Cabinet approves Free SHS Bill

An ambitious move to back the fee-free Senior High School Policy introduced and implemented by the President Akufo-Addo-led administration in 2017, with a law (now a bill in its current form) to enhance its effectiveness and regulation, has received Cabinet approval, the Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, has revealed.

After crossing this major hurdle, the Free SHS Bill, is to be presented or laid on the floor of Parliament by the Executive, through the Minister for Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum. The date for the Bill, to be presented or laid before Parliament is immediately not known.

However, the Majority Leader, who doubles as the Leader of Government Business in the Parliament of Ghana said, “it will surely happen during this meeting”.

“The Bill has received Executive approval and the Ministry of Education is going to ferry the Bill through to Parliament”, he stated.

Addressing the Parliamentary Press Corps in Accra on Tuesday, June 25, 2024 the Majority said government would not relent on its efforts in ensuring the passage of the Free SHS Bill into an Act.

Is NDC committed to the Free SHS Bill?

He wondered whether the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) which has so far been the fiercest critique of the Free SHS policy is committed to the implementation of the policy, hence, demanded from its leadership to categorically state their position on the Free SHS Bill.

“We have heard the Ranking Member on Education and MP for Akatsi North strongly opposing the Free SHS Bill. Clearly, the NDC Minority does not want to commit itself to free SHS and the fact that we want to enact a law to make it mandatory.

We have stated time without number that those provisions in the constitution that talk about Free SHS are very inspirational provisions.  So, the way to go is to enact a law to regulate the free SHS policy which is currently in operation”, he noted.

He added, “The NDC is opposed to this and they have spoken through their Ranking Member on Education. We want them to tell Ghanaians whether Free SHS is not their priority as a responsible opposition.

“We are ready and that is why as part of the engagement process, we engaged them but they are adamant. The NDC is not ready for the Free SHS Bill. It is clear and their spokesperson on Education is very loud”.

A fortnight ago, Afenyo-Markin, who is also the MP for Effutu, at a leadership engagement with the media revealed that the government was going to introduce the Free SHS Bill to Parliament for consideration and passage. He repeated same when he presented the Business Statement to the plenary.

However, a Member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education and NDC MP for Kintampo North, Joseph Kwame Kumah, called on the Majority Leader to withdraw the proposed free SHS Bill he was seeking to lay before Parliament in order to give legal backing to the government’s flagship program.

He told a plenary sitting that the Committee on Education met in Koforidua on Sunday, June 9, 2024, to discuss issues before the Committee but that of the Free SHS Bill did not feature in their discussions.

He was, therefore, surprised that the Majority Leader wants to lay the Bill in the House, citing Article 25 1(b) of the 1992 Constitution which talks about progressively free secondary education in Ghana to buttress his argument. He described the proposed Bill as unnecessary and a waste of Parliament’s time.

In a post on his X page (formerly twitter), the Minority Leader, Cassiel Ato Forson debunked claims that the NDC MPs were against the Free SHS Bill.

“The claim that NDC MPs are against a proposed Free SHS Bill is totally false. There is currently no such bill before Parliament. We cannot oppose a bill that we have not seen”, he stated.

He added, “For the records, it was the NDC that birthed the 1992 Constitution which provided the legal framework for the introduction of Free Secondary Education in Ghana. Also, it was the NDC that commenced the implementation of the Free SHS program in the year 2015 for all day students in public senior high schools, totalling over 320,000 with a clear plan to expand coverage to include 120,000 boarding students by 2017.

“The position of the NDC on the Free SHS program as publicly communicated by our flagbearer and leader is to improve the implementation of the program and address the challenges bedeviling it through a consultative approach. Thus, the NDC will support any legislation or effort aimed at making the Free SHS program better and sustainable”.

By Stephen Odoi-Larbi


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