Did Mahama promise to provide students with tablets in 2016?

Under the newly launched Ghana Smart Schools Project, the government is set to distribute about 1.3 million tablets to students at second-cycle institutions. However, there have been questions about the essence and motive of the initiative popularly referred to as 1 Student 1 Tablet.

While a section of the public particularly members of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) believe it is a remarkable initiative that will go a long way to improve the quality of education at that level, others argue it is a misplaced priority and bait for votes.

Former President and flagbearer of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) John Dramani Mahama has been one of the main critics of the initiative. At a recent event, he criticized the 1 Student 1 Tablet initiative as a bribe to entice students some of whom are of voting age to vote for the governing NPP.

He contended that there were more pressing issues bedevilling the country’s educational system, especially at the pre-tertiary level that required urgent attention.

“Of course, everybody knows the political expediency. The pre-tertiary students are going to register in May because some of them will becoming 18 years and above. Some are 18 already and they are going to be the ones voting,” he stated.

“So this is a gift to entice them to vote for the current government. Otherwise, if you are using 1.3 billion cedis to give pre-tertiary students laptops, our priority would have been different. There are other things begging for funding in our educational system than those laptops but it is a bribe for them to vote for this government but the children do not exist in isolation”.

The former leader’s comments have drawn counter criticisms from sympathisers of the ruling NPP who claim he had promised to roll out a similar project.  But there are commentaries on social media challenging the claim that the former president ever promised to distribute laptops to students.

Fact-Check Ghana has followed the conversation and presents the facts below.

The NDC in its 2016 manifesto pledged to “pilot the use of electronic textbooks (e-books) using tablets”.

The promise was bulleted under its commitment (2017-2021) for Primary and Junior High School Education.

Mr. Mahama, presenting a highlight of the manifesto on September 14, 2016, ahead of its official launch in Sunyani, explained, “Students will receive tablets that have all their core subjects on the tablet. If the pilot is successful, the programme shall be expanded”.

Following this pronouncement, media reports suggested that Mr. Mahama had promised to dish out tablets to each student across the country.

But the then Deputy Minister of Education in charge of Tertiary Education, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, and then Vice-Chairman of the NDC, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, separately debunked the reports, clarifying that the pledge was to pilot the initiative and not provide each student with a tablet as was reported.

From the above, John Mahama indeed considered at some point providing tablets to students but he did not promise that he would ensure every student gets one of the gadgets. He, however, only committed to testing the feasibility of the policy, the outcome of which would have determined whether or not it should be implemented.

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