One million, two hundred children will be enrolled in Ghana's Senior High Schools across the country under the Free Senior High School policy, come September 2019, making it the largest number of students ever enrolled in the country's educational history.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo made this known, Saturday when he delivered the keynote address at the 4th graduation ceremony of the University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani, in the Bono Region.
He said it was imperative and inevitable that, from 2020, when the first batch of Free SHS students had graduated, "our universities and other tertiary institutions will be confronted with the challenge of higher numbers of students seeking admission."
As a result, the government is undertaking a comprehensive programme of expanding infrastructure at the various tertiary institutions to accommodate the expected higher numbers.
This intervention, the President indicated, would provide increased access to young people to further their education, pursue their dreams and ultimately, contribute their quota to the development of the country.
Several GETFund projects on the campus of UENR had stalled, putting enormous pressure on the facilities of the University.
However, directives to GETFund, especially from the previous administration, to prioritized some uncompleted projects at UENR, and complete them, did not yield much result.
"Chairperson, things will change, and I prefer to let my deeds, not words, do the talking. It is not for nothing that the Minister of State for Tertiary Education is here at this ceremony. His presence is intended to be a guarantee of action," he added.
He said "whilst we work to address the infrastructural challenges of the University, I am happy to announce that the pledge we made to construct the 5 kilometres of access roads for the University is being fulfilled.
A contract worth GH¢7.9 million has been awarded to Messrs JOFASM Limited, and the road will be completed in 18 months. The contractor will be on site by the end of this month."
From an initial graduating class of 154 students in 2012 to 1,100 students in 2019, President Akufo-Addo commended the University saying "you have done well for yourselves in attempting not only to rub shoulders with the top Universities in the country but also to set yourself apart from others on the continent."
As co-Chair of the Group of Eminent Advocates for the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the President expressed joy at some of the projects being undertaken by the University, to help achieve the 17 SDGs.
"With the world confronted with the menace of plastic waste, it is gratifying to note that UENR is at the forefront of developing biodegradable polythene from corn starch," he said.
The University is the only institution of higher learning in West Africa to have installed a fire monitoring laboratory, under the Earth Observation Research Innovation Centre (EORIC), to monitor, detect and predict wildfire and floods in the Region.
"It is, thus, not a surprise that the University has become one of the World Bank's centres of excellence in energy and environmental sustainability in Africa.
We can only urge you on to chalk more and more of such feats. Do not rest on your oars, stimulate research in science and technology, and become a resource hub, especially in energy and natural resources in Africa," he added.
President Akufo-Addo applauded the authorities of the University for establishing a Medical School to train doctors, to serve the three regions of Bono, Bono East and Ahafo, and also, towns and communities along the entire western corridor of the country.
The President, however, appealed to "this specialized university to try not to deviate, as others have done, too much from its core mandate of being a natural resource and science and engineering-based university, set up specifically to train the critical manpower required for the growth and development of the energy and natural resource sectors of our nation."