The government’s budget for free senior high school (SHS) education in the 2017/2018 academic year is inadequate to even cater for a term’s expenditure, the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition has observed.
Using the estimated enrollment figures for senior high schools and the technical and vocational education training (TVET) of 432,780 and 16,119, respectively, the coalition estimated that it would cost the public purse a little over GHS1.6 billion in the first year against the GHS400,000 budget by the government.
At a press conference in Accra yesterday, the Chairman of the coalition, Mr Bright Appiah, said in the absence of a publicly available fully costed implementation, how the policy would be funded had become a subject of speculation.
Going into the projections, he said: “With the estimated average annual percentage increase in enrolment of six per cent for SHS, it is estimated that, the intake for the 2017/2018 academic year will be 432,780 and the recurrent expenditure per student from the 2016 Education Sector Report of 2,144 per student gives a total expected expenditure of GHS 916, 896,920.”
“Also, the current total enrolment for TVET education stands at 48,356 which means the expected average annual enrolment will be 16,119. The recurrent expenditure per student for TVET education is GHS5,160, giving an annual total TVET recurrent expenditure of GHS 90,427,590.
“This means that the estimated total recurrent expenditure for SHS and TVET education stands at GHS 1,627,365,321, translating into GHS 542, 455,107 per term,” he said.
Mr Appiah, who urged the government to target students from poor backgrounds, girls and children with disability, said there needed to be a clarity as to whether the policy would differentiate between the well-endowed schools and the relatively deprived ones.
“An assessment of Ghana’s education system shows that majority of children who are admitted to the well-endowed senior high schools are those from the wealthier socio-economic groups who can afford to send their children to the best private schools, whereas children from the lower socio-economic groups who attend public schools or low-fee private schools mostly end up in the less-endowed and private senior high schools,” he said.
Progressively free SHS
The Mahama Administration in September 2015 started the progressively free SHS. The policy started with day students and for the first term, 320,488 students were to be covered. They were made up of 111,212 first-year, 109,731 second-year and 99,753 third-year students. However, the current budget is silent on whether the Akufo-Addo administration would continue to cover the cost of students in the system.
Mr Appiah urged the government not to bail out on the current students since governance was a continuous process.
“People are already enjoying the benefits and it wouldn’t be good to just push the old policy aside,” he added.
Budget on free SHS
Presenting the 2017 Budget Statement and Economic Policy last Thursday, the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, said it would cost the government GHS400 million to implement the free SHS programme for the 2017/2018 academic year.
However, an amount of GHS7,382.79 million has been allocated to the education sector for the year 2017; out of which GHS4,310.20 million, representing 58.38 percent, will go into basic education expenditure.
He noted also that the implementation of the free SHS programme would include technical and vocational institutes.
The government plans to roll out the free SHS programme, one of its campaign promises, in September this year with fresh students.
Mr Appiah also touched on early childhood education infrastructure and commended the government’s pledge in the 2017 budget to construct 200 kindergartens this year for 1,171 primary schools that are without kindergartens.
He also commended the decisions of the government at the basic school level, which include the increment of the capitation grant to GHS9 from GHS4.50 per annum, the introduction of base grant for all schools; review of legislation to abolish levies in public schools, the review of the curricula and social intervention such as the school feeding programme.
He, however, said the GHS 9 capitation grant was inadequate.