GES Fights CHASS Head’s Claims
The Ghana Education Service (GES) has dismissed claims it has failed to release scholarship funds for Senior High Schools.
President of the Conference of Assisted Senior High Schools (CHASS) Mrs Cecilia Kwakye Coffie, while addressing a speech and prize giving day of the Winneba Senior High School, accused the GES of not addressing the numerous challenges facing secondary schools.
Mrs Coffie reportedly said although heads of SHSs have submitted the enrolment figures and also engaged government on several occasions, nothing was forthcoming.
She further stated that school heads are under serious pressure but are unable to voice it out for fear of victimisation and sanctions, adding that continuing students are refusing to pay their fees as they insist they are also Ghanaians and are, therefore, entitled to Free Senior High School education.
But in a statement, the Director General of the GES Prof. Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa, refuted the claims.
Below is the statement:
GES REACTS TO COMMENTS BY OUTGOING CHASS PRESIDENT
The attention of the Ghana Education Service has been drawn to a news report in the Monday 20th November 2017 edition of the Daily Graphic regarding comments made by the outgoing President of the Conference of Assisted Senior High Schools (CHASS) and immediate past headmistress of Winneba Senior High School, Mrs. Cecilia Kwakye Coffie, during the Speech and Prize-Giving Day of Winneba Senior High School on Saturday 18th November 2017.
The report quotes Mrs Coffie as stating that ‘the major challenge confronting the senior high schools is the arrears and subsidies, release of payment of scholarships to the Senior High Schools and the renege on the part of Government to supply food to schools.’ The report further quotes her thus; ‘although heads of SHSs have submitted the enrolment figures and also engaged government on several occasions, nothing was forthcoming’. She is said to have further stated that ‘school heads are under serious pressure but are unable to voice it out for fear of intimidation and sanctions.’ She is also reported to have stated that continuing students are refusing to pay their fees as they insist they are also Ghanaians and are therefore entitled to Free Senior High School education.
We respond accordingly thus;
- Subsidy Arrears
It is instructive to note that as of January 2017, the 2016/17 subsidy arrears to schools in respect of the first term of the academic year stood at GHS25,469,885.50, whilst the Progressively Free SHS programme stood in arrears of GHS17,972,658.00. Both have since been paid. The arrears in respect of the third term of the 2015/16 academic year, amounting to GHS8, 653,176.00 have also been paid.
Further, GHS10, 128,090.21 for the Progressively Free SHS programme relating to the 2nd term of the 2016/17 academic year has been paid, leaving an outstanding of GHS7,844,567.79. The subsidies for the second term, together with both subsidy and Free SHS arrears, are still outstanding and are being processed for payment.
Over the years, whilst the Ministry of Finance has been working on a quarterly calendar cycle, the schools operate on a trimester basis. This apparent conflict does have an impact on the payment cycle, and the Ministry of Education is actively engaged in discussions with the Ministry of Finance to find a way of reconciling the two cycles to prevent the regular spectre of arrears. It is important to note further that for Form Two and Form Three students, out of a total of GHS1,0002.67 per term for boarding students Government pays a subsidy of GHS30.80 per child per term to our senior high schools, which amounts to 3.07%of the total school fees, with parents paying up the balance. It is therefore difficult to fathom that schools risk closure when subsidies are not in.
- Release of Free SHS Funds
Under arrangements agreed ahead of the implementation of the Free SHS programme, of which CHASS was a part, schools received an upfront payment of 20% of their funds, based on the number of students that they had stated they could admit. This was to help them acquire perishable produce for feeding the students and also for general running of the school. The balance was to be released to a school once it had submitted their returns to the GES on the number of students they had actually enrolled and the necessary deductions made. CHASS was at all times involved in this arrangement.
It is to be noted that so far, only 56 out of the 674 public senior high schools in the country have submitted their returns.
Further, in respect of certain items on the list to be absorbed by government, like school uniforms, the money was not to be sent to the schools directly but rather to the suppliers after they had delivered to the schools and submitted their bills to the Free SHS Secretariat. Other items, like PE Kit, were to be supplied directly by government. Again, CHASS was fully aware of and involved in these arrangements prior to the implementation of the Free SHS programme. In any event therefore, it cannot be correct that government owes the various schools the full 80% of the balance.
Indeed, it has been realized that if government were to pay up to 50% out of the 80%, 61 schools would need to pay money back, as the 20% paid to them was in respect of their projected enrolment figures and after all deductions had been made.
- Food Supplies
It was agreed by all stakeholders (including CHASS, led by Mrs. Coffie) that the National Food Buffer Stock Company would register all suppliers of the schools and would be required to pick up the non-perishable items from the company for supplies to the schools.
On 12th October 2017, a meeting was held by the Ghana Education Service, with the executives of CHASS, led by Mrs. Coffie, the executives of the National Association of Matrons and Domestic Bursars and the National Food Buffer Stock Company in attendance, to discuss the various challenges with food supplies. Subsequently it was decided that between 20th November 2017 and 8th December 2017, a team comprising the Ag. Deputy Director of the Ghana Education Service, the Chairman of the GES Council, the Coordinator of the Free SHS Secretariat and a representative of the National Food Buffer Stock Company would tour the country and meet with the suppliers and school heads to address the various challenges. The team is in Tamale at present.
It is, therefore, rather surprising that the outgoing CHASS President would come out with the comments she made at Winneba.
- Fear of Intimidation and Sanctions
The GES wishes to make it clear that its doors are always open to address concerns raised by school heads using the proper channels of which they are aware. The GES has not intimidated any school head and has no intention of doing so.
Indeed, we appreciate feedback as it is the only way in which to assess events on the ground and improve upon them. Recently, monitoring teams were dispatched by the Ministry of Education and the GES to all senior high schools in the country to assess the situation on the ground. During this exercise, valuable feedback was received from school heads. It is therefore not the case that any school head has any reason to fear expressing concerns due to a risk of intimidation or sanctions by the Ghana Education Service.
- Fees Payment by Continuing Students
The Ghana Education Service has no evidence to back this claim. Government’s policy has clearly stated that in the 2017/18 academic year, the Free SHS programme will cover only Form One students, and this is what is being implemented accordingly.
The Ghana Education Service is committed to quality education delivery goals in this country at all levels and is working to ensure that any challenges are resolved in an expedited manner.
The general public is further assured that the senior high schools will not close down prematurely, and continue to urge school heads who have particular concerns to continue to use the relevant channels to liaise with the Ghana Education Service to deal with them.
PROF. KWASI OPOKU-AMANKWA