The NDC National Chairman, Johnson Asiedu Nketia has said his party has a solution to the poorly-implemented Free Senior High School (Free SHS) programme.
The former Minister argued that the NDC implemented a progressively free SHS policy which was backed by research to help the children of the less privileged parents enjoy education across the country. However, he said the NPP rather came to implement its flagship programme, the Free SHS, without proper consultation with stakeholders.
In an interview with Emmanuel Wilson Jnr on Politics and Beyond, the former General Secretary of the NDC observed that the quality of education in the second cycle institutions had dwindled, owing the fact that the Akufo-Addo government was only interested in fulfilling a campaign promise without knowing its nuances.
“We are all preaching free SHS and school feeding and all that but when it comes to the implementation, you see a vast difference. Facilities must be there but if they are not there how do you provide the free facility?”
To him, the infrastructure should have been provided before implementing the free SHS programme to avert the inconsistencies of the school calendar.
Free SHS Costly
Asiedu Nketia’s concerns come after a report by Education think tank, Africa Education Watch (EduWatch), last month that revealed that parents are spending more on their wards in Senior High Schools contrary to the impression created that, the policy has brought great relief to parents.
The Eduwatch report also indicated that, despite the implementation of the free SHS policy, lack of money to buy school items (prospectuses) and other costs have prevented some students from enrolling into various senior high schools.
According to findings on the financing of education titled “The Financial Burden of the Free SHS Policy and Implications for Equitable Access to Education”, 15 per cent of all students placed in Senior High Schools for 2022/2023, failed to honour their admissions due to financial difficulties.
Senior Programmes Officer of the Africa Education Watch, Divine Kpe, who presented the report before stakeholders, also revealed that parents and guardians of students under the free senior high school policy spend more on average than the government does per student.
The report said that while on average government spent GHS 1,147and GHS 1,107 on boarding and day students respectively for the 2021/2022 academic year, parents and guardians on the other hand spent on the average GHS 2,477 on prospectuses and GHS 4,000 on personal effects for boarding students.
It explained that parents of continuing day students reported spending an average of GH¢4,400 annually on their children’s education, including transportation, constituting 40 percent, breakfast of 50 percent, and 10 percent on books.
The report also revealed that parents of day students spent GHC5,507 inclusive of prospectus costs, which outweighed the government’s spending of GHS1,107.
To minimise the cost burden of the prospectus, the report recommended that, in the medium to long term, the Ministry of Education must develop and implement a strategy to focus on children from the poorest households using data from the LEAP programme.
The education think tank appealed to the Government, particularly the Ministry of Finance, to ensure prompt disbursement of funds to the Ghana Education Service and the schools to enable schools to meet the expenses of the schools in time.