The Institute of Scientific, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana has advised the Akufo Addo government to consider a review of the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme.
Speaking to the media on the side-lines of the launch of the 2018 Social Development Outlook, Coordinator for the program, Dr Elizabeth Asante, said it is necessary for government to consider equity and sustainability issues for the betterment of the free SHS programme.
“This is basically what the Education chapter is saying; issues of equity and sustainability have come up. Right now, the government is finding it difficult to finance education. So why don’t we reconsider and target the people in need? Not just education to everybody. This is what the authors are saying, then you will be able to have fewer people. There would be more people paying their fees because they are able and you have the government having less money to pay. This is what we see and the solutions,” she stated.
Apparently, this is not the first time ISSER has made Free SHS related recommendations for consideration. It has done so severally on previous occasions.
During the 2019 post budget analysis, Head of the Economics Division at ISSER, Professor Peter Quartey, suggested to government to apply means testing to target needy students to benefit from the free SHS policy or pay only tuition fees while parents of boarding students pay their boarding fees.
Another recommendation was for the Free SHS policy to target Grade C and D schools while parents who can afford Grade A and B schools are made to pay. Those who qualify for Grade A and B schools but who cannot afford it should be given scholarships.
“…the existing funding mechanisms for the Free SHS is exerting excessive pressure on the budget and we propose that government considers means testing as a sure way of releasing funds to fund other equally important sectors,” he stated.
On his part, Director of ISSER, Prof. Felix Ankomah Asante suggested that the policy be separated from the boarding school system and applied only to tuition fees. “If I want my child to go to boarding school, I can go and negotiate for the boarding. For me, we should decouple boarding from the free SHS and that is where we can bring the private sector into it; the faith-based institutions and private sector can take over the boarding,” he stated.
He also raised questions with how the influx of students from the first batch free SHS into universities in 2020 will be handled, noting that the challenge will be more human resource centred than infrastructure.
“How many lecturers do we have in this country? In 2020 they are all coming. University of Ghana admitted about 10,000 this year; how many have accommodation? About one-third but nobody is talking about it. There are students who come all the way from Kasoa to lectures every day; are we not concerned about them?” he questioned.
Many others including the finance minister, Ken Ofori Attah, former UG VC and Prof. Ivan Addai Mensah have advocated a review of the program which the government appears unwilling to do, a situation some have blamed on political expediency on the part of President Akufo-Addo.
The flagbearer of the NDC, H.E. John Mahama has asked President Akufo Addo to call a national stakeholders conference to deliberate on the way forward for free SHS, which the latter is reluctant to do.
The last this paper checked, hundreds of parents and their wards across the country throng the Independence Square over SHS admission matters, a challenge that most of the parents have still not found answers to.
--- The Catalyst Newspaper