Thank you, Mr Speaker.
It is exciting to see where we are today with all of us coming from different parts of the country. We have one common language and work together. Education is indeed, the key to our progress and success. On page 10 of his speech, the President was very kind in making reference to the fact that education -- and with your permission, I beg to quote:
“…it holds the key to a better understanding and accommodation with our environment; it equips us with the skills required to deal with the world; education holds the key to the prosperous and happy Ghana we all want and deserve.”
Mr Speaker, these are very wonderful statements which relate to education and we are certainly excited that we can have this opportunity in our country since colonial times.
Mr Speaker, the President again was very emphatic when we looked at the fact that all of us are together in this -- when he said there was consensus among us and the need to provide quality education to all Ghanaian children.
Mr Speaker, the President further said; and with your permission, I beg to quote;
“If I am in a hurry, I am in a hurry to ensure that every child born in this country attends school from Kindergarten to Senior High School; in other words, that is the basic education that each child is required to receive. We intend to
reform the basic school curricula with emphasis on literacy, numeracy and creative skills.”
Mr Speaker, these are very important keys in education and so, the President is on target.
Indeed, ten or fifteen years down the line, some of us would not be here but those who would take our place would have been equipped to do so as a result of education.
Mr Speaker, when we refer to article 25 of the Constitution, it says, and I beg to quote with your kind permission:
25. (1) “All persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities and with a view to achieving the full realisation of that right --
(a) basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all;
(b) secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational educa- tion, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education”;
Mr Speaker, the framers of the Constitution said that basic education is compulsory -- that is, before a person attains the age of maturity, the person should have basic education.
Mr Speaker, on the other hand, when we look at what the President said in his speech, he indicated that basic education would be from Kindergarten to Senior High School.
Mr Speaker, in the President's own words, he said, and with your permision, I beg to quote;
“…in other words, that is the basic education that each child is required to receive.
Mr Speaker, I am a bit confused about what the President said. This is because, the mandatory education is basic education which is primary and junior high -- 11 years of early childhood primary and junior high. But the President said from Kindergarten to Senior High School.
Mr Speaker, was it a new policy he applied to us or he amended the Constitution by the State of the Nation Address? When he says it this way, he opens a kind of want. This is because, we would look at transferring the responsibility of State from junior high school all the way to the senior high school with its diverse programmes in agriculture, technical, vocational and the regular grammar schools which a lot of people received.
Mr Speaker, something more than this should have been said. The President and all those who advise him have a burden of responsibility to give clarity to this, because I am at a loss and I am sure that many people are also at a loss. This is because we do not know what he wants to drive at by this statement.
We would like every child in this country to have second cycle education, but that must be a policy and we must amend the Constitution, so that everybody would be clear where we would go with this, and then put the responsibility on our dear country to provide that level of education.
Mr Speaker, when we look broadly at where we are today, and accept without admitting that the President said that we should have compulsory education up to the second cycle level, the challenge is, we have so much that needs to be done, even at the basic level.
Indeed, the State, drawing from either GETFund or Consolidated Fund -- the State has made enormous efforts to try and get every child in this country to go to school. We provide facilities, food, uniform, textbooks and sometimes shoes. All of these things are to ensure that children have the opportunity to go to school. But there are still some children who are lost in the margin.
Mr Speaker, in my constituency, Bia West in the Western Region, a cocoa growing area, there are certain places that children cannot walk to school. But the number of children in those villages are too small to have a school of their own. So, it would require that some other approach may be devised in order for these children to have the basic education which is mandatory and indeed, whatever sphere of life one would want to venture into, one should have that basic education.
However, while the parents of these children are in productive activities which contribute to national development, again, their children do not have the opportunity because, basic education is basically local therefore, the availability of boarding facilities, et cetera, are not available. One would believe that the State would begin to think about those children who are lost as a result of this and cannot access basic education.
Mr Speaker, we are all witnesses to the recent incident in Asikuma Odoben Brakwa in which some kindergarten children lost their lives in a school.