General News of Tue, 21 Feb 20176

Free SHS: Don’t shy away from using Heritage Fund – NMCSJ

Policy think tank, National Media Center for Social Justice has commended steps being taken to ensure the Free-SHS promise by the New Patriotic Party administration is realised.

The centre in a press statement released Monday, January 20, 2016, has however endorsed any moves made by the government to secure funding for the project including the much debated Heritage Fund.

President Akufo-Addo has made this a campaign promise throughout bid for the presidency.

In a recent address, he told the students, staff and parents at the 60th Anniversary celebration of Okuapeman School where he was the Special Guest of Honour, the president said the government is ready to start funding the cost of education for all who enter Secondary School in the 2017/2018 academic year.

Meanwhile, Senior Minster Yaw Osafo Marfo and the Finance Minister Ken Ofori Attah have shared contradicting intelligence on how the Free SHS policy would be funded.

Whereas Mr Osafo Marfo has communicated the government’s decision to use the heritage fund established under the Petroleum Revenue Act, the Finance minister following public backlash came out to say the government was not certain on the use of the fund as they are still considering other revenue sources.

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But the media centre in its statement is urging the government to ensure they do whatever is necessary to secure good basic education for the youth of Ghana.

“Government should not shy away from utilising any available fund, to implement the Free Secondary School policy. For instance, the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011 (Act 815) established the Heritage Fund which is to serve as an endowment for future generation.

“The government should not be afraid to resort to it as a source of funding the Free Education policy. For us, Heritage means Future and Future means Education. Free education is the only sure way that every citizen can benefit from the oil money.”

Read National Media Center’s full statement on the Free SHS policy.

The National Media Center for Social and Economic Justice wishes to express its profound support for the implementation of the free Senior High School (SHS) policy.

We believe it is long overdue since it is a constitutional obligation.

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Free quality and accessible education is an inevitable constitutional obligation that cannot be sacrificed for any other interest.

When the 1992 Constitution obliged us to introduce progressive free education, it had not anticipated that it was going to take the country over twenty years to implement the freeness of secondary education.

We believe the free education policy can be achieved in every form and shape. If Uganda with an economy of $12billion rolled out free SHS 10 years ago then Ghana’s $37billion is more than able.

Basic education is a right we owe to our children, regardless of their socio-economic background, and therefore same must be paid for by all citizenry.

We are aware that the government of Nana Akufo-Addo did promise in their party’s electioneering campaign, to reduce taxes paid by citizens. In our view such a reduction in taxes is not necessary if we are going to implement such a bold and expensive free education policy.

In the view of the National Media Center, the time has come for us to re-look at some of the many social intervention policies, and to stop many of them for the sake of the free education we are about to introduce.

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We do not see any more important policy than our children being able to go to school for free up to the secondary school level.

Non-universal social intervention initiatives such as LEAP, MASLOC, SADA, and the yet to be introduced Zongo Development Fund, have all become centers of waste, cronyism and corruption, that seem to be serving partisan purposes only.

It is estimated that 40% of LEAP beneficiaries use the money for educational needs. About 50% of Junior High School (JHS) graduates become SHS dropouts largely because of funds and accessibility. This means the greatest investment we can make in the future of our children is in education.

Government should not shy away from utilizing any available fund, to implement the Free Secondary School policy. For instance, the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011 (Act 815) established the Heritage Fund which is to serve as an endowment for future generation.

The government should not be afraid to resort to it as a source of funding the Free Education policy. For us, Heritage means Future and Future means Education. Free education is the only sure way that every citizen can benefit from the oil money.

Our concern, however, is the feeding component of the free SHS policy. We believe that the feeding component of the free education policy may open the policy up for abuse, aggravated corruption, and parental irresponsibility, and we therefore urge government to implement the Free Secondary school policy without the feeding component of the program.

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The Free SHS policy should not be looked at as a political policy, but a collective national agenda. Government should invest heavily in quality and accessible education; build more educational facilities, increase capitation grant, provide teaching and learning materials, and maintain a highly motivated teachers.

We believe that the only viable and truly genuine and fair social intervention programs that can take Ghana to prosperity are the Capitation Grant, the Free Secondary School Policy, and the National Health Insurance Program. Government should therefore not be afraid to stop any other social invention programs, in order to make the above programs well funded, efficient and effective.

Philip Boafo

(Corporate Communications Manager)

050 139 94 96

Source: ghonetv.com

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