The latest report by Education think tank, Africa Education Watch (EduWatch), reveals 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 indicates that, despite the implementation of the free Senior High School ( 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 indicated 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.
The revelation revives the need for government to open up for further engagements with stakeholders to review the policy to address pressing implementation gaps, over six years on to formalize roles or input by parents to ease the burden on School administrators.
Government through the Ghana Education Service has been heavy handed in handling school heads for taking initiatives (charging fees) to facilitate day to day running of schools, describing such moves as illegal.
President Akufo-Addo launched at the official launch of the Free SHS policy in September 2017, assured that the programme will “lift the financial burden off our parents, and the heart-rending anxiety that accompanies the beginning of every school term.”
But EduWatch through its engagements and research work says that notwithstanding, financial difficulties of parents and guardians still remain a challenge to universal access to education.