From Free SHS to Free Printing Fee: Is the Ministry of Education now Anti-teacher?
The gallant implementation of the Free Senior High School policy by the current government which makes Ghanaian Junior High School graduates access second cycle education without paying a dime as school fees, is arguably one of the best social interventions that has happened to Ghana. The Free SHS has relieved parents of the burden of paying huge sums of money as school fees, which hitherto, denied many brilliant but needy JHS graduates access to SHS education.
The government later absorbed the registration fees for the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) candidates, again offloading that burden from parents. It should be noted that erstwhile governments have introduced School Feeding programme and the distribution of free school uniforms and books for pupils so that parents would have no excuse of failing to enrol their wards in school.
Another pro-parents directive has been announced; the "Free Printing Fee". Parents are uncharacteristically not supposed to pay printing fee under this directive as head teachers in Basic Schools are required to pre-finance the printing of the Third Term Promotion Examinations. Head teachers are also directed to refund all printing fees paid by parents per the directive which came a week to the start of the examinations.
Is it not strange for a ban to be placed on the collection of Printing fees a week to the commencement of the examinations? Knowing very well that the monies had already been collected and advance/full payments made to the printers of the examination questions, headteachers are still directed to refund all monies collected and instead, tasked to borrow money to fund the cost of printing. Pathetic!
Upon complaints and lamentations by teachers, the Ministry of Education has in a knee jerk reaction, released 'Base Grant' to all Basic Schools in Ghana to be used for the funding of the examinations.
The letter confirming the release of the Base Grant dated 9th July, 2019 has triggered a war between parents and teachers, the former accusing the latter of thievery because they did not get their refund which had already been paid to the printers. Again, the Base Grant would take between ten and fifteen days to mature in order to reflect in the schools accounts, a period within which the accountants and bankers would have finished working on them. Schools would be on vacation by then. Now that parents have stopped paying the printing fees, head teachers are in real trouble as far as the end of term examinations are concerned.
Few years ago, most parents complained bitterly about their inability to pay school fees at the second cycle, hence the introduction of Free SHS. Surprisingly, parents never complained about inability to pay Printing fee, so why commit over 20 million cedis paying Printing fee while teachers' countless lamentations on poor school infrastructure and facilities, lack of teaching and learning materials and equipment have fallen on deaf ears? Couldn't this huge amount have been used to clear the salary arrears of some teachers (2012 and 2013 year group) who were paid three months salary instead of the twelve months they had worked for? Couldn't the 'Free Printing Fee' money have been used to refurbish part of the 8,208 dilapidated basic schools identified by the Minister of Education as needing urgent refurbishment?
When the issue of National Service for newly trained teachers came up last year and teachers complained, they were bulldozed through by the Minister of Education who yelled that they would do the National Service "whether they like it or not" and risked not being posted should they fail to do the Service. The poor trainees were left with no option than to oblige.
Again, when the directive on the ban of caning resurfaced earlier this year, the Ghana Education Service incited parents to physically assault teachers who cane their wards.
Now that 'Free Printing Fee' has been implemented for parents, Ghanaians should not be surprised to hear that the government has fully funded the routine end-of-year pupils get-together, better known as "Free Our-Day Policy".
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