In response to criticisms of the challenges facing the Free SHS programme, NPP Member of Parliament for Gomoa West, Alex Abban, has said that it is better for students to sit on the bare floor without desks, or study under trees than hawk on the streets without being educated.
There have been reports of various challenges facing the programme, including reports of infrastructural and feeding problems, inadequate desks forcing some students to sit on the bare floor and in some cases cement blocks, due to the high number of nearly 400,000 students that enrolled for the launch in September.
Students of Parkoso SHS study on bare floor
Citi News recently reported about a situation at the Parkoso Community Day Senior High School in the Asokore Mampong Municipality of the Ashanti Region, where some students sit on the bare floor for lack of desks.
The Minority in Parliament has on several occasions criticized government for failing to address challenges threatening the programme.
One of those criticisms recently came from former Deputy Minister of Education, Okudzeto Ablakwa, who accused government of allocating very little amount for the Free SHS programme in the 2018 budget.
Reacting to Mr. Ablakwa’s statement, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum, a current Deputy Education Minister, said: “I’ll rather have children learning under trees than walking the streets and selling dog chains. I’ll rather have children eating under trees than going hungry”.
Speaking on Citi FM’s news analysis programme, The Big Issue, the Gomoa West MP sided with Dr. Adutwum’s position, saying “I will re –echo the sentiments of the Deputy Minister that he will prefer people sitting on the bare floor and listening to wisdom, getting education so that their minds will be broadened and from there they can get to whatever heights they want to.”
Mr. Abban indicated that, it will be needless highlighting challenges facing the free SHS programme since in his view, it will amount to nothing if these challenges are resolved and teachers still refuse to play their respective roles.
“Of course, when you are sitting in a comfortable place it helps, but I can assure you that if we even bring all the good stuff and the teachers are not delivering what have you achieved?”
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) government’s flagship free Senior High School programme was launched in September 2017, as part of measures to ensure all Ghanaian children are educated, at least, up to the SHS level.
However, since its introduction, the programme that admitted a huge number of about 400,000 students, has encountered a number of challenges.
You can’t run education with voluntary funds’
The government announced in the 2018 budget, that it would set up a fund to receive voluntary contributions from individuals to support the implementation of the free SHS programme and the educational sector as a whole.
However, this plan has come under fire from the Minority who believe this is an indication that government does not have the funds to properly implement its much-touted programme.
And according to Okudzeto Ablakwa, the government cannot afford to rely on the voluntary funds as a source of funding for free SHS, as projections for those funds may not materialize.
“No country runs public education on just voluntary funds. What if the Fund is not considered attractive and you don’t really get as much as you are expecting. We can’t leave the destiny of our children’s quality education to just a voluntary fund where we don’t really know the projections. Meanwhile, there’s an 800 million-cedi gap as we speak. You’ve only allocated 1.2 billion but you need two billion cedis, at least to sustain free SHS for the 2018 fiscal year,” he argued.
“You cannot just depend on voluntary funds, you can’t run education that way. You need a concrete plan and you need a well-defined funding source. It’s clear that government is struggling to fund it and struggling to identify a clear funding source.”