The Ministry of Finance says it has released more than 50 per cent of the funds needed to finance the implementation of the free senior high schools (SHS) programme.
Speaking to journalists in Accra on Thursday, a Deputy Minister of Finance, Mrs Abena Osei-Asare, said GH¢280 million out of the GH¢486 million required for the flagship programme on education had been released.
She explained that the accounts of all 647 schools across the country would be credited by the close of today for the smooth take-off of the programme.
Mrs Osei-Asare stressed that the government was committed to the free SHS policy and would ensure its successful implementation.
The deputy minister’s interaction with the media was on the sidelines of a high-level roundtable stakeholder consultation on the 2018-2021 medium-term budget to be presented to Parliament by November 15, 2017.
The consultative forum, which was on the theme: “Strengthening partnership for growth and development”, was attended by chief executive officers (CEOs) of banks and state-owned enterprises and institutions, representatives from the Bank of Ghana (BoG) and captains of industry.
It was the first of several such consultations that will be held with various segments of the economy.
Appeal to banks
Mrs Osei-Asare appealed to banks which kept accounts of the schools to help expedite action on processing the release and also notify the schools when their accounts had been credited.
“We want to explain that the releases have not been delayed. We were waiting for the placement process to be completed and for the Ministry of Education to tell us the number of students in each school before the funds are transferred,” she explained.
A total of 424,092 Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) candidates qualified for placement in SHSs and technical institutes this year.
The candidates had placement in 860 public and private SHS/technical and vocational institutes, including the 42 community day SHSs which the Ghana Education Service (GES) said would be ready by the time first-year students would be reporting to school.
About 36,849 candidates were not placed because they scored Grade 9 in either English Language or Mathematics.
The Deputy Finance Minister said the government’s commitment to the free SHS policy had been demonstrated by releasing more than half of the funds to the schools, instead of the initial 20 per cent it had planned to do, adding that the rest of the funds would be released in due course.
The government promised to release the free SHS funds two weeks ahead of the reopening of schools.
The students are expected in their various schools by Monday, September 11, 2017.
The Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) last Tuesday complained about the delay in the release of the funds, but a Deputy Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, assured CHASS in Ho last Wednesday that the funds would be in their accounts by today.
Heads of second-cycle schools have said they are excited about the free SHS policy, just like parents and guardians, and would like to see it succeed.
The President of CHASS, Mrs Cecilia Kwakye Cofie, however, called for a blueprint for the policy to guide its effective implementation.