Free SHS gets GH¢680m of oil cash

Government has earmarked GH¢679.6million to spend on the Free Senior High School (FSHS) programme, out of a total GH¢2.1billion oil money allocated to the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) for 2019.

This amount, which is GH¢223.7million more than the previous year’s allocation of GH¢455.9million, is expected to help address some of the teething-challenges facing the flagship programme that enters its second full-year of implementation in 2019.

According to the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta, enrolment under the programme in 2018 was 490,882; representing an increase of 36 percent over the 2017 enrolment of 361,771.

During the budget presentation, he said to meet the increasing demand for secondary education, the Ministry of Education introduced the double-track school calendar as a temporary measure in 400 schools to accommodate more students and ease congestion.

“The system ensured that an estimated 181,000 students who would have otherwise been denied secondary education, due to constraints with space, were placed in schools.”

As of October 30, a total of 484,743 students had been placed in schools on both the green and gold tracks; but the Ministry of Education is expected to complete stalled building projects at secondary schools to expand capacity in 2019.

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Also, as a new measure to broaden the tax net, the Finance Minister announced that beginning September 2019, parents will be required to show their Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) before accessing free secondary school education under the Free SHS programme.

But the allocation to Physical Infrastructure and Service Delivery in Education priority areas under the ABFA, as has been the case since the priority areas were decided by government, appears to dwarf allocations to the other priority areas – Agriculture, Physical Infrastructure, and Service Delivery in Health.

For instance, out of the GH¢1.546.38billion approved to be spent as ABFA in the year 2018 – of which a total of GH¢610.18million, representing 49.0 percent of total ABFA receipts, has been utilised since September – Education received over GH¢417million.

Similarly, from the projected US$1,080.74million petroleum revenues for 2019, a total of US$473million has been allocated to ABFA.

However, out of this amount it is expected that Physical Infrastructure and Service Delivery in Education, as a priority areas, will receive GH¢679.6million.

Remarkably, the funds allocated to this priority area will go to finance the FSHS programme.

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