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Dr Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai, Senior Lecture, UGBS
Dr Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai, Senior Lecture, UGBS

Ghana’s primary education system suffer …As gov’t shifts funding to secondary level

Ghana’s Primary education system is currently being stifled of financial resources following a shift in political attention and public resources from kindergarten and primary structures to the secondary level, according to a report published by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in collaboration with the University of Ghana Business School.

Titled, ‘Leaving no One Behind in the Health and Education sectors,’ the Report  states, “While Ghana continues to maintain impressive overall public education expenditure surpassing the international benchmark of 20 percent of the budget, it is increasingly shifting this towards secondary and tertiary sectors.”

It also revealed that, funding per pupil at primary and kindergarten levels has diminished, while secondary school funding has risen rapidly, adding that  in 2015, Senior High School pupils were funded at six times the level of primary pupils.

It bemoaned, “There is a quite crisis in the quality of public pre-primary and primary education, the two most critical stages for improving equity.”

Again, it found a clear public –private crossroads, whereby families with means to do so send their children to private schools for their basic education and then shift to the better- quality high school systems, stymieing political impetus for reform at lower levels.

The report which was put together by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in collaboration with the University of Ghana Business School recommended that the Ministry of Education must commit to protect front line pre-primary funding per pupil and then develop a plan with clear milestones for how these levels will be gradually increased over time in order to meet minimum quality standards in every district.

Presenting the Report in Accra on Thursday, Dr Abdul-Gafaru-Abdulai, a senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana said Ghana should make a high- profile commitment to progressive universalism in education. He explain that progressive universalism in education promote balancing scarce public resources in order to prioritise the poor and early years, where social returns are highest.

This, he said, would entail careful phasing in of the commitment to free senior high school. According to him, the policy could be rolled out in deprived districts first,or implemented using  means testing such that wealthier households continue to pay some portion of the fees which would  presumably still remain and  attractive option, given the perception of status and  quality  afforded to public secondary schools.

Dr  Abdulai  posited, “ personally I feel that the free Senior High School education  will essentially  bridge  some  inequality gaps because  you have  tens of  thousands of people who  don’t go to secondary school  because  they are  unable to pay school fees, but  this  doesn’t mean that the free SHS is going to solve all  our problems.”

He added, “In fact it could also have a lot of implication for issues of inequality and issues of quality education.  Why do I say this, if you take  into accounts  the  way  the programme  is   being implemented, it is a universal  programme.It is not actually  targeting the most marginalized and the neediest in society. If the free SHS was targeted, some state resources would have been channeled to support the basic level or even outside the education sector.”

He indicated that evidence  show that early years is the most important stage for improving equity, thus, civil society and others with interest in equity issues could play a valuable role in  igniting a debate and building political pressure for a  greater policy focus on the state of pre- primary  and primary education  in  Ghana.

Participants  at the workshop agreed that progress in primary education  in  the  country  is fragile, hence, for  the   purpose  of  the  building blocks, there is  the  need  to start from  the  basics and  government must ensure  that enough financial  resources are channeled  to that level.

 

 

By Mohammed Suleman

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