The Head of Department of Economics at the University of Ghana, Prof. Peter Quartey, has waded into the ongoing debate about the free Senior High School policy, saying it should be targeted at the poor.
Whilst Professor Quartey believes it is a good social intervention programme, he expressed worry over the all-embracing coverage of the programme, saying it could result in funding problems.
“The free SHS is a good policy but I have a problem with targeting. Are we saying we are going to make it free for both the rich and the poor? For instance, if the rich take their children to schools like Achimota or Wesley Girls, is the government the one going to pay their fees?
We can start by picking grade B or C secondary schools and say we will rather subsidise them instead of targeting the grade A schools where you will find most of the rich people,” Prof. Quartey said.
He posits that government should rather extend focus to addressing some pertinent issues in the education sector before it fully rolls out the free SHS programme.
“We realise students from the boarding facilities across the country are fed with GHC1.90p a day, meanwhile the minimum they can leave on is GH?6.00. So, there is a huge shortfall in the education sector.
So, if there is extra money, will you use it to pay people’s school fees or would you rather channel it to other areas to ensure that they have some decent minimum standard of living? So, that is where I have a problem and for me it is not well thought through,” Prof. Quartey stated.
Other institutions are also calling on government to find a more sustainable approach in funding the free SHS programme in order for it to be successful.
Last week, accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), in its post-budget analysis, urged government to find a medium to long-term means of funding the programme.
“Free SHS is, therefore, a laudable initiative as it is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of ensuring universal quality education for all. However, sustainable financing could be an issue, particularly where the source is from oil revenue (ABFA), which is highly volatile.”
The Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC) has also called for a national dialogue involving all stakeholders to arrive at a consensus for a long-term and sustained implementation of the policy.
Currently, there are about 432,780 SHS students in the country, per the 2015/16 academic year data, and government spends GHC2,312 on each student per year.
The 2017 Education Sector budget allocation of GHC8.3 billion is 10.6 percent increase over the 2016 amount of GHC7.5 billion.
Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta said during the 2017 budget presentation in parliament that, first-year students in all public senior high schools across the country will benefit from the free SHS programme, starting next academic year.
The programme, he said, will be funded with the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) from Ghana’s petroleum resources, at an estimated cost of GHC400 million.