Free SHS: Parents must bear part of the cost – Prof. Aryeetey

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Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, former Vice Chancellor, University of Ghana

Despite the introduction of the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon, Professor Ernest Aryeetey, is advocating for parents and guardians to absorb some component of their wards’ fees to lessen the burden on government and managers of the schools.

This he believes will help sustain the free SHS programme.

Government last year allocated an amount of 1.2 billion cedis for the free SHS programme in the budget.

This year, the amount is expected to increase as more numbers have enrolled, leading to the introduction of the double track system. Professor Aryeetey believes parents and guardians should be allowed to bare part of the cost.

Speaking at a forum in Accra organized by Daily Graphic and StanbicBank, Prof. Aryeetey said: “Previously, when parents were contributing to fee payment, the problems were there…Nobody is arguing that the parents’ contribution is what caused the problem. We are saying that even at the time, there was not enough money in the schools. Even when the parents were paying, there was not enough money for the schools to run. That is why PTAs rather came in to pay for teacher motivation and all those things. So if the government wants to assist, what the government’s contribution should be doing is complementing or adding to what was there. Not substituting for what was there. As I said, we have 1.3 million coming in, and we need 3.3 million for the schools to run so there is a deficit, and that deficit should be filled. Parents making contribution is one, and anything else that you want to add to it.”

The government implemented the free Senior High School program in September 2017, in fulfillment of a major campaign promise in the run up to the 2016 election.

There has however been some challenges with funding and logistics since the programme took off, forcing government to subsequently introduce the double track system.

‘Free SHS could be targeted instead of wholesale’ – Ofori-Atta

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, appears to be in agreement with the suggestion that the Free Senior High School programme may have to be targeted at persons with genuine need and not made to benefit everyone.

Using himself as an example, the Minister said someone in his economic bracket should not be enjoying such a policy.

“True, it may be that there have to be changes in the way we are administering it. I can’t take my child to Achimota or Odorgono and leave him or her there and drive away and not pay for anything whiles I can pay for ten people,” he said on Citi TV’s Point of View.

Sustain free SHS with more day schools, not boarding – Patrick Awuah

President of Ashesi University, Patrick Awuah, believes that one of the best ways to sustain the government’s Free Senior High School programme is to focus on having more day schools instead of the boarding system.

Speaking on Citi TV’s current affairs program, The Point of View, Mr. Awuah said:”I think the boarding schools are serving an important purpose because now we do not have enough Senior High Schools but all new high schools that are built should be day schools, and they should be as close to communities as possible so it will be just a walking distance or a short bus drive away from the kids. If you do it that way, you have a much more sustainable system”.

Voluntary education fund

In 2017, government had indicated that it was in the process of setting up a fund to receive voluntary contributions from individuals to support the implementation of the free SHS programme, and the education sector as a whole.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, when he presented the 2018 budget statement

Ghana’s education sector has been saddled with inadequate infrastructure and teaching materials, low pay for teachers particularly at the basic and SHS level.

The implementation of the free SHS policy suffered some setbacks as well, as some schools were faced with the challenge of inadequate infrastructure among others.

Government had indicated that it will use proceeds from the oil revenue to support the programme.

By: Marian Ansah| citinewsroom.com| Ghana