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Voluntary education fund not solution to funding free SHS – Education Coalition

The Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition has questioned the need for the setting up of a voluntary education fund by the government.

The Coalition believes that the fund cannot solve the funding challenges the free senior high school education policy will encounter, and has asked government to come clear on how it intends to fund the programme.

Chairman of the Coalition, Bright Appiah told Joy News “If government is calling for a voluntary contribution fund, then it raised uncertainty in terms of how the government is harmonizing some of these scholarships that existed already and how it can feed into the larger policy scheme.”

During the 2018 budget presentation in Parliament on Wednesday, Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta disclosed that with the successful launch of the free SHS, “government has received proposals from the public, several of which encourage the establishment of a fund to receive voluntary contributions to support education." 

“Thankfully, the GET Fund Law allows for the setting up of other education-related funds. In 2018, the Ministry will work with GET Fund to set up this education fund to enable Ghanaians make voluntary contributions to support education,” he added.

But this has not gone down well with NGO’s in education.

Mr Appiah wondered if existing support schemes like the COCOBOD scholarships are being utilized to support the free SHS programme.

He said students benefitting from such schemes and other private sponsorships should be taken off the free SHS programme to make room for more people.

The continuous existence of all these people on the free SHS programme will cause the government to spend more than it should, thereby hampering the smooth running of the policy, he argued.

Mr Appaih noted that the reason for the introduction of the new fund means there is a gap in funding, but “we have to be clear on how we want to run it, so that there will be no uncertainty in terms of the people we can support and how the scholarships which are already in the system can support the programme.

“If government has made allocation and you think that, that allocation is enough, then what is the essence in calling for a voluntary contribution,” he queried.

He fears that government will chicken out in supporting the programme, and “that is why we have to acknowledge it.”

However, Deputy Finance Minister Abena Osei Asare says the government is committed to funding the programme and every year it will make provisions in the budget for the free SHS.

“These are additional funds that can come in and can be used for other things related to education. As long as this government is in  power, we are committed to funding the programme.”