the president “depletes the interest Ghanaians carry to sit by their television sets each time to listen” to him.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in an address to the nation on Sunday, 21 June 2020 to update the populace on the nation’s COVID-19 situation, revealed that the government will absorb examination fees of all SHS final-year students.
The President said: “For the first time in our nation’s history, the government will absorb the WASSCE examination fees of the 313,837 students who will sit for the exams. GHS75.4 million will be spent on this. These SHS 3 students, also referred to by some as ‘Akufo-Addo graduates’, are also the first group of beneficiaries of the government’s free SHS beneficiaries to sit for the examination”.
But Dr Apaak believes the President is abusing the platform to score political points instead of addressing COVID-19-related issues.
He said in a statement on Monday, 22 June 2020 that Ghanaians “have particularly, waited on specified times to listen” to President Akufo-Addo for “directives and statements meant to provide firsthand information on the government’s interventions…but gradually, this important platform, has given way to partisan politics, losing focus on the purpose for which the platform came into existence”.
“We can all understand that there is election ahead of the President, but, the fight against COVID-19 must remain paramount as it has a clear potential to affect and shift the gears of our population.”
Dr Apaak wondered why the issue of government absorbing WASSCE fees was smuggled into the president’s address when that issue had been dealt with as far back as 19 December 2019.
He said: “The fight is clearly giving way to campaign messages, which is very unfortunate for our country at this crucial moment. Ghanaians woke up on Saturday to a spike in the number of recoveries in COVID-19 from a little above four thousand on Friday, to over ten thousand by evening of Saturday”.
“The specific cause of this spike, which many have described as a miracle, has not been fully accounted for, nor explained. These are the issues that are of great and significant importance on the platform the president mounts to update citizens on measures taken so far”.
“Smuggling in issues dealt with many months ago to score political points, rather depletes the interest Ghanaians carry to sit by their television sets each time to listen to the President”.
“What did our President think the Ghanaian parent who was told is being offered free education expect of him? Was he in any way expecting that they were waiting on him to announce the cost of examination at WASSCE? Was the cost of WASSCE examination excluded from free SHS from day one?” he asked.
“It must be stated clearly that the cost of examination is part of the cost of education. And, having rolled out the free SHS programme, it was expected, a given, automatic, inter alia, that the specific cost of examination is embedded in that and was expected to have been budgeted for as a component of free SHS.”
He also reiterated that: “It is for the above reason that yet another announcement seeking to suggest otherwise, is insincere. Indeed, the free SHS budget, which funds everything to do with the programme, including fees and examination cost, (separate from the budget of the Ministry of Education), was approved by parliament Mr. President. And this had nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.”