Spio-Garbrah adds voice to debate on free SHS

BY: Musah Yahaya Jafaru
Mr Ekow Spio-Garbrah
Mr Ekow Spio-Garbrah

A former Minister of Education, Mr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, has added his voice to the call for a national debate on the free Senior High School (SHS) policy in order to devise ways to streamline the implementation of  the policy.

He said the offer of free tuition to all students, as well as the payment of boarding and feeding, fees by the government had huge financial implications which could greatly dwindle government revenue.

Besides, he said, the manner in which the double-track system was going to be implemented could affect educational delivery and allow students to engage in social vices.

It will be recalled  that former President John Dramani Mahama and some  stakeholders in the educational sector called for this national debate on the new policy.

Sharing his perspectives on the free SHS education policy in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra last Monday, Mr Spio-Garbrah, who is a flag bearer aspirant of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) asked the NPP government to organise stakeholder meetings for experts in education, development and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to dialogue on the policy and give a direction on the way forward.

He said the free SHS education policy was good but indicated that it was not sustainable because the design and methods of its implementation were flawed.

He said the government was expected to spend about GH¢1 billion next year on the implementation of the policy as all the form one, form two and form three students would be benefiting from the policy.

Mr Spio-Garbrah said the experts could have discussions to review the concept, design and methodology of implementation of the policy to reduce the financial burden on the government and ensure its smooth implementation and sustainability.

“It requires a redefinition of what must be free. Teaching and learning materials should be free. Parents who can pay should pay. If a parent ought to have his child at boarding, the parent should be able to pay the boarding fee for the child.

“If we are practising free education as in the United States of America (USA) or Britain, it does not include boarding, lodging and eating. There was lack of adequate planning for the implementation. If there had been adequate planning, the problems would have been less ad hoc,” he said.

Mr Spio-Garbrah said the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, also made a proposition that parents who could afford should be allowed to pay.

He said the admission by Mr Ofori-Atta was telling enough because he implied that funding the free SHS education policy was constraining the national purse that he was controlling.

Background

The government started the implementation of the free SHS in September last year, with about 424,092 form one students benefiting from the policy. The implementation is fraught with challenges in terms of lack of classrooms and the huge financial outlay.

This year, the government introduced the double-track system as a solution to the congestion in public SHSs resulting from the implementation of the policy.

At least, 490,514 candidates who sat the 2018 Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) qualified to be in SHSs and technical institutes for the commencement of the double-track educational system.