Pull brakes on social intervention programmes to fund free SHS – Kofi Bentil

Vice president of policy think tank IMANI Ghana, Kofi Bentil says government must close down some social intervention programmes and use monies invested in them to finance the free education policy.

He said the free education policy is more important than any social intervention programme and if government can mop up some monies it will be able to guarantee free education at the day school level.

Speaking on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, Mr Bentil said, although it will not be easy, it is theoretically possible for this to be done.

“It makes sense. It is better to close down MASLOC, GYEEDA, LEAP…if you weigh all the options, education is the most important thing you can do in this country.

“And closing some of these things and using the money in education will lead to a situation where 10 years down the line, we will not even need  those things.”

He added that government has to look very hard and weigh its options because although it may be difficult, it is the best way to go.

President Akufo-Addo’s announcement of the commencement of free senior high school education from September this year has generated a lot of discussion in the public domain.

Many people were especially excited by the fact that the new policy as announced, will cover both day and boarding students and will be completely free.

But a suggestion made by Senior Minister, Osafo Maafo that part of the Heritage Fund could be used to finance the project, which is expected to cost GHS3.6 billion yearly, caused some panic.

The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Attah has, however calmed tensions. He said the Heritage fund will not be  touched and that the fund has never been part of options to finance the policy.

On the back of all these, however, Mr Bentil believes that a lot more thinking needs to go into how the policy will be approached.

He said it was unfortunate that the Akufo-Addo-led administration seems to be towing the line of the previous government who were “shambolic” at delivering what they called the progressive free education.

For him, both governments are not treating the policy like they should, they are only making big promises when they should be thinking.

“I think we want free education, but our leaders must do the intellectual heavy lifting, sit down, plan through this thing and get a sense of how it is going to be done before we start talking. There should be a white paper on how government intends to prosecute this plan.

“Until then, we will all be talking and talking. We need to do a lot of thinking and come out with a plan that works,” he added.

Mr Bentil also believes that boarding education should not be made free. He says all the things that President Akufo-Addo listed can be done within the construct of day senior high school.

In his view, education is not equal to boarding school and providing free senior high school education is not  the same as giving everybody free boarding school education

“It is just one of the options that we have. The government can decide that free SHS is free for everybody who is not going to boarding school and if you’re going to go to boarding school, please pay for yourself and we can feed every student once in a day and it will work. A chunk of the expenditure comes from the boarding school system.”

While he will not fault the president for announcing the policy, he said it is time for the technocrats to sit down and work out the nitty gritty and come out with exactly how this will be achieved.

“They have to sit and get us a good plan that can achieve this purpose. Free education is possible, but it would have to take some heavy lifting intellectually and we would have to make sacrifices but it is doable.”

This he believes should have been done before the announcement was made.

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