Aligning any cost to free SHS will make it a failed policy, according to the Executive Director of Child Right International CRI, Mr Bright Appiah.
He said per the policy, every child in Ghana who qualifies for, and is placed in a public Senior High School for his secondary education would have his or her fees absorbed by the government.
“As a child-centred organisation, CRI believes that Ghana has passed the stage of allocation of cost in the delivery of free SHS and reached the stage where attention should be mainly on efficiency and quality,” he said.
Mr Appiah said Goal 4 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) states: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.” It has therefore been a priority of the government and the Ministry of Education to ensure that education is made free from basic to secondary to afford more children in Ghana the opportunity to access quality education.
He said the intervention under the policy, absorbed tuition, meals for both boarders and day students, textbooks, library fee, boarding, science laboratory, examination and utility fees should be paid by government as enshrined in the policy.
He said statistics from the Ghana Education Service ( GES), revealed that 1. 6 million young people have so far benefited from the free SHS Programme since its introduction in 2017.
“Most of the beneficiaries of the programme are children from deprived communities who before the implementation of the policy were idling at homes because of lack of finances,” he said
Mr Appiah said at the 2021 mid-year review in Parliament, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, also stated that since the introduction of the policy, student enrolment at the SHS level had increased from 881,600 in 2016 to 1,261,125 in 2021.
According to him, five years after the implementation of the policy, 411 out of the 465 candidates who scored grade A in all subjects at the 2020 WASSCE were beneficiaries of the free SHS, “The policy has increased enrolment massively especially in rural communities of Ghana”.
“Socially and economically, the policy has lifted the financial burden for most parents, who can now be more supportive in their child’s academia without feeling dependent on scholarships or private benefits. The Free SHS policy covers the primary and secondary expenditure that caregivers were burdened to provide despite their economic incapability to do so. It has removed social hindrance of choosing some children over others to be educated,” he said.
Mr Appiah said over the past five years of its implementation, the government announced that it has allocated a total amount of GH¢7.62 billion for the implementation of the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme.
According to him, the Minister of Finance said GH¢4.18 billion out of the amount representing 54.76 per cent, was sourced from the government of Ghana (GoG), while the remaining GH¢3.44 billion, representing 45.24 per cent, came from Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA).
“Although, the government has come out in countless times to rubbish report of a possible review of the policy, CRI wants to draw attention to the fact that any future plans to review the policy to allocate cost to parents will defeat the universality of the policy. Once cost is assigned to the policy, it will become a failed policy,” he said
He said though the nation is getting it dividend in investing in young people through the FSHS, there are some issues that must be addressed in ensuring that the policy is sustained and driven in the right direction.
Mr Appiah said there was the need for government to address supply of perishable and nonperishable goods to schools and availability of text books.
He said government as a matter of agency, should elevate all social intervention programmes aiding education in Ghana into a statutory body to ensure sustainability, free flow of social policies, transparency and accountability.
Mr Appiah said government communication in relation to social policies should be done in manner that described the policy as social investment policy for better appreciation by stakeholders and beneficiaries.