Ghana: Free secondary education dominates Ghanaian media

Accra, Ghana (PANA) – The commencement of free second cycle education in Ghana dominated the media this week with the government hailing it as a major achievement while the opposition is cautioning that it may not be sustainable.

Under the free Senior High School (SHS) flagship policy of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) launched on Tuesday by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, about 400,000 first year secondary school students will enjoy free tuition, textbooks, meals, library usage, admission, examination, uniforms and Students Representative Council (SRC) dues.

To ensure the successful commencement of the policy, the government says it has released 280 million Ghana cedis out of the 486 million Ghana cedis required. (US$1=4.45 Ghana cedis.)

In the run-up to the 2012 and the 2016 general elections the NPP made free SHS a major campaign promise.

“Free SHS takes off with excitement, challenges,” was the headline of the state-owned Graphic newspaper, which reported that parents and guardians of first year students benefiting from the free senior high school (SHS) policy on Monday thronged the various schools across the country to register their children and wards.

It said the first day of registration, which also coincided with the take-off of the educational programme, was not without challenges.

Challenges with network connectivity, lack of prospectus and large numbers of students created some scenes in some of the schools, while other schools went through the registration exercise smoothly.

Though many of the parents expressed satisfaction with the efficiency of the process, some expressed worry that their children were to be day students, instead of boarders.

“Free SHS policy not sustainable — Minority,” was the headline of another story by the Graphic. It quoted Mr Haruna Iddrisu, Minority Leader in Parliament as saying the free SHS policy was not sustainable as there was no guaranteed funding to support its implementation.

Besides, he said, the policy was not equitable as second and third-year students were exempted from enjoying free education. Ghana’s second cycle education is for three years. The government said the policy will be rolled over three years to cover all students in the 2019/20 academic year.

The Minority Leader also said the free SHS policy in its current state would affect the quality of secondary education and make the students poorer.

He asked the government to build consensus with stakeholders on how to increase its coverage and make it sustainable.

“Free SHS At Last; Parents Rejoice, NDC Licks Wounds,” was the headline of the pro-government Daily Guide.

It reported that the much-touted free SHS flagship policy of the NPP came alive on Tuesday when President Akufo-Addo formally declared it operational – taking the burden of fees off the necks of parents and guardians.

The newspaper said it was "an interesting and fascinating sight to behold" as parents and students could not hide their joy over the commencement of the programme, which, it said, is seen as a game changer in closing the gap between the rich and the poor.

Parents were happy that such responsibility had been taken over by the government and showered praises on the NPP administration, the newspaper said.

The Graphic on Thursday published a story under the headline, “Privately managed schools call for inclusion in free SHS” which said the managers of private senior high schools had appealed to the government to include their schools in the implementation of the free SHS policy.

According to them, the 280 privately managed SHSs nationwide had been left out in the placement of candidates of students into SHSs.

They explained that the 2017/2018 academic year was the first time the Computerised Schools Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) had not placed a single student in private schools since it started in 2005 and said the situation, if not immediately addressed, could collapse their businesses.

The General Secretary of the Conference of Heads of Private Second-cycle Schools (CHOPSS), Mr Joseph Dzamesi, called on the government to, as a matter of urgency, include private SHSs in the list of schools for self-placement.

“Our schools should be tagged as private and parents should be informed that when a private school is selected, the student will have to pay the school fees. With this, a student who may not be happy with the available public schools may select a private school,” he said.

In a story under the headline, “Prez clears air- Oil natural resources to fund free SHS,” the Graphic reported that President Akufo-had put to rest the vexed question as to how the government was going to fund the implementation of the free senior high school policy.

“We have decided to use proceeds from our natural resources to help educate the population to drive our economic transformation,” the newspaper quoted the president as saying.

It said that declaration by the President put to rest concerns of a section of Ghanaians, including the Minority in Parliament over how the government is going to fund the Free SHS programme.

The newspaper said the free SHS policy was in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Four, Target One, which states: “By 2030, all boys and girls complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education, leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.”

It also stipulates that by 2030, all girls and boys will have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education, so that they are ready for primary education.
-0- PANA MA 16Sept2017

16 september 2017 06:53:59

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