Free SHS: An Embarrassment to Parents, Students – Ayariga
Founder and Leader of the All People’s Congress (APC) Party, Hassan Ayariga, has described government’s flagship free SHS policy as an embarrassment to students and parents.
Speaking to journalists, Mr. Ayariga said the governing NPP is desperate for credibility, and is therefore implementing policies such as the free SHS in a haphazard manner.
“Who says implementing the free SHS means all is well? Has the Finance Minister heard what people say about the ill-implemented policy? The free SHS is an embarrassment and a disappointment to students and parents.”
“Do you see the disappointment in the eyes of parents whose wards met the entry requirement but could not be placed because government is trying to control the number of admission because of the cost.? Do you see the disappointment in the eyes of students who sit on the floor to learn in class? Do you see the disappointment in the eyes of students who sleep under trees because there isn’t enough space to contain them in the dormitory.”
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) government’s flagship free Senior High School programme was launched in September 2017, as part of measures to ensure all Ghanaian children are educated, at least, up to the SHS level.
However, since its introduction, the programme that admitted a huge number of about 400,000 students, has encountered a number of challenges, mostly in relation to the capacity of the schools, and the availability of desks and other infrastructure for students.
The President and his Education Minister have assured Ghanaians that the challenges would be addressed to ensure that the students receive the full benefits of the programme.
NPP gov’t is “lazy”
Mr. Ayariga believes the NPP is being lazy, saying any lazy government which refuses to spend can achieve fiscal discipline, and that the NPP cannot not boast about that.
“On the issue of fiscal discipline, the government boasted they resorted to fiscal discipline and respect the limits Parliament set for them within its appropriation, claiming they are well on course to end the year with a fiscal deficit of 6.3%, lower than 6.5% contained in the budget.
“They [NPP], went on to praise themselves that this is the only second time in a decade that the government has managed to stay within its budget deficit target. Hon Ken, are we serious? This is ridiculous! When you are not spending, you will definitely stay within appropriation. In fact, any government can achieve that by deciding to be lazy and not spending.”
On economic policies, Mr. Ayariga also charged the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to clarify some issues he finds unsettling, asserting that Mr. Ofori Atta is only engaging in creative accounting and window dressing.
Budgetary allocation for Free SHS ‘woefully inadequate’ – Ablakwa
National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for the North Tongu Constituency, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has described the government’s budgetary allocation for Free SHS as woefully inadequate to support the programme.
According to him, government would need at least two billion cedis to support Free SHS in 2018, 800 million cedis more than the amount that was allocated to it in the budget.
‘You can’t run education with voluntary funds’
The government announced that it would set up a fund to receive voluntary contributions from individuals to support the implementation of the free SHS programme and the educational sector as a whole.
However, this plan has come under fire from the Minority who believe this is an indication that government does not have the funds to properly implement its much-touted programme.
And according to Okudzeto Ablakwa, the government cannot afford to rely on the voluntary funds as a source of funding for free SHS, as projections for those funds may not materialize.
“No country runs public education on just voluntary funds. What if the Fund is not considered attractive and you don’t really get as much as you are expecting. We can’t leave the destiny of our children’s quality education to just a voluntary fund where we don’t really know the projections. Meanwhile there’s an 800 million-cedi gap as we speak. You’ve only allocated 1.2 billion but you need two billion cedis, at least to sustain free SHS for the 2018 fiscal year,” he argued.
“You cannot just depend on voluntary funds, you can’t run education that way. You need a concrete plan and you need a well-defined funding source. It’s clear that government is struggling to fund it and struggling to identify a clear funding source.”