The Free Senior High School policy is a major flagship program of the New Patriotic Party government, began in September 2017.
However, there have been reports of pilfering by some school authorities of the free food supplied by government, as well as the charging of unapproved fees by some school heads.
In perhaps the most high profile of the reported thefts, the Police Criminal Investigations Department invited Madam Comfort Oduro Bruce, senior matron and Reverend Abraham Donkor, headmaster respectively of Ghana Senior High School popularly known as GHANASS in Koforidua, the Eastern Regional capital, to assist in investigations after Madam Oduro Bruce was allegedly caught by a member of the school’s security attempting to cart away a number of food items at night.
Matrons at the Buipe and Tolon Senior High Schools have also reportedly been arrested for allegedly trying to steal and sell food meant for the feeding of first year students in their care.
Giving the warning at the 50th anniversary celebration of the enstoolment of Nana Boakye Tromu III as Omanhene and President of the Duayaw Nkwanta Traditional Council in the Brong Ahafo Region Saturday, Dr Bawumia said government would move beyond naming and shaming to actual prosecution to deter any saboteurs.
“In spite of many challenges and doubts, we have successfully started the implementation of the Free Senior High School (FSHS) programme. We need to ensure that no Ghanaian child is denied access to public secondary education. Poverty should not be a barrier for children to have access to a better future.
“However, it is sad to note that in the implementation of the “FSHS” policy, there is the desire by some Ghanaians to make sure the program does not succeed. In the last few months we have had reports of deliberate attempts by some individuals ranging from matrons, heads of institutions, and others attempting to circumvent the regulations and stealing materials intended to benefit the children who are in their care. This is unacceptable,” Dr Bawumia stated.
“Government is determined to punish severely wrongdoers and those who have made it a habit to steal and or to obstruct. Actions to curb the situation should not just end at the doorstep of naming and shaming but also with prosecution, where applicable.”
Touching on the genuine challenges confronting the programme, the Vice President assured that Government was working round the clock to address them.
“While there may be challenges with the implementation of the Free Senior High School programme, the good news is that Government has taken note of the problems and is working feverishly to address them and by the Grace God, Ghanaians will reap the benefits in the very near future.”
Nevertheless, “I want to see sterner actions taken against such persons [sabotaging the smooth implementation of FSHS], particularly those who decide to divert or steal resources meant for the FSHS programme,” Dr Bawumia stated.
Over Four Hundred Thousand (400,000) children are currently benefiting from the Free Senior High School programme, according to figures from the Ministry of Education. Officials say out of the 400,000, at least Ninety Thousand (90,000) would not have had the chance to benefit from secondary education without the free SHS.