Govt urged to clarify voluntary contributions to fund free SHS

Mrs Harriet Agyemang (inset), addressing stakeholders on education budget. Photo: Ebo Gorman

Mrs Harriet Agyemang (inset), addressing stakeholders on education budget. Photo: Ebo Gorman

The government has been urged to come clear on its proposal to accept voluntary contributions from individuals to support the implementation of the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy.

According to the group, SEND GHANA,  the setting up of the fund lacked clarity in terms of how much is being targeted, how the target was going to be met and how that would ensure the sustainability of the programme.

Senior Programmes Officer of the organisation, Mrs. Harriet Nuamah Agyemang raised the concern at a roundtable meeting with stakeholders in Accra to discuss the 2018 budgetary allocation for the education sector.

The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta while presenting the 2018 budget statement before Parliament in November last year said the establishment of a voluntary fund was necessitated by proposals received from the general public to support the Free SHS policy.

“Mr. Speaker, with the successful launch of the free SHS programme, government received proposals from the public, several of which encourage the establishment of a fund to receive voluntary contributions to support education.

Thankfully, the GETFund law allows for the setting up of other education-related funds therefore in 2018, the Ministry will work with GETFund to set up this education fund to enable Ghanaians make voluntary contributions to support education,” he said.

The move has however been condemned by members of the minority in Parliament who believed it exposed government’s inability to secure the needed funds to sustain the programme.

Mrs. Agyemang at the meeting observed that though the Free SHS was a laudable initiative, questions of prioritisation and equity in the education system remained unanswered.

For instance she noted that despite the education sector receiving the highest allocation in the 2018 budget, the quantum of funds to be expended on planned enrolment initiatives to attract basic school children was missing adding that, the 6 per cent allotment for capital expenditure was inadequate to address the infrastructural challenges at the basic school level.

“The current quality of learning at the basic level is relatively very low. The pre-school and primary education requires critical financial attention to train teachers and provide teaching and learning materials to enable proper development of the cognitive foundation of pupils to prepare them for secondary level education,” she stated.

The Senior Programmes Officer called on government to ensure the judicious use of the GH¢928 million GETFund allocation in the 2018 budget to address the infrastructural deficit at the basic and SHS level “especially as has been exposed by the implementation of the Free SHS”.

She contended that parents who could easily afford to pay for the SHS education of their wards should be allowed to do to save funds to support poor parents who needed to take their wards through basic education.

“Government also needs to ensure that funds allocated are timely disbursed in their entirety to strengthen the management systems of schools as well as implement all pro-poor policy interventions such as Free SHS, capitation grant, examination subsidy among others,” Mrs. Agyemang added.

The officer in charge of planning at the Ghana Education Service (GES), Mr. Kojo Ntiful said the service had received monies to pay arrears and implement some innovations to promote activities at the basic and secondary education levels.

He said the GES will soon embark on a staff rationalisation exercise to ensure equity in the sector adding that, a performance contract would also be signed with district directors of education in that direction to enhance efficiency and effectiveness among stakeholders.

“Government has also increased the capitation grant from GH ¢9.00 to GH¢ 10.00 this year while a total of GH¢ 1,500 has been earmarked to help supervision and monitoring at the circuit level in the various districts,” he disclosed.

By Abigail Annoh       

 

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