Review Free SHS without sacrificing quality


Two lecturers at the University of Ghana say the current economic challenges give government a perfect opportunity to review its flagship programme – Free SHS, as it is draining the public purse and leaving little for other sectors.

According to the lecturers, who are both experienced economists, the Free SHS programme can be reviewed without sacrificing quality if government off-loads some of the financial burden onto parents.

In an interview with the B&FT, Director of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana, Prof. Peter Quartey, said it is no defeat for government if it revises the flagship programme and gets parents involved, especially with the present economic conditions – adding that a lot of parents are ready to support the policy should there be need.

“I don’t think anyone is calling for cancelation of the Free SHS, because an educated population is certainly better than an uneducated one. The issue has to do with the financing. We have financed it totally, and we have reached a stage where our resources are not enough. Perhaps is about time we looked at areas where we can cut spending without hurting the quality of Free SHS.

“If we have to ask parents to pay, let’s do so. If we have to make tuition free and let parents pay for boarding or other things, let’s do so. I believe Ghanaians will understand it if government engages parents and lets them know that the world economic order is not permitting us to continue the same way, so let’s review.

“Otherwise, if we continue to push it, quality might suffer. We are not asking that it should be cancelled, but look at it again and see where you can ask parents to support. Many are willing to support in order to make the programme sustainable,” he said.

Also commenting on the same issue in an interview with the B&FT, senior lecturer at the University of Ghana Business School, Dr. Agyapomaa Gyeke-Darko, agrees the Free SHS policy needs a review to make it sustainable – as the wholesale approach adopted by government is hurting the programme.

“Nobody has said Free SHS is not good; it is a very good policy. In fact, if you need a country to grow, you need it to be able to develop its human capital. No doubt about that, but we can’t always have wholesale policies. We need to be able to look at the segment of people who need it. If we carry out wholesale policies, what happens is that we widen further the equality gap.

“For instance, there is no reason why my ward should go to secondary school for free. There are people paying high amounts of school fees in private schools for their wards at the basic level. Why should they come to secondary school and enjoy free education?” she said.

Dr. Gyeke-Darko further added that this is the right time to review the policy, given there are students waiting to enter senior high school this academic year – which can serve as piloting.

“I think we can find ways of rationalising this. We can find ways of targetting this so that the funds will be spent efficiently. There is no doubt that Free SHS is draining the economy and there will be very little resources left to do other things. This is the right time to review, because there are people waiting to start the senior high and we could start with them,” she said.

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