The government has scrapped the 30 per cent of admission spots reserved for students within the catchment area of top grade public Senior High Schools (SHSs).
Rather, it has directed that such allotment should be reserved for students from deprived public junior high schools (JHSs) in all parts of the country.
This means that for instance, the 30 per cent admission spots reserved for the best schools in the Cape Coast Municipality such as the Wesley Girls’ SHS, Adisadel College and Mfansipim would now be available for students outside the municipality.
Making a presentation on, “Implementation of Free Senior High School (SHS) Education” at the meet the press series at the Ministry of Information, the Minister of Education, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, explained that the directive would take effect from the beginning of the 2017/2018 academic year.
“If you are unlucky as I am to have come from a place that is not blessed with some of the Grade ‘A’ schools or there are no many good schools, how do you benefit from the catchment area? That in itself is very discriminatory.
“What we intend to do is, instead of settling on catchment area to cause distortion to operate quality, access and equity, we are saying that for our best schools in this country, 30 per cent of their places will be reserved as a right to those from public schools across the country,” he told the packed conference room.
Dr Prempeh wondered how under the catchment area, a girl from the Nakpandure Public School could gain admission into the Wesley Girls’ High School with aggregate 24, assuring that under the current arrangement, such a girl could gain admission to that school.
Access to quality education
He explained that the whole point of the government was to help the vulnerable in the society to also access quality education in elite schools.
“This government would not perpetuate what is currently happening that our good schools are populated by those who are rich enough to put their children in very good private schools, pay very huge sums of money and take advantage of our secondary schools.
“Equity is the guiding word. We have to give chance to those who also have aspirations but are unlucky,” Dr Prempeh declared.
He explained that the free SHS policy by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Four, target one, which states, “by 2030, all boys and girls complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education, leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.”
Dr Prempeh explained that financial constraint should not be a barrier to the aspiration of a child who wanted secondary education in the country.
He said the free SHS/TVET programme was a package that comprised the removal of cost barriers, physical expansion of school infrastructure, the improvement in the quality of secondary education, equity and the acquisition of skills for employment.
On eligibility under the free SHS, Dr Prempeh outlined that “a Ghanaian student is qualified to access free SHS if he/she writes the 2017 BECE and is placed by the CSSPS into a publicly funded second cycle institution.”
He announced that the free SHS programme was meant exclusively for Ghanaian students and foreigners were, therefore, excluded from the programme.
Speaking about the duration of the free SHS policy, Dr Prempeh explained that beneficiaries of the programme had a three-year scholarship to enjoy starting from the 2017/2018 academic year.
He said any student who refused to accept placement in a particular public school would lose the scholarship.
“If I put you in a school and you say you will not go, no scholarship will be offered to anybody who says he/she would not go to the place he/she has been placed,” he said.
Dr Prempeh advised potential students who would be seeking admission to accept the schools that they would be placed to be able to benefit from it.