An amount of GH₵8.8 million has been released by the government for the payment of the outstanding utility bills of 688 public senior high schools.
The amount covers the cost of electricity and water that were supplied to the schools for the first term of the 2017/18 academic year, following the implementation of the free SHS policy.
Out of the amount, the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) received about GH₵3.3 million, while the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) and the Northern Electricity Distribution Company (NEDCo) received GH₵3.7 million and GH₵1.7 million, respectively.
Already, about GH₵120.2 million has been released to 250 suppliers to supply textbooks, uniforms, house vests and clothes to students in 453 SHSs, while efforts are being made to supply to the remaining schools.
In an interview, the Head of Communications at the Free SHS Secretariat, Mrs Josberta Gyan Kwakye, said some of the suppliers had already delivered the textbooks to the schools, while contractual details were being followed to ensure that the books were supplied to all schools
She reiterated the fact that the secretariat and the Ministry of Education were working closely with other stakeholders to address the challenges confronting the implementation of the free SHS policy.
Throwing more light on the utilities, she said the utility bills for the second and third terms were being processed.
“The practice is that the utility companies have to submit their bills to the Free SHS Secretariat, which will be followed by a confirmation of the figures by the schools before processes are activated to pay.
“We are still receiving bills and doing due diligence, so as soon as we are done with the processes, the bills for the second and third terms will be paid as well,” she said.
Mrs Kwakye described the payment of the bills as a major move to addressing the challenges that the free SHS policy faced, especially concerning the payment of utility bills.
“Previously, we had situations where suppliers cut services to schools due to outstanding bills. With this release of funds, it means that the schools can operate smoothly,” she said.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo launched the free SHS policy at the West Africa Senior High School at Adenta on September 12, 2017.
Per the policy, all fees approved by the Ghana Education Service Council for first-year students have been absorbed by the government, except dues imposed by parent-teacher associations (PTAs).
The cost of utilities in SHSs is also covered under the policy.