No more oil cash for Free SHS

Government has completely removed the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme from the list of projects and policies financed directly from the oil cash-funded Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA), a recent list of projects to be financed by the ABFA released by the Ministry of Finance has shown.

The Annual Budget Funding Account (ABFA) is the account set up by government that receives allocations from oil and gas revenue in support of government budgets.

While in 2018 ABFA allocation to Physical Infrastructure and Service Delivery in Education overshadowed allocations to other priority areas, such as agriculture and service delivery in health, there is a complete cut of ABFA funding for education in 2019.

For instance, out of the GH¢1.546.38billion approved to be spent as ABFA in the year 2018, education alone received over GH¢417million.

But in a list released by the Ministry of Finance on project that will be funded by ABFA this year, the Ministry of Special Project Development received the highest funding of GH¢652m.

Other sectors which caught government’s attention include the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, launching the Free SHS policy in 2017, noted that: “We are investing revenues from oil in one of the most ambitious social programmes in our country’s history – i.e. the Free Senior High School policy. In the 2018 budget, GH¢455.9million of petroleum revenues was allocated to the Free SHS programme”.

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According to him, the 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 instability of oil prices on the world market.

The Free Senior High School (SHS) policy will enter its third year in September this year, and per the B&FT’s analysis, the total student population in secondary schools across the country could hit over one million – making it the highest since independence.

Before the Free SHS programme was introduced, the total population of students in SHS stood at 432,780 per the 2016 academic year data, with GH¢2,312 spent on each student per year by government.

However, 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.

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If the programme continues as expected, there could be over one million students accessing secondary education free of charge in the country.

The 2017 Education Sector Report indicates that there is 95 percent primary school enrolment, 85 percent Junior High School and 45 percent gross enrolment in SHS education.

This means that five out of every 10 children who start primary school in Ghana do not get the opportunity to attend SHS. But this could significantly reduce as the Free SHS programme has encouraged a lot of enrollment at the secondary school level.

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