Professor urges Akufo-Addo to reconsider Free SHS funding

Chairman of the Governing Council of Dominion University College Professor Felix Nikoi Hammond has urged President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to urgently reconsider the funding module of his government’s flagship programme, Free Senior High School Programme. While acknowledging that the implementation of the programme is a major step towards tackling socio-economic inequality, Prof. Hammond wished that “this step would be followed immediately with initiatives to radically enhance the quality of secondary education in Ghana”. He observed that giving every child an equal chance of going to secondary school is no mean achievement. The Free SHS Programme was implemented in September in the 2017/2018 academic year. It started with first-year students in all public SHSs and technical and vocational education training (TVET) institutions across the country. The policy absorbs all approved fees in these schools. But the programme has been fraught with challenges, some of which led to the introduction of the double track system. According to Prof. Hammond, the current approach to disbursing free SHS funds to only public schools limits students’ choices, which he said can have a negative effect on their performance. Disbursing the monies directly to public schools, he said, forces free SHS beneficiaries to choose public schools, if they would have preferred a private alternative. He argues that a student’s entitlement to government support for their SHS education should be based on the grounds that they are citizens of Ghana and not because they are prepared to attend a public school. He proposed a disbursement model that he called Per Student Budgetary Allocation (PSBA), which he explained to be each beneficiary student entitled to a budgetary allocation for their SHS education. The student, he further explained, is then allowed to choose where to have their education; be it in a private school or public school. The entitlement of each student, he said, should be transferred to any school they so wish and if it turns out that the fees at a chosen private school is more than the student’s PSBA, it will then be the responsibility of the student to cover the difference. “Rather than compelling students to go to a school because the Free SHS funds will be sent there, as the case is currently, under the proposed PSBA, the money will follow the student to his or her chosen school. This gives students freedom of choice, a hallmark of a free society,” he further explained.

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