GH¢2.8bn to fund free SHS in September

Government will need about GH¢2.8billion next month, which begins the next academic year, to cater for all the 1.2 million Senior High School (SHS) students under its flagship free SHS policy.

Currently, government spends about GH¢2,312 on each SHS student per year, and this means it will have to raise GH¢2.8billion to meet the tuition demands of all the 1.2 million students who will be under the policy from September.

This large number of students that will begin the next academic year in September is the highest SHS population the country will witness since independence.

The country currently has in place the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) that covers primary and junior high education: however, it is estimated that close to 50 percent of JHS graduates who pass do not have access into SHS, due largely to lack of funds and accessibility.

So, the first year of the programme’s implementation saw the enrolment of over 400,000 students in the various secondary schools. Last year, about 500,000 students also benefitted from the programme.

This year over 500,000 JHS candidates sat for the BECE, and they will receive their placement into the various SHSs by September.

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This is expected to increase government spending on education in next year’s budget, as the enrolment for SHS is expected to go up to a total of 1.3 million students.

Already, government has spent about GH¢800miliion on the Free SHS policy since its implementation, and this is expected to increase in the next budget.

In the 2018 budget, GH¢455.9million of petroleum revenues was allocated to the Free SHS programme.

President Nana Akufo-Addo, during the free SHS policy launch in 2017, said his government would invest revenues from oil into one of the most ambitious social programmes in the country’s history – that is, the Free Senior High School policy.

According to him, Free SHS is ensuring that the country’s oil revenues are being equitably distributed to the people and not ending up in the pockets of a few.

However, since government announced it will use oil money to fund the Free SHS policy, there has been criticism by some civil society groups that it is risky for government to rely solely on oil revenue to fund the Free SHS programme; insisting that it must diversify its sources of funding for the programme due to the instability of oil prices on the world market.

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