Since March this year, Ghana has had to grapple with the devastating effects and threats of COVID-19. The virus, which has swept many lives across the world and is shaking the foundations of economies, has received international attention with governments adopting and modifying strategies aimed at handling the global pandemic in a manner that would minimise its impact on their respective countries.
As expected, the government through the president and a handful of his appointees, have engaged the general public in their quest to keep our compatriots updated while providing guides in line with the World Health Organisation’s developed protocols.
Ghanaians have, particularly, waited on specified times to listen to the President, Nana Akufo-Addo for directives and statements meant to provide first hand information on government’s interventions.
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.
Yesterday, June 21st, 2020, the President made an announcement to the effect that government will absorb the cost of examination of final year Senior High School students who are expected back in school to complete their various courses.
Here is what he said: “For the first time in our nation’s history, Government will absorb the WASSCE examination fees of the 313,837 SHS 3 students who will sit for the exam”. To this end, he stated that some ¢75.4 million has been budgeted to cater for this line of expenditure.
As far back December 2019, on or about the 15th of that month, Ghanaweb sourced a story from 3News under the heading “Govt absorbs WASSCE fees for the first batch of free SHS students”. The very announcement on Sunday was contained in this publication of December 19, 2019.
It makes one wonder how this very issue stated some seven months ago, has resurfaced in a COVID-19 update of June 21, 2020, when Ghanaians are expecting specific measures aimed at fighting the virus.
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?
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.
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.
The writer is the MP for Builsa South and Deputy Ranking Member on the Education Committee of Parliament