Allowing the rich to pay will deny the poor access to Free SHS; John Kumah
The Deputy Minister Designate for Finance, Dr John Ampontuah Kumah, has explained why the current system of administering the Free Senior High School, where both the rich and poor are not allowed to pay fees, cannot be tempered with.
According to the learned Lawyer, tempering with the structure would rather deepen the inequality gap, because the Ministers and other state officials in charge would ensure that their wards benefit at the expense of the poor.
He offered this explanation when he appeared before the Appointment Committee of Parliament yesterday for vetting.
Ranking Member of the Committee, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, had asked the nominee to proffer ways of financing the free Senior High School policy and had questioned whether allowing the rich to pay fees for their wards, whilst the poor are not made to pay, will reduce the financial burden on the government.
In the minority leader’s view, the manner in which the program is being implemented is a breeding ground for deepening inequality.
But giving a scenario of how tempering with the current system will rather create inequality, Mr Kumah explained that, “I was a son of a Cocoa Farmer and I was entitled to Cocoa Scholarship. But Mr Chairman, growing up, Ministers and other high ranking officials’ children got the benefit than we the children of cocoa farmers.
“So, once you bring that caveat, it will be the same people who are capable of paying who will end up even getting the benefit of the free education and the poor person who doesn’t know the minister or the person in charge will end up having to go and pay fees. To avoid these difficulties, if we think there should be other ways of rich parents contributing to this free SHS program I will be happy for us to look at it, but not touching what the arrangement is now.”
It would be recalled that in 2018, The Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, had also suggested that persons who can afford to pay fees for the education of their wards be excluded from the government’s Free Senior High School (SHS) Programme.
Mr Ofori Atta gave the suggestion when the government announced its intentions to implement a dual track system due to the huge challenges in financing the programme.
The Minister said that persons with the means can continue to pay fees for their wards whilst the government collects data to determine which segments of society benefit from the policy.
“The issue of free education, I don’t think it’s something that any of us can compromise on… It may be that there have to be changes in the way which we are administering it. I can’t take my child to Achimota or Odorgonnor and then leave him or her and drive away and Ken Ofori-Atta not pay anything, while I can pay for 10 people. You need to be able to get the data to then be discriminatory in how and who pays and who doesn’t pay”, Mr Ofori-Atta said in an interview on Citi TV.
But the soft spoken Minister incurred the wrath of some Ghanaians, including his own party members, for making that suggestion.
However, the Member of Parliament for Ejisu constituency explained that the current system rather ensures equality, because inequality is when the children of the poor suffer. To him, the current arrangement is ensuring that the children of both the poor and the rich enjoy.