Parents and teacher unions in the country have commended government for taking the bold step to begin the implementation of its free Senior High School (SHS) policy promised during the electioneering campaign.
They, however, cautioned the government to learn from some challenges of the capitation grant and northern education scholarship as well as delay in the release of funds to ensure that such mistakes were not repeated to work against the success of the free SHS policy.
Speaking to The Ghanaian Times in Accra yesterday, the General Secretary of Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), Mr. David Ofori Acheampong lauded the announcement by the President and expressed the optimism that the programme would be successful.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, at the weekend, announced that beginning this year, Ghanaian students who will be admitted into the various public SHS would not pay any fees.
“The government will fund the cost of public SHS education for all those who qualify for entry from the 2017/2018 academic year onwards.
“By free SHS, we mean that in addition to tuition, there will be no admission fees, no science resource centre fees, no computer lab fees, no examination fees, and no utility fees,” he said at the 60th anniversary celebration of Akuapeman SHS at Akwapem in the Eastern Region.
However, Mr. Acheampong reminded the government of the discussions held with its transition team on education and the matters brought to the fore by teacher unions and other stakeholders.
Mr. Acheampong said resources to ensure the smooth implementation of the policy remained paramount and therefore the government should have by this time created or found a reliable source of funding.
According to Mr. Acheampong, GNAT was patiently waiting for the 2017 budget to be read, anticipating that the government would allocate enough funding for the free SHS policy.
The President of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Christian Addai-Poku welcomed the announcement by the President to commence the implementation of the policy this year September.
He, however, cautioned that the challenges in the release of feeding grant, and other educational grants should not be allowed to disturb the smooth running of the policy.
Mr. Addai-Poku urged government to commit itself to ensuring timely release of funds to cater for feeding,textbooks, uniform, utility and other expenses in the high school level.
“We have had issue with the funding of educational intervention programmes such as the capitation grant where sometimes funds were released nine months after the beginning of an academic term. This situation should not happen with the free SHS,” he stressed.
On infrastructure, Mr. Addai-Poku advised government to expand the existing educational infrastructure in both boarding and day SHS across the country to absorb the teeming number of students that would qualify for admissions.
He urged the government to also consider increasing the number of SHS facilities while setting strict modalities for admitting students.
“There is obviously going to be a mad rush for SHS across the country which requires that the government build more schools and expand the facilities of existing ones. In addition, government should spell out the modalities of accessing high school education to avoid confusion.”
Some parents that spoke to The Ghanaian Times yesterday could not hide their joy and commended President Akufo-Addo for taking steps to fulfil his promise.
According to the parents, the policy had come at the right time to relieve them of its burden of funding their children’s education at the SHS school level.
Margaret Asante, a trader at Circle, said the free SHS will enable her to send all her three children who were currently in Junior High School (JHS) to SHS
“We have prayed for such intervention and God has answered our prayer by giving us the government that is willing to make SHS free,” she said.
Moses Tetteh, a public servant, urged the government to ensure that heads of SHS strictly adhere to the terms of the policy and not to impose additional charges or burden parents with dues of Parents Teachers Association.
He also urged the government to make university education free for students that passed their final SHS examination.