Ghana has introduced a free education programme that has taken off in different parts of the country. The government introduced the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme which was launched on September 12 at the West African Senior Secondary School (WASS) in Accra.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, making good his promise of free secondary education declared that public senior high schools (SHS) would be free.
“The government of Ghana will fund the cost of public senior high schools for all those who qualify for entry from the 2017/2018 academic year onwards,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo delivered a speech at the 60th Anniversary celebration and the Speech and Prize Giving Day of Okuapeman School in Akropong in the Eastern Region on the theme: “One Vision, Many Lives”.
“Let me take this opportunity to spell out clearly what we intend to do so no one in Ghana is left in any doubt.
“By free SHS we mean that in addition to tuition which is already free, there will be no admission fee, no library fee, no science centre fee, no computer lab fee, no examination fee, and no utility fee; there will be free text books, free boarding and free meals, and day students will get a meal at school for free,” President Akufo-Addo said.
The President said: “Free SHS will also cover agricultural, vocational and technical institutions at the high school level. I also want to state clearly again that we have a well-thought out plan that involves the building of new public senior high schools and cluster public senior high schools.”
President Akufo-Addo had included free education as part of his campaign manifestos. President Akufo-Addo who contested under the New Patriotic Party (NPP) fulfilled the promise his party had been hammering on since the 2008 elections.
President Akufo-Addo said “I am committed, without any equivocation, without any reservation, without any doubt, to take Ghana to the stage where public senior high school education will be free for every Ghanaian child”.
“I want every Ghanaian child to attend secondary school not just for what they learn in books, but for the life experiences that they will gain. I want each of them to look in the mirror in the morning, every morning and know that they can achieve anything they dream of when they complete their studies,”Akufo-Addo added.
Though the news on free education has been celebrated by many as a welcome development, there are some that have some reservations about it. The funding of the SHS policy is said to come from proceeds from natural resources and oil. Critics have argued that oil and natural resources are subject to fluctuations based on world market prices, and would be unwise to hinge the funding of the SHS on such.
Considering that this is a long term program, it is a sound argument. Starting such programmes as free education isn’t the problem, sustaining the program is.
The Free SHS Policy is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs- 4) Target One, which stipulates that; “By 2030, all boys and girls complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education, leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.”
According to Human Rights Watch globally, many students’ educational aspirations end because of secondary school fees. In Ghana, in 2014, only 37 percent of students were enrolled in secondary education. The only hope Ghanaians have is that the program is well funded and sustained.