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Free SHS policy is welcome news — CHASS

Author: Severious Kale-Dery
Mrs Cecelia Kwakye Cofie, President of CHASS
Mrs Cecelia Kwakye Cofie, President of CHASS

The Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) has welcomed the free Senior High School (SHS) Education policy which took off on Monday.

It said the decision by the government to absorb all the financial needs of first-year students was welcome news since it “will relieve us of the agony of having to drive students away for non-payment of school fees.”

Speaking in an interview in Accra on Monday, the General Secretary of CHASS, Mr Samuel Gyebi Yeboah explained that it was sometimes difficult sending students home, knowing very well that they were going home to return empty handed.

Ministry ready for free SHS

The Ministry of Education last week urged headmasters/headmistresses to put in place all the necessary structures to ensure that the first-year students reported to school yesterday, September 11, 2017.

“As I speak with you, we believe we are ready to reopen schools. However, as a human institution, challenges may come,” the Deputy Minister of Education in charge of Secondary, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, told journalists at a press conference last week.

He added that the ministry had already distributed textbooks on the core subjects to all schools and asked any school that might be having challenges to immediately get in touch with the ministry.

Mr Yeboah, therefore, urged all heads of second cycle schools to support the policy for it to materialise.

Funds for free SHS

Asked whether all members of CHASS had received their share of funds for the take-off of the free SHS Education policy, he said so far so good since no school head had complained.

Last Thursday, the Ministry of Finance announced that it had released more than 50 per cent of the funds needed to finance the implementation of the policy, and that GH¢280 million out of the GH¢486 million required for the flagship programme on education had been released.

The ministry explained that the accounts of all the 647 schools across the country would be credited by the close of last Thursday for the smooth take-off of the programme.

Mr Yeboah, however, said it would not come as a surprise that some schools were yet to receive theirs and encouraged the heads of such schools not to be disappointed but to go ahead to register and accept the students.

When he was questioned on what would have happened if the funds did not hit their accounts before schools reopened, he said that would not be the first time, adding that the schools had always credited foodstuffs while waiting for funds and for that matter this year would not be an exception.

Quality of education

Touching on quality, Mr Yeboah urged Ghanaians to expect the same quality of education and even better if the needed logistics were made available.

Comparing the free SHS with the free basic education, he explained that when the basic education was made free, it came to a point that basic logistics needed for teaching were not available which affected delivery.

He said basic logistics such as chalk, reading materials and textbooks were not available, “and definitely the quality of delivery will go down.

“But here is the case the government has promised and has started supplying textbooks. So, we hope that things will continue as we have started because the teachers have not changed. They are still trained by the same universities,” Mr Yeboah explained.

He said he was expecting that the quality of delivery would even increase because this time round, the money would be made available in time and the needed equipment for practicals would be provided in time, “because the government would be providing all that.”