We need an educated and skilled workforce to be able to operate the modern economy we are creating. The Free SHS is a start towards this goal. It is a policy that has come to stay-President Nana Akufo-Addo.
G.D Zaney, in the July-September 2017 edition of GhanaToday magazine with the heading, “Free SHS policy implementation begins”, has reported President Akufo-Addo as having said that the cost of providing Free Senior High School (Free SHS) education is cheaper than the cost of the alternative of an uneducated and unskilled workforce with the capacity to retard development.
The Free SHS starts
The Free SHS programme was launched by President Nana Akufo-Addo at the start of the 2017/2018 academic year on September 12, 2017, at the West African Senior High School (WASS) at Adenta near Accra. It was a nice event and ministers of state, including Education Minister Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, GES Director-General Professor Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa and directors of education as well as teachers, students and the general public attended.
Why Free SHS at all?
Just like some other intervention packages and projects in education like the School Capitation Grant, Free Distribution of Uniforms and the Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP), the Free SHS is supporting parents and guardians to give good-quality senior high school education to their children and wards. Deputy Education Minister (in charge of General Education) Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum is on record to have said, “One of the best things that could ever happen to many Ghanaians, especially parents, is the fact that they will no longer be burdened with the huge school fees to pay for their wards to access senior high school education.”
Aside of the Article 25(1) b of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution which backs the need for free secondary education in all of its different forms, Education Minister Dr Opoku Prempeh believes that “Free SHS is doable and the NPP is going to do it. We are not oblivious to the obstacles but we hope the president’s direction will put Ghana on the map where financial obstacles will no longer determine how far a person can go in the education cycle.”
Records have it that in 2013, out of 352,202 students that were placed in senior high schools by the Computerised School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS), 90,604 could not enrol and in 2014, out of 386,412 students, 113,260 could not enrol. In 2015, 115,363 out of 415,012 students could not enrol while 111,336 of the 420,135 students failed to enrol in 2016. The belief has been that this trend happened because most of the parents and guardians did not have the money to get their children and wards enrolled in the schools.
Placement and enrollment of students
The West African Examinations Council (WAEC), in 2017, released the results of 455,692 candidates to CSSPS,in addition to 8,547 re-entry persons (that is; people that failed to enroll in the previous years) and 36 foreign students that applied, for placement in public senior high, technical, agricultural and vocational schools, of which 464,534 inputs were done by CSSPS.
Candidates with a grade nine in English Language or Mathematics or in both subjects were not placed, giving a total of 427,124 persons that qualified for placement by CSSPS. Available data at the Free SHS Secretariat of the Ministry of Education have shown that 358,205 students enrolled in the schools as at 8 am. of November 29, 2017.
The nature of fees
Be it day or boarding and subject to approval by GES Council, the Free SHS pays all fees, other than Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) dues, and it includes admission fees, maintenance fees, fees for cumulative records and medical fees through what is fondly called“one-time” fees.The total of the “one-time” fees for the first-year students of the 2017/2018 academic year, however, stood at GH₵435.00 and GH₵438.00 for day students and for boarding students respectively.
The Council approved recurrent fees of GH₵C101.47 and GH₵105.47 for utilities, examinations, library, practical, entertainment, science development and for teacher motivation for day students and boarding students respectively as a three-meal feeding fee for boarders stands at GH₵C4.80 a day and a one-hot meal for day students is pegged at GH₵1.60.
All continuing students enjoy subsidies and the programme covers students in technical and vocational schools with GH₵748.47 allotted to day students and GH₵1, 104.27to boarders.
Free supply of items
All first-year students of the programme have received, for free, two sets of school uniforms, two sets of house dresses, school cloths, P.E kits, nine exercise books, four notebooks, one supplementary reader, three core English Literature books and books for the core subjects.
Fees for stationery, first aid, sports, culture, sanitation, postage, SRC, ICT, science and computer laboratories, National Science and Maths Quiz and house dues are also being catered for.
As a public relations officer, I do appreciate what happens largely in our schools. This article, therefore, thinks that the Free SHS programme needs the support of all of us, including parents and stakeholders, for it to be successful. And Dr Opoku Prempeh would say, “It is, therefore, the responsibility of parents to ensure that their wards study hard enough to gain placement through the CSSPS in order to qualify for the Free SHS policy.” A lot of other issues shall be discussed in details later for us to appreciate fully how the Free SHS has been so far and its forward march.
The writer is an educationist and a public relations officer at the Headquarters of the Ghana Education Service in Accra.
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