Free SHS has come to stay, nobody can roll it back –John Mahama

The former President, John Dramani Mahama, the flagbearer of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has said that he introduced the free Senior High School policy in Ghana.According to him, his administration, pursuant to the 1992 constitution, introduced progressive free education and that is his evidence that he launched the free SHS.

The former president said this on Sunday, July 7, 2024 when he had an encounter with the media to brief them about his comeback.

Mr. Mahama opined that it could not be the case that he is against the free SHS after beginning same when he was president.

He said, “My position on free SHS is known. In 2015, I launched progressive-free SHS; that’s what the constitution says. The only difference between us and the NPP is the approach. We thought that we should put the infrastructure in place and we should do the necessary preparations to absorb the free SHS.

“And so, we started with day students. We made it free for day students and in the second year we absorbed 120,000 students into the free SHS. Nana himself lauded me. UNESCO congratulated us for launching the free SHS. How can a person who launched free SHS be against free SHS?

“And so, it is a political gimmick that is played by our opponents. Free SHS has come to stay and nobody can roll it back. All we are saying is, let’s improve the implementation. Let’s take away the bottlenecks. I am committed to free SHS. I am the one who launched free SHS in this country and free SHS has come to stay,” he said.


The government of Kwame Nkrumah introduced a ‘national’ secondary schools project, in which quotas for different regions were given for each school, aimed to particularly increase access to secondary education in remote and poor communities in Northern Ghana.


The free SHS was introduced into political campaigns in 2008 by then-opposition leader Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. In its 2008 manifesto, on page 69, the NPP said they planned to extend guaranteed access for all children of school-going age to free quality education at the basic school level to cover second cycle education.

Though he lost that election to the late Prof. John Evans Atta-Mills, Nana Akufo-Addo brought the promise again in 2012, this time against John Dramani Mahama, who had taken over from his boss five months before the polls.

In 2012, the NDC said in its manifesto that it would rapidly expand access to quality education at both the basic and secondary levels of education.


Mahama and the NDC, in the heat of the 2012 election campaign, described the free SHS policy as a scam and unrealistic and sponsored advertisements against the policy that was being trumpeted by the NPP and Nana Akufo-Addo.

However, delivering a message on the state of the nation to Parliament in 2014, President John Mahama announced that his government had planned to implement a free secondary education system.

For the 2015/2016 academic year, the government budgeted for the first term to absorb the examination, entertainment, library, SRC, sports, culture, science development, science and mathematics quiz, ICT and co-curricular fees for 320,488-day students in public SHSs, according to the 2016 budget statement.


In September 2017, nine months after defeating John Mahama at the polls, President Akufo-Addo launched a free SHS programme, ostensibly to cover every cost.

According to the Akufo-Addo government, by free SHS, they meant free tuition, admission fee, textbooks, library fee, science centre fee, ICT fee, examination fee, utility, boarding and meals.

The implementation commenced with the 2017/2018 academic year and by the end of the 2020/2021 academic year, the entire streams of the SHS, from forms one to four, were all benefiting from the programme.

The government absorbed all the fees approved by the Ghana Education Service Council for 353,053 first-year students, made up of 113,622 day students and 239,431 boarding students.

In 2021, four years after the roll-out, the first cohorts graduated and President Akufo-Addo, in congratulating them, referred to them as “the Akufo-Addo graduates.”

The policy, according to data, has increased SHS enrolment, with current figures standing at over one million students since the launch of the programme.

Meanwhile, several media reports indicate that the Akufo-Addo government, with about five months to leave office, is moving to pass a legislation on the free SHS policy.

Though it has yet to be made public and subjected to parliamentary process, the NDC flag bearer stated at his media engagement that he will support such a bill.


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