FREE SHS: A PLUS FOR THE GOVERNMENT, BUT NEEDS THE SUPPORT OF ALL TO SUSTAIN.
There is no country in this world that has developed without its citizens having a very good education. The good book put it as “… for lack of knowledge, my people perish”. It is against this backdrop that the Public Interest Research and Advocacy Network (PIRAN) wishes to extend its heartfelt congratulations to the Nana Addo’s government for launching its flagship programme; The Free Senior High School programme.
PIRAN recognizes that education is very expensive, and for the government to be bold to introduce the programme within its first nine months in office, is a giant step for which we think that the government should be congratulated.
While congratulating the government, PIRAN thinks that there are some crucial matters about the implementation of the Free SHS programme that the government and every Ghanaian must be concerned of. We must not see the
programme as one for the NPP government alone, but we must see it as one that should be protected and sustained by all Ghanaians.
It is in this light that PIRAN wishes to add its voice to others who have called for a one percent tax to be added to the VAT rates as was done for the National Health Insurance Scheme. We believe that this will be a sure way to sustain the Free SHS programme.
Let us not forget that as a nation, we are supposed to be practicing Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE), but PIRAN do not know of any of these Public Basic Schools that do not pay some fees. Different forms of levies are put together and parents are forced to pay them, else their children are denied quality education. We must not sit down for the newly introduced Free SHS to also be like that. Let us support government to make it free indeed.
While we are happy about the checks on the various Heads of the SHSs by the government to prevent them from sabotaging the programme by charging some sort of fees, we are concerned about the procedures used to sanction these Heads of SHS. The Ghana Education Service (GES) has a disciplinary procedure to sanction its members of staff. It is regrettable that some of the Heads of SHS who were sanctioned did not go through this procedure. We therefore, call on the GES and the Ministry of Education to, as a matter of urgency, reverse these sanctions and take the Heads through the prescribed disciplinary procedures.
It is also regrettable how some Heads of SHS have almost doubled some of the levies paid by the continuing students. There are instances where levies like Teacher Motivation, PTA and the likes have been increased suddenly obviously to make up for the difference that they would be losing from lack of payment from the First-Year students. This is unfortunate, and must not be tolerated. We suspect that because everyone is concentrating on the First-Years, some Heads are taking the advantage to exploit the continuing students. We call on the GES to investigate some of these cases and take the appropriate action.
The Free SHS has come to stay and all of us must do our best to support and sustain it.
Felix Djan Foh.