Editorial: Let’s ditch the politics and review the Free SHS policy

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has released a report on Ghana, describing the government’s flagship programme, the Free Senior High School (FSHS), as poorly targeted.

According to the Bretton Woods Institution, the programme has, undoubtedly, helped increase enrollment in schools, but was poorly targeted because the learning outcomes are poor.

The IMF has, therefore, advised the government to ensure that education does not only look at enrollment, but rather build better teacher training and stronger performance outcomes.

The Chronicle is happy about this advice coming from the Fund, as it lends credence to the many that have pushed government to revise the Free SHS policy.

We are aware that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo introduced the Free Senior High School policy in his quest to fulfill Article 25(1)(b) of the 1992 Constitution and Goal 4 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Article 25(1) (b) of the 1992 Constitution states: “Secondary education in its different forms including technical and vocational education shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education.”

Goal 4 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also states: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.”

Undoubtedly, the programme, since its inception in 2017, has enrolled over one million students in the various secondary schools in the country, and helped children who, hitherto, would not have been able to attain secondary education for lack of finance.

However, the government’s financing of the policy has become a huge challenge, and has put a toll on the public purse. Reports point to the fact that the policy alone consumes a huge chunk of the country’s budget.

The attendant consequence of this financial burden is inadequate infrastructure for teaching and learning and accommodation for boarding students, leading to the introduction of the three track systems, namely the Red, Gold and Green tracks. There was also the challenge of inadequate food supplies.

These have affected the quality of education, because the track system makes students spend a lot of time at home, instead of in school. Parents, who can afford private tuition, do so for their wards whilst on vacation at a great cost.

There is also the issue of food shortages in some public Senior High Schools, which compels some helpless heads of schools to consider shutting down their institutions if the government fails to intervene.

The Chronicle would not hesitate to call for a review of the feeding component of the Free Senior High School programme, and, if possible, allow parents who can afford to, share in the feeding cost of their wards.

Despite the limited resources and challenges facing the FSHS, the government has not given up on the programme. However, The Chronicle hopes we do not sacrifice quality education of the youth, looking at the way things are going.

We are hopeful that with the IMF adding its voice to the call for a review of the Free SHS policy, the government would give a listening ear and do the needful, if it, indeed, aims at giving the Ghanaian child a better future, bearing in mind that quality is better than quantity.


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