Gov’t to spend GHc3.6bn on free SHS yearly

Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh

About 1.6 million eligible students between the ages of 15-17 years across the country, are expected to benefit from government’s free Senior High School (SHS) policy, that is set to begin in September this year.

The Free SHS policy, which will also cover agricultural, vocational and technical institutions at the high school level, is estimated to cost GHc3.6 million yearly, analyses by the B&FT has shown.

An estimated 1.7million students, who are eligible to have secondary education in the country, are expected to benefit from the successful implementation of the project.

The country currently has in place the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) that covers primary and junior high education. However, it is estimated that close to 50 percent of JHS graduates who pass, do not have access into SHS due largely to lack of funds and accessibility.

Currently, there are about 432,780 SHS students in the country per the 2015/16 academic year data, and government spends GH¢2,312 on each student per year.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has indicated that he still stands by his campaign promise of redefining basic education to incorporate kindergarten to SHS and absorbing the cost of same.

President Akufo Addo, speaking at the 60th anniversary of the Okuapemman SHS at Akropong Akuapem, said the inability of the country to give all its citizens the kind of education that enabled Western and Asian countries to progress is the missing link in Ghana’s economic development.

“For this reason, I am committed, without any equivocation, without any reservation, without any doubt, to take Ghana to the stage where public SHS education will be free for every Ghanaian child.

I want every Ghanaian child to attend secondary school, not just for what they study in books but for the life experiences that they will gain. I want each of them to look in the mirror in the morning every morning and know that they can achieve anything they dream of when they complete their studies,” President Akufo-Addo said.

Many analysts have said the country should rather focus on accessibility and retention of students in schools due to questions over the sustainability of the policy for any government.

The Forum for Education Reform organised by IMANI, a policy think tank, said government has a non-negotiable primary responsibility to ensure that it provides accessible and quality public education for all Ghanaian youth.

However, it said the issue of parental contribution to the cost of education, even within the public sector, must be a subject of critical analysis, saying: “There is never ‘free education’, even within the public sector. The question therefore is whether we will fund it fully, and collectively do it via a tax system, or through a combination of state funding and parental contribution”.

“If SHS were to be free, it would be very prudent to expand not only schools at the secondary level, but also at the tertiary level, since a lot more students would be churned out from that level into tertiary institutions–however, the lack of funds for such a course makes its viability questionable.

Moreover, there is also a backlog of SHS leavers waiting for admission into tertiary institutions as a result of the double exit of the then-existing 4-year and the reintroduced 3-year groups.

Government has said that it will channel a large percentage of the country’s oil revenue into the education sector.

Total oil revenue for 2016 is estimated at GH¢1,740.1 million. However, the impact of the country’s oil revenue has not been felt–given that the revenue has been thinly spread on so many projects in many sectors.

Energy think tank, Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) noted in its 2016 budget analysis in July that:  “The expenditure of oil revenues thrives on the discretionary powers of the minister of finance. Section 21(5) of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act 2011 (Act 815), gives the Minister the discretionary powers in the absence of a National Development plan, without any consultation with the public.

Even when Civil Society Groups did public consultation and advised the Minister, he rather preferred to “boom spray” the revenues to many projects, engineering time and cost overruns in projects funded with oil revenues.”

–Bftonline

 

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