Come September, the much awaited Free Senior High School Policy, one of the ruling government’s flagship programmes will take effect and Ghanaians, especially parents are brazing up for this momentous moment in the history of the country.
The expectations have become rife following the West African Examination Council’s (WAEC) announcement that it had released provisional results of the Basic Education Certificate Examination. This means that successful candidates will be entering the Senior High School (SHS) in September this year.
The policy seeks to ease the burden for parents who wish to finance their children’s education at the secondary level but do not have the means to do so.
A total of 468,060 candidates made up of 241,154 males and 226,906 females sat for the examination. The figure is 1.53 per cent higher than that of the previous year, according to WAEC.
It is expected that successful candidates from this year’s group will be used as ‘Guinea pigs’ to ascertain the viability or otherwise of the policy since they will be the maiden beneficiaries of the Free SHS programme.
As good as the policy may be, some people still have divided opinions on it. While some parents are ecstatic in anticipation of the month of September for the policy to be rolled out, others have adopted the wait –and- see approach.
Speaking to Public Agenda in an interview, Madam Esther Nartey, resident of Sowutuom, a neighborhood in the Accra could not hide her joy as the month of September gets closer.
Madam Nartey said she has only budgeted for just the personal items of her 14- year- old boy who is expected to enroll in the SHS this year.
“I am only budgeting for the items my son will need in school like Mattress, Provisions and other personal things because I know government will cater for the tuition and other stuff.”
She is optimistic that the government will deliver on its promise.
Mr Yahaya Shaibu of Alajo, who has two of his wards getting ready to enroll in the SHS, said he is glad the policy is coming into force this year because he did not have the resources to finance their education this year.
“I’m glad the free SHS is happening this year.In fact I wouldn’t have been able to fund the education of these two children because the money is not there.I am only hoping that the government will be able to sustain this programme.”
But Mr Edmund Asare of Caprice, also a suburb of Accra does not believe the Free SHS policy will materialise. His argument is that politicians are deceptive and they will say anything to convince the electorate to vote for them but after wining power they find it difficult to implement their policies especially if they involve a lot of money.
Mr Asare told Public Agenda, “As for me, I just want to wait and see what will happen in September because politicians are deceptive and not trust worthy and will do everything to win power; after winning, most of them abandon their policies.
He said he will be monitoring the free SHS policy and make his judgment after three years of its implementation.
The free SHS argument
Some groups and individuals have questioned the possibility of the policy as they argue that the government has not shown how it will find fund it.
In particular the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the largest opposition political party in the country had always stated that the policy is impossible. But the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has been consistent and believes that the education policy is what is needed to transform the nation.
The government said it has planned to finance the policy from the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA). Presenting the 2017 Budget Statement and Economic Policy in March this year , Mr Ofori-Atta, Minister for Finance said it will cost government GH¢400 million to implement the free SHS programme for the 2017/2018 academic year. He noted also that the implementation of the free SHS programme would include technical and vocational institutes.
NPP Govt’s commitment
In his Maiden State of the Nation address on February 21 this year, the President, Nana Akufo Addo, reiterated the campaign promise and set a starting date for the commencement of the promise he made as a candidate.
“And just in case there is anyone left in this country who has not heard yet, “Free SHS” starts with the 2017/2018 entrants into the public SHS,” he said.