President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s tour of Ghana’s north has kicked off in the Upper East region with scores of placard-waving boarding students hailing him along the Bolgatanga-Tamale Highway for fulfilling his free education campaign promise but also asking him to tackle congestion on campus.
The President, whose tour motivated some contractors to rush back to sites (immediately after they heard he was heading for the north) to resume projects they had put on ice after his last working visit, is expected to spend two days in the region inspecting some projects.
He is also scheduled to cut the sod for new ones to be executed, to hold durbars in traditional areas and to have a meeting with his local government appointees.
“For the free education, we are very grateful because the government is now paying our school fees for us. We are also getting better meals. We are very grateful. But we need more things. Our classrooms are not enough for us. Others have to sit under uncompleted buildings. If it’s raining, they can’t study.
“And our dormitories are also very crowded. You can imagine during the hot season, we are always struggling. Others have to come out and sleep. Thieves are moving around. We don’t have privacy. As for the boys, especially the second-year students— all of them are sleeping outside so that the first-year students can sleep inside,” said the Girls’ Prefect of the Bolgatanga Senior School (Big Boss), Mabel Ayidana, who joined schoolmates to line the highway at the Winkogo Junction near the premier school.
Adding his voice, another student from same school, Maxwell Abuakiba, grieved: “Free education has come to save us but still we don’t have classrooms. Some of us sit under trees. We don’t have a toilet; we go for free range (open defecation). We don’t have a school bus. Whenever we are going for programmes, we have to go and hire a bus.”
Many classroom block and dormitory projects in the region have remained uncompleted for more than half a decade as some contractors, who claim both the erstwhile Mahama Administration and the current Akufo-Addo Government owe them, are not progressing any faster on the job than an astronaut taking a maiden leisure walk on the moon.
“We are going to employ 8,000 more teachers”— Akufo-Addo
President Akufo-Addo arrived in the region around noon Thursday, shaking hands with enraptured students and waving back at admiring bystanders as his convoy passed along the road through the regional capital, Bolgatanga, to the Bongo District.
“At the time we were making those commitments, our opponents said that I was lying to the people of Ghana, that the things I said I wanted to do I couldn’t do it, that I was only saying them to get votes. Well, one and a half years later, free secondary high school education in Ghana is today a reality for the people of Ghana,” the President told a durbar of traditional authorities and people of Bongo amid sporadic cheers from the crowd.
Continuing, he said: “Last year, 90,000 more students entered secondary school than the year before. This year, the number is doubling. It will be 180,000 more students coming to the secondary school system. So, we are fulfilling our promise. And we are making it clear, the senior high school education is free and here to stay in Ghana forever and ever. We are going to make sure the students are catered for [by employing] 8,000 more teachers to give them a decent education.”