Implementation of the Free Senior High School Policy
| Updated Sep 13, 2017 at 12:12pm
NEWS COMMENTARY ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FREE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL POLICY
The free SHS Policy was a critical campaign promise in the 2008 and 2016 general elections. The announcement of the policy which derives inspiration from the Constitution, received both praises and criticisms from a wide range of people. Politically, those on the other side of the divide said it was only a campaign gimmick and the policy cannot be implemented in view of the socio-economic challenges of the country.
All the negative presumptions must give way to reality. The unveiling of the logo for the initiative was a great pointer to the fact that all is set for its roll out. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in February 2017, officially announced the intention of his government to fully implement the Free SHS. The President said by free SHS, the government is saying in addition to tuition, which is already free, there will be no admission fees, no library and science centre fees, no computer lab fees, and no examination fees. Also no utility fees will be charged. There will be free textbooks, free boarding and free meals. Day students will get a meal at school for free. The President pointed out that the Free SHS will also cover agricultural, vocational and technical institutions at the high school level. The policy also involves the building of new public Senior High Schools.
This is indeed a great relief to parents and students. Parents can now channel their resources to other activities that will enhance the living standard in their homes while government takes care of their wards in school. A 26-member Free SHS Implementation Committee was inaugurated by the Minister of Education and a Free SHS Secretariat established to handle all issues pertaining to the implementation of the policy in September.
To add impetus to the commitment, the Minister of Education in collaboration with the Ghana Education Service, GES, held series of meetings with key stakeholders within the GES to sensitise them to the policy and the roles expected of them. The free SHS policy will address inequality and ensure equal opportunities for all students through the removal of cost barriers. It will also enable students who otherwise would have terminated their education at the JHS level to acquire functional and employable skills through the acquisition of secondary education as well as enhance the human capital base of the country. It is also aimed at making secondary education the minimum academic qualification in Ghana. The budget per student include one-time fee items for first year students amounting to GH¢435.00 per day student and GH¢438.00 for each boarding student. The policy will also cover all recurrent fee items amounting to GH¢101.47 for day students and GH¢105.47 for boarding students.
It is important to acknowledge that currently all Senior High Schools have received all the core textbooks ready for distribution to all first-year students under the free SHS policy. The initiative is critical for human resource development of the country and all stakeholders must ensure its success; come what may. Let’s make it work so it becomes a great yardstick for other countries in Africa and beyond. Critiques and duty bearers who may through their actions or inaction throw spanners into the wheels should be mindful of the supreme national interest and rather support the policy. It is the desire of every well-meaning Ghanaian that all the necessary resources will be provided to reduce the hitches which usually accompany novelties of such national character.
The Ghana Education Service should be strict on school authorities that may engage in acts that may undermine the implementation of the policy. Regional and District Free SHS Secretariats should be established where parents and guardians who encounter challenges can go for redress.
We must all support the Policy for All its good intentions.
BY DAN OSMAN MWIN, HEAD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS OF THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION.