The Africa Education Watch (Eduwatch) has revealed in its latest ‘Education Financing Brief’ that Ghana spends three times more education resources on children from the richest 20 percent of households than it does on those from the poorest 20 percent of households.
According to Eduwatch, while a whopping 33 percent of the sector’s resources go to these richest 20 percent, only 11 percent gets to the poorest 20 percent of households.
The civil society organisation (CSO) has called for a strengthened commitment to improving education financing and increasing equitable spending to create more opportunities for the majority of poor who are out of school or at risk of dropping out.
The Executive Director of Eduwatch, Kofi Asare, mentioned that also worrying is the deprivation of the Complementary Education Agency (CEA), with the budgetary allocation to perform its mandate. The CEA is mandated to provide complementary education for basic school-aged Out-Of-School-Children (OOSC) in the country. The current number is about 418,000 children.
“The Complementary Education Agency (CEA) mandated to provide complementary education for OOSC is woefully underfunded, receiving a maximum of 0.32 percent of the sector’s expenditure in 2020. The CEA requires at least two percent of total education expenditure to deliver on its complementary education mandate under the new CEA Law,” he stated.
The recently ended Transforming Education Summit (TES) reinforced the need to target education spending at the poorest quantile to ensure equity and efficiency in spending by meeting the comprehensive needs of poor people as they access education.
Declining growth in education expenditure
The contraction of the Ghanaian economy due to COVID-19 and its impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is negatively affecting the government’s spending on education.
In 2020, even though Ghana exceeded the international benchmark of 15-20 percent public expenditure allocation to education, education expenditure as a percent of total government expenditure declined from 23 percent in 2019 to 17.6 percent in 2020.
The Eduwatch indicated that between 2017 and 2020, the average education expenditure as a percentage of GDP was 4.8 percent. This is a decline of one percent from 5.6 percent to 4.6 percent.
“Even though Ghana’s GDP more than doubled from GH₵180billion in 2015 to GH₵391billion in 2020, education expenditure, as a percentage of GDP, declined by almost two percent from 6.5 percent to 4.6 percent. This means investment in education is not consistent with the growth of the economy,” Eduwatch stated.
The decline in basic education expenditure
Basic education’s share of total education expenditure has declined from 47 percent in 2011 to 41 percent in 2020.
According to UNICEF, the government spends three times more to provide Senior High School (SHS) education for each child per year – Gh₵3,633 compared to basic Gh₵1,251.
In 2022, out of a total of GH₵1.4billion allocated for infrastructure, only 16 percent was allocated to basic education, with the highest 44 percent going to secondary education, and tertiary education 40 percent.
GETFund is too focused on secondary education to the detriment of basic. This is widening the infrastructural gap in basic education as there remain over 5,000 schools under trees, sheds, and in dilapidated structures; and 4,000 primary schools without a JHS, leading to about 20 percent dropouts in deprived communities after primary school.
The Eduwatch recommends that the government should leverage existing Ghana Statistical Services (GSS) data on household expenditure to develop a targetting system that enables the average to rich households to pay for feeding in SHS while the poorest receive even more support to remove existing financial barriers in funding their school prospectus.
Again, the CSO is urging the government to upscale education spending to the upper thresholds of recommended global thresholds, thus allocating at least 20 percent of government spending and six percent of GDP to education, with 50 percent going into basic education.