It is an honour to be here this afternoon, and to be in the midst of brilliant boys and girls. The results of the 2016 Basic Education Certificate Examination have been described as the best so far by the Ghana Education Service. Out of 461,013 students who sat for the examination, you, present here, distinguished yourselves amongst the lot. Today, Mother Ghana celebrates you. You deserve all the commendation and recognition being accorded you today. Congratulations.
I am inspired and honoured, because I know I am looking into the eyes of Ghana’s future. You remind me of the fact that, as President, I must work harder to guarantee that knowledge becomes the backbone of our modern economy and prosperity.
My dear Award Winners, Ladies and Gentlemen, education should be a right which all of Ghana’s youth can exercise. Today’s youth running barefoot to school could be a future leader of business, industry, or government. Education is the equaliser of opportunity. I am in this position as President of the Republic because of education. My father was a young boy from Akropong, who lost both his father and his mother at a tender age. But through perseverance and borrowing money from a relative, he burnt the midnight oil to become a barrister and the historic figure that he was. Indeed, at the time I was born, my dad was still paying off monies borrowed from that benevolent relative!
Throughout the course of your education, thus far, you have learnt about our oil and gas deposits, our gold and minerals, our water bodies, our cocoa and agricultural potential. But let me state my basic belief that the most important asset of any nation is its people, particularly its youth. When one talks to small children, and I have spoken to many as I travelled across the length and breadth of country during my campaigns, one realises that they have wild imaginations full of astounding dreams. But over time, as the concerns of day-to-day living creep in, these dreams are put away somewhere, a fond memory they look back on as they focus instead on their everyday toil. But some of us manage to hang on to our dreams: they are our little secret, the inspiration that drives us to build a better world. All of you here, today, are in some way, dreamers. To be a stronger and more innovative nation, Ghana must do all it can to keep the dreamers dreaming.
We are now at the point where we need big dreams to complete the transformation of our country into a modern, 21st century nation that remains distinctly and uniquely Ghanaian. It is for this reason that investments in our educational system have become a key priority for my government. We have taken the bold decision to ensure that every Ghanaian child of school-going age is the beneficiary of at least Senior High School education. From the 2017/2018 academic year, the government of Ghana will fund the cost of public Senior High Schools for all those who qualify for entry. From now, Senior High School education will be part of basic education for every Ghanaian child. Ghana needs well-trained, well-qualified and skilled human resources to set us on the path of economic transformation.
Award Winners, you are here today also as a result of the role your teachers played. Many years ago, our society respected and honoured our teachers. To be introduced anywhere as a teacher came with enormous prestige. Nearly sixty years ago, being a teacher, even a pupil teacher, was a respectable and fulfilling job, and a teacher could build a two-bedroom house for himself and his family through his salary alone. Can you imagine such a scenario for today’s newly qualified teacher – or even teachers who are near retirement? Whatever the route by which our teachers come into teaching, we must recognise that putting our teachers first is the reverse side of the adage “Every Ghanaian Child Matters”. All modern successful societies that have had outstanding results in economic development, such as Singapore, Finland, Korea and Canada, have shown that teacher quality is the single most important determinant of their successes.
That is why the policy to improve educational outcomes, as spelt out in this year’s budget, will be teacher centered. Teaching will no longer be a stop-gap measure or a job of last resort, but a viable choice to enter a well-paid, well respected profession, with long term career prospects and good benefits. This policy will not only meet the professional and economic needs of existing teachers, but it will also look at the way new teachers are trained and treated.
Whatever policies and plans we are implementing, today, is geared towards “Mobilising for Ghana’s Future”. We are preparing you for the creation of a prosperous society – a society which creates opportunities for all its citizens, rewards creativity and enterprise, honesty and hard work, a society where there is discipline and fairness, where people go about their lives in a free and responsible manner, a society where there are safety nets for the vulnerable and decent retirement for the elderly, an open society protected by well-resourced and motivated security services.
The fundamental premise of this society of aspirations and opportunities, however, is that every child must be the author of his or her own destiny, free of the circumstances of his or her birth, because each and every child will have the opportunity to acquire the requisite skills and tools to survive and prosper in a free and open Ghanaian society. We are determined to lay the basis for the birth of a new Ghanaian polity, which will make its own unique contribution to the growth of African and World civilization. We have the resources, the men, the women, the values and the history to do it.
I challenge all of you to take advantage of the immense opportunities that will be afforded you in the years ahead. As you accept these awards, and head into the next level of higher education, I urge you to remain grounded and modest, as you strive for excellence. Let the Almighty be your guide at all times.
We are conducting this ceremony on the eve of the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the foundation of our nation. It is a good moment to remember the successive generations of Ghanaian patriots whose blood, toil and sweat made the achievement of our independence and freedom possible. We must cherish them, the founders of our nation, at all times.
On behalf of the government and people of Ghana, accept my warmest congratulations and I wish you the very best of luck in all your future endeavours, and let me thank Nestle for its 14 year continuing contribution to this ceremony.
God bless you all, God bless Ghana and make her great and strong.