Financing free

BY: Daily Graphic
Library photo
Library photo

The correlation between education and development is well documented. 

Indeed, education develops an individual’s productive skills and consequently yields benefits over time to the individual and the larger society.

Countries, therefore, commit a chunk of their resources to education. Although the global average is five per cent, Ghana currently spends over six per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on education, which places it among the highest in Africa.

Despite this, a cursory look at the educational sector reveals a wide gap in infrastructure. But conscious of the return on investment in education, the government, last year, introduced the free senior high school (SHS) policy which has been hailed around the world as very apt.

But the huge resources that are envisaged to be spent annually on the policy, especially from next year when the programme reaches its full cycle, have overwhelmed many.

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Although the government has time and number assured the nation that the programme has come to stay and that it will find the resources to see to its continuity, a section of society has expressed apprehension about the ability of the country to foot the huge bill, which they argue threatens the sustainability of the programme.

Last Monday, at a Graphic Business/Stanbic Bank forum on the financing of education, participants were unanimous that for the country to be able to sustain the free SHS programme, it should allow rich parents to pay their children’s school fees.

The Daily Graphic sees the suggestion as progressive.

But a few questions are begging for answers.

How does the country identify rich people? Is it by salaries? Certainly, there are people in the informal sector who earn far more than many in the formal sector but who are not considered as being able to finance their children’s education.

There are others who earn good income but their responsibilities are huge, such that they will need a push to be able to pay their children’s fees at SHS.

There are yet others who argue that students going to SHS can be assessed by the basic schools they attended.

To them, if a child attended a basic school where fees were high, then that means the parents can afford to pay school fees at SHS.

The Daily Graphic begs to differ on this, as the idea lacks any scientific evidence.

We are not oblivious to the fact that the rate of expansion of many towns and cities have sent many parents living far away from government schools.

Most of these developing residential areas have only private schools and parents living in such areas have no option but take their children to such private schools.

We support the contribution of parents and guardians to financing SHS education, but we think that for a start, the country should set up a fund for that purpose and encourage all citizens, both home and abroad, who are willing to contribute into it to do so.

With mobile money transfer in vogue, this can be done with ease.

We also reason that we can look at having data such as are used to identify people who enjoy Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) benefits, so that children of needy parents can be identified to enjoy either free SHS education or some form of bursary.

The free SHS programme is a laudable initiative and we should continue the debate on the best form of financing that will sustain it.