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Let free SHS benefit only poor

BY: Dr Sam Ankrah
 The writer
The writer

Undoubtedly, the implementation of the government flagship programme, free senior high school (SHS), is a positive step forward and it is here to stay.

However, the sustainability of the current model presents challenges primarily not only through cost but also available infrastructure.

Importance

In the context of cost alone, we must review how the programme is delivered.

The free SHS is to ensure that no child who gets to the senior high school stage is denied access.

The primary driver for this is to overcome poverty as a barrier to education.

However, free education for all is something Ghana patently cannot afford and so how do we protect education that is free for those who cannot afford it?

Means-tested

Access to free SHS must be means-tested parents of wards, who are to receive the programme to present their case with a simple statement of income and expenditure.

This should include the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) TIN and all tax clearance certificates.

The government will set a level of income below which children from the applicants may attend school for free.

The government can also consider tapering fees since incomes alone a little above the free SHS threshold may be difficult to absorb for families that are not eligible but still in low income.

This way, the direct burden on the government for all free SHS costs is somewhat ameliorated.

A major bonus is an ability, drive and compulsion to draw people from the informal sector of the economy into the formal by requiring them to be registered with the GRA for tax purposes.

The writer is a Fellow of the Ghana Institute of Chartered Economists and President of African Investment Group