Following reports that the free Senior High programme consumes a chunk of budgetary allocation to the educational sector, a former Director-General of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Dr. Nii Moi Thompson, has advised government to abolish the boarding system to sustain the initiative.
“I don’t know of any country anywhere that provides free secondary school education for boarding school students. It’s simply prohibitive, you can’t sustain that. So if you want to sustain the free SHS system, then we need to abolish the boarding school system and free the resources to expand facilities,” he said on the Citi Breakfast Show on Wednesday.
The Akufo-Addo government began implementation of the free SHS programme in September 2017 and funded it with Ghana’s oil revenue.
Many have questioned the sustainability of the programme with regards to funding.
No infrastructure in educational sector
According to Chairman of the Public interest accountability committee (PIAC), Dr. Steve Manteaw, the Akufo-Addo government in 2017, spent about GHc 200 million on education, but none on infrastructure in the sector.
“…If you look at the educational sector expenditure supported with the oil revenue in 2017, even though [the NPP] government said it was prioritizing infrastructure, goods and services in the education sector, 100 percent of the expenditure which was in the region of GHc202 million, all went into recurrent, school fees, the free SHS and feeding, nothing, not a single cedi went into infrastructure,” he added in a Citi News interview on Monday.
But government has assured that it will do everything possible to sustain the programme.
NPP ignored my ideas
Dr. Nii Moi said prior to the implementation of the free SHS programme, he sought to give the NPP government ideas on research he had done on such a policy but he was ignored.
“When these people [NPP] came into office and they were meeting on free SHS, I offered a number of times to sit in the meeting and share ideas and research, but they declined because somehow, I was considered as an enemy or whatever. But they don’t have problems bringing in foreigners to come and give them all sorts of poisonous ideas that have got us into this mess.”
“As a Ghanaian, I took an interest in that and we studied these things. It is doable but they need to approach it properly, they need to look at the boarding school. The same way the body of a Tico wasn’t made for Land Cruiser, the boarding school system wasn’t made for free tuition,” he added.
Using the Kindergarten to Junior High School day model, Dr. Nii Moi said: “what is wrong with doing the same thing for only three more years [at the SHS level]?”
“Let the kids go to school from home; the parents will provide food, clothing and everything. These boarding schools were not set up for the number of children they have now. A substantial part of their budget, for example, is used just to empty their septic tanks otherwise they would have sanitation crisis at the school…It’s a major sanitation crisis,” the former NDPC Director General said adding that “the boarding school system has long outlived its usefulness.”
Dr. Nii Moi made the remark on the back of proposals for Ghana to run a multi-track system for Senior High Schools to allow all qualified student to be enrolled.
Reports show that only a few out of the over 500,000 students who graduate from Junior High School are admitted by senior high schools because of lack of space.
Ghana has just about 800 senior high schools across the country.
In order to make up for the deficit, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Education, Winneba, Professor Jophus Anamuah-Mensah , proposed the implementation of a “multi-track calendar system.”
Professor Jophus Anamuah-Mensah
According to Prof. Anamuah-Mensah, the multi-track system meant that the number of prospective students would be enrolled within two separate entries.
He said for this to be possible, the three-term academic calendar system for Senior High Schools would have to be reduced to two semesters just like in the universities.
It is believed the government wants to implement the multi-track system to create space for the increasing number of students seeking high school education, a result of the government’s Free SHS policy.
But the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) cautioned government against its implementation and called for further consultations.
President of NAGRAT, Angel Carbonu
“I would suggest that Prof. Anamuah and his team should start a stakeholder discussion on this issue. Let us not rush into something like that,” president of NAGRAT, Angel Carbonu said.