Review Free SHS To Share Cost

A coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the education sector has joined growing calls on government to review its flagship Free Senior High School (FSHS) policy, suggesting a cost-sharing argument.

Speaking under the umbrella name ‘National Education Campaign Coalition,’ the coalition said it is the most prudent way for government to ease the financial burden.

Presenting a statement at this year’s National Education Week (NEW) under way in Accra on Monday, this week, the coalition argued that government can do this by targeting needy students.

“We would therefore like to call for review of cost sharing under the FSHS policy, to ease the financial burden on government, and possibly to target the intervention to the neediest children.

“Extend mean testing across the whole country to help identify needy students from low-income households and deprived areas to benefit from FSHS. These actions would be crucial in improving education quality and efficiency,” the National Coordinator, Bernice Mpere-Gyekye, said.

In the past, stakeholders in the educational sector have called for broader consultation on the policy, which many say is fraught with a lot of challenges.

The position by the coalition is therefore one of the many views expressed by groups and individuals to look again at the implementation of the often praised policy, to ensure quality and efficiency.

Although President Akufo-Addo at a point waded into calls to start the conversation on how to make the policy better with respect to funding, access and sustainability, he refrained from the cost-sharing argument.

Speaking at a meeting with the leadership of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) at the Jubilee House in September 2022, the President said though a number of people have had issues with the policy, it has come to stay.

“One of the things people are calling for is a review of free SHS. I think we should have a broader conversation about the incidence of education on our national development, and therefore also on our budgetary and public sector contributions to national education.”

Government spends averagely between 4.5 roughly 5 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and between 17.6 and 24 percent of it national budget, on education between 2019 and 2021.

The Free SHS policy has been under scrutiny since its inception in 2017 as a result of problems with feeding and, to an extent, infrastructural challenges.

This year, the issue with feeding has become topical after months of no food supply due to challenges, according to the Education Ministry.

This week, schools in the Upper West Region and other areas, are reported to be out of stock and students are fed with gari and rice with no accompaniments, like stew.

It comes months after food shortage hit other schools, including Central, Volta, Greater Accra and Eastern regions with some threatening to shut down schools.

The National Education Campaign Coalition argued that it is time government brought together all stakeholders in the sector to deliberate on the way forward for the policy, agreeing with the President’s call.

While praising government for the bold steps in rolling out the policy, the group said the policy has come in handy helping many children who hitherto would have truncated their secondary education due to financial constraint, to further their education.

They said, “Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Education (MOE) over the years of the constitutional experiment, have made it as a priority to ensure that education is made free from basic to secondary level to afford more children in Ghana the opportunity to access quality education hence the inception of Free SHS. In spite of the usual implementation challenges, we commend government for the increased access to education at the higher secondary for many for many Ghanaian children who otherwise would not have continued their education.”

The group added, “The challenges of implementation, however, require urgent attention of all stakeholders in education. GNECC therefore welcomes His Excellency, the President’s call for a national conversation on the FSHS programme. In view of this, we strongly urge MOE to urgently organize stakeholder forum for the national conversation on the Free SHS programme as a way forward for sustaining this intervention..

The Coalition applauded government for the key reforms it has brought to the sector, which they say have “Opened up access to education.”

The statement by the Coalition listed some of the key reforms as free SHS programme, the Complementary Basic Education (CBE), the establishment of the Complementary Education Agency, instituting Capitation Grants, programme for mother tongue as a medium of instruction at lower levels and instituting the annual National Education Week where partners and stakeholders present their position on issues in the sector.

The CSOs in the education sector said they are on the ground monitoring issues in the schools and communities and assured the ministry and all stakeholders “of our willingness, and credibility to support the government in achieving its intended goals of quality, efficiency and accountability in Ghana’s education delivery.”

The Coalition proposed a bi-yearly one-day summit with CSOs to review the recommendations indicated by the Coalition.

The five-day programme, which is under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, is themed “Re-assessing education policies for effective service delivery and national transformation.”

The annual event will be used to share expertise and experiences and also to deliberate on government policies and programmes, the successes and challenges and the way forward.

Stakeholders, including development partners, are participating in the programme.

The Minister of Education, Yaw Osei Adutwum, who was not present during the opening ceremony, will join the programme in the course of the week.

Source: Anchorghana

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