Include private sector in implementation of free SHS — CHOPS

BY: Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor
Dr Faith Ben-Daniels addressing the participants
Dr Faith Ben-Daniels addressing the participants

The Conference of Heads of Private Secondary Schools (CHOPS) has faulted the government for excluding the private sector in the implementation of the free Senior High School (SHS) policy.

It said if the government had consulted and included the heads of the private secondary schools, it would not have been necessary to run the double-track system since the private schools had the capacity and infrastructure to take on the excess number of students.

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According to CHOPS, it was unfair to exclude students of the private schools from the policy since they were all Ghanaians.

Dialogue

In an interview during the STAR Ghana-Daily Graphic stakeholder Dialogue on Education Policy in Ghana, in Kumasi, yesterday, the Ashanti Regional Chairman of CHOPS, Mr Adjei Asenso, accused the government of not listening to them in spite of their pleas and appeals to be considered for the policy.


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“It is rather unfortunate. We have pleaded, we have talked much but nothing has come from it for 18 months now. We have not heard anything,” he said.

Well-endowed schools

Mr Asenso wondered why the government had neglected the private SHSs even though those schools had the infrastructure and the facilities to take part in the policy.

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According to him, most of the well-endowed private schools had better infrastructure and facilities than the public schools taking part in the free SHS policy.

He explained that the private schools were not asking for anything extra but just to be given the same fees per student as was being done for students in public schools “and we will be glad to partner the government to implement the policy”.

Even though the conference said it welcomed the policy, it said its current form of implementation was not the best as it lacked the input of all stakeholders.

The conference also expressed the fear that with the new policy, which did not have a cut-off point for entry into the SHSs, “students tend to relax in their learning since they know they will be admitted to the secondary schools irrespective of their performance”.

De-boardinisation

The Head of Department of Education Leadership of the University of Winneba, Kumasi Campus, Dr Faith Ben-Daniels, for her part, believed that for the free SHS policy to be sustainable, it should be limited to only day students and all boarding schools should be converted into day schools.

That, according to her, would allow the government to convert the dormitories into classrooms and allow more resources to cater for more students.

She explained that most of the boarding schools had outlived their usefulness and it was high time they were made day schools for students within the schools’ catchment areas.

She said the boarding school system should be operated in schools out of town in the rural areas “and not in towns where students can easily commute from the house to the schools”.

According to her, if parents wanted their children to go to boarding schools, “they should pay for it and it should not be free for them.”

Dr Ben-Daniels also observed that there had been too much focus on the students in the free SHS policy, leaving out the teacher.

She said not much had been said or done about the preparedness and the conditions of service of the teacher so they too could play their part in the successful implementation of the policy.
She appealed to the government to also consider the teachers and ensure that they were well taken care of under the policy for it to succeed.

A former Director General of the Ghana Education Service, Mr Charles Tsegah, said he was worried about the quality of students that would come out of the system due to the ‘wholesale’ admission into the SHSs.

He said, “We all endorse the idea of the free SHS but not how it is being implemented,” adding that he believed the national cake must be shared equally to benefit all irrespective of the school one attended.