General News of Wed, 13 Sep 20174
False start to free SHS; funding gap of GH¢80M
Following the official launch of the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in Accra yesterday amidst all the euphoria, a statement by GN Research, the research wing of Groupe Nduom (GN), has revealed a funding gap of Gh¢80 million.
A release issued in Accra yesterday by GN Research and signed by its Head, Samuel Kofi Ampah, revealed that “GN Research analysis have shown that, there is a funding gap of about Gh¢80 million for the academic year.”
According to GN Research, with over 424,000 students expected to enter SHS with an average of Gh¢1,131 per student annually, government was expected to spend about Gh¢480 million for the first year of the policy.
“This is Gh¢80 million short of government’s Gh¢400 million allocation. Government’s ability to release only 50% of the cost of the program for its first year seems to be a confirmation of the funding challenge that the policy faces,” the release further divulged.
To this end, GN Research urged central government to address the fund inadequacy problem before discussing its sustainability.
“For the first half of 2017, domestic revenue missed target by 13.8%, Grants target was also missed by 39%. Consequently, the revenue target for the year was reviewed downward from about GH¢45 billion to GH¢43 billion, with tax revenue representing 73% of the total revision.”
This, the release averred was the more reason why government needed to explain where it intends to generate the extra funding for the policy.
According to the release, past and current experiences should guide the country about how national policies with no clear plan for funding have suffered.
“Cases in point are the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The programmes, GN Research analysis said, have been suffering major implementation challenges resulting from monies owed caterers and service providers.
The result is the huge arrears, primarily due to inadequate source of funding, it added.
Government, the release said, owed service providers under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) over Gh¢600 million and yet to pay caterers for the just ended academic year.
“This should not be the case under the free SHS policy. Hence the need to have adequate and sustainable funding for the programme,” it advised.
“Will government heed the advice of Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and increase VAT by 1%? Or it will introduce another form of levy (for example free SHS levy) or a donor support as was the case for the school feeding programme. What becomes of government’s focus on production rather than taxation should it decide to introduce new taxes or review upward the rates of some existing ones?
The above, the release suggested, were nagging questions that central government would have to deal with.
However, launching the policy at West Africa Secondary School in Accra, President Akufo-Addo hit hard at critics, affirming that the free SHS policy will not fail
He revealed that government will use proceeds from the country’s natural resources to fund the policy.
He explained that the cost of providing the policy will be cheaper than the cost of “the alternative of an uneducated and unskilled workforce that has the capacity to retard our development.”
“Instead of the revenues from our mineral and oil resources ending up in the hands of a few people, the most equitable and progressive way of using these revenues is to educate and empower our population to strengthen our nation. In so doing, we would be on the way to achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal no. 4, which calls for inclusive and equitable education, and the promotion of lifelong opportunities for all. As co-Chair of the Advocacy Group of Eminent Persons of the SDGs, their implementation is a matter of the highest public priority for me,” he said.
He said the implementation of the free SHS is a choice he has made as a leader, adding his choice, however, is about the children of Ghana and how to make them assets to the State.
“Leadership is about choices – I have chosen to invest in the future of our youth and of our country. We have decided to use the proceeds from our natural resources to help educate the population to drive our economic transformation.
“Today, we throw open the doors of opportunity and hope to our young people. From this day on, we lift the financial burden off our parents, and the heart-rending anxiety that accompanies the beginning of every school term,” he reiterated.
According to the President Akufo-Addo, “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. I want them to be confident that what they study is relevant to the demands of today, and of tomorrow. I want every Ghanaian child to be comfortable in the knowledge that, when they work hard, they will be as capable as anyone else in the world. And I want parents to look upon their children with pride, as they watch them mature into self-confident adults,” he added.
The president further observed that at the heart of the Free SHS policy was quality teachers and teaching. He underscored that his government has a parallel programme to ensure that the Free SHS policy runs with a teacher development programme.
“Central, too, to the prospects of this policy is the teacher. A well-trained, confident and contented teacher is essential in the delivery of quality education. If we are to succeed as a nation, and if we accept that education is central to national development, then it is clear that quality teacher training is vital to our nation’s development. It is for this reason that we are committed to teacher professional development through schemes such as Transforming Teacher Education and Learning (T-TEL),” President Akufo-Addo pointed out.