President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said that government’s free Senior High School (SHS) programme is a way of ensuring that wealth accrued from the natural resources of the country is distributed equitably.“We have chosen to invest in the future of our youth in our country. We have decided to use the proceeds from our natural resources to help educate the population to drive our economic transformation. The most equitable and progressive way of using these revenues is to educate and empower our population to strengthen our nation’’.
We have a sacred duty to our children and other generations beyond in ensuring that irrespective of their circumstances, their right to education is preserved. That is why my government has decided to absorb all Senior High School fees that have been agreed between the Ghana Education Service Council and Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools,” President Akufo-Addo said at the launch of the programme in Accra yesterday.
While admitting that the policy may face some challenges on the way, he maintained that his government will remain committed to the programme to ensure it does not fail.
“I want every Ghanaian child to attend Secondary school not just for what they learn in books, but for the life experiences they get. We may falter, but by the Grace of the almighty God we shall not fall,” he assured.
The president further advised the beneficiary students to be studious and disciplined in order to progress and become useful citizens so that the entire country will benefit from investing in them.
“Let me use this opportunity to urge the beneficiaries to study and work hard, grow to become responsible citizens. Ghana needs your talents and knowledge,” he added.
The Education Minister, Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, also commenting on the programme said government has demonstrated its seriousness and commitment to the programme by already disbursing 20 percent of the entire fees to the various public schools across the country.
Under the free SHS policy, about 400,000 Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) candidates who qualified for admission to SHS are expected to enjoy free tuition, textbooks, meals, library usage, admission, examination, uniforms and Students Representative Council (SRC) dues.
Concerns have, however, been raised by some stakeholders about the sustainability of funding of the programme.
In relation to this, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Ghana, has suggested to government to increase the 17.5 percent VAT by one percent in order to provide a more sustainable means to fund the programme.
“Given the important nature of this initiative for our country’s sustainable development, we are therefore calling on government to revisit its funding arrangement for this important initiative…We believe that a more sustainable funding should be pursued domestically.
For example, just we did for the NHIS, increasing the VAT rate by say 1 percent and ring-fencing it for exclusive funding of the Free SHS will be very ideal. Domestic tax revenue provides a more stable and predictable source of financing expenditure for important public programmes such as free education”, the IEA said in its mid-year budget review statement.