Over 98% of the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) for the education priority area for 2018 was used to finance Free Senior High School (SHS), according to Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC).
This amounts to GHS414,643,349.65 representing 51% of the disbursement of the total ABFA amount which is GHS419, 871,012.44.
The PIAC report for the period reveals that the remaining 1.25% was disbursed on capital investment in the area of Education Infrastructure.
Chairman of PIAC, Dr. Steve Manteaw, believes more attention to job creation will empower people to cater for their children’s education than for the state to directly bear the cost.
“Let’s use the oil revenue to create jobs so people can get jobs and use the income to pay their children school fees, and that is more sustainable
“These children going through these school systems, if we don’t use oil money to create jobs, when they come out of school they have no jobs.”
As required by the law, four priority areas are expected to be funded with oil money for the period of three years from 2017 to 2019.
The four priority areas are:
- Roads, Railways and other Critical Infrastructure Development
- Physical Infrastructure and Service Delivery in Health
- Physical Infrastructure and Service Delivery in Education.
The Annual Budget Funding Account for 2018 received an allocation of over GHS827,653, 566.25 from the Ministry of Finance for the four priority areas.
The Physical Infrastructure and Service Delivery in Education Priority Area had GHS419, 871,012.44.
This accounts for 107.5% increase over the disbursement for the year 2017.
A total of 98.75% which is GHS414,643,349.65 of the disbursement to education in 2018 was spent on free senior high school policy; out of which GHS100,000,000 was spent on second tranche payment for the implementation of Free SHS and GHS314,643,349.65 was used for payment for free SHS for the 3rd term 2017/2018 academic year.
The remaining 1.25% of the Education priority area which is GHS5,227,662.79 was spent on Educational infrastructure.
Capital expenditure argument
The argument that the funding of the FREE SHS is not capital expenditure was rife at the launch of the PIAC report.
Chairman of PIAC, Dr Steve Manteaw says this must be reviewed.
“PIAC as a committee is in full support of the initiative, we even see the FREE SHS as better use of the revenue than those ghost projects. But we need to think through whether it is the strategy that will bring us the best returns”.
According to him, there should be a balancing approach where oil money can support.
“We can support a portion of the oil revenue. Maybe you say pay 50% as subsidy and use the other portion to lay the basics that will provide jobs for these children when they come out of school.
So I think the human capital debate is a debate all Ghanaians must get involved in. One person does not have the decision, and the people we bring to power do not have a monopoly over knowledge.”
Former Ashanti Regional Peace Council Chairman, Professor Opuni Asiama, indicated that there is the need to debate the issue.
He observes that there are a lot of other sectors that are not being attended to money that come from the petroleum that should be used for other things are getting into Free SHS.
“The argument that the money for FREE SHS is helping to build the human capital of the country is something that needs to be debated because quite obviously that it is not what the lawmakers intended when they said the money should be used for capital expenditure.”
Professor Asiama continues that efforts to fund the Free SHS policy should not stifle other sectors of the economy of funds.
But the Ashanti Regional Minister, Simon Osei Mensah, explains that capital expenditure includes human and physical expenditure.
According to him, despite the challenges enumerated by the PIAC report, their attention should not only be limited to develop the physical infrastructure without developing the human capital.
“… it is the human capital that will man the physical infrastructure and take care of our natural resources so the natural resources cannot develop itself, we need the human capital to develop the natural resources for the benefit of the society”.
Double track, no cut off system
The double track system currently has become necessary because of the high enrolment numbers.
Dr Manteaw observes, “If we don’t allocate more resources to build more classrooms and we continue to pay just school fees, we will have an issue with quality.”
Though the report acknowledges the benefit of access to education, it emphasizes the need for government to pay attention to the infrastructure and teaching and learning materials that will make education more meaningful “so that we don’t sacrifice quality for quantity”.
Due to the Free SHS Policy, the enrolment numbers keep soaring and as a result, there are rumours that cut-off points for entry could be scrapped.
Government is being urged to take another look at the policy, if we have wholesale movement of children from JHS to SHS, chances are that the underperforming students will find themselves in the less endowed schools (under-resourced schools).
We need to take another look, perhaps we may want to address the quality issues at the basic levels to make sure that the number of students that come from there is of the right quality to go to the SHS.
Dr Manteaw’s submission was fiercely objected to by the Ashanti Regional Minister, Simon Osei Mensah, at the launch of the 2018 PIAC annual report held in Kumasi.
Mr Osei Mensah indicated the Free SHS Policy is in to support the needy in the society, a situation he benefited from.
“I will defend the free SHS with my blood because I am a practical witness and beneficiary. I couldn’t have made it to school because of forty Ghana Cedis which my uncle supported at the time. I have some of my mates who couldn’t make it to school because of fees.”