The Minister of Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, has reassured Ghanaians of the rolling out of the free SHS policy by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government from the 2017/2018 academic year.
The minister said that plans have been put in place to implement the policy with the aim of ensuring that the less privileged in society have equal access to Senior High School (SHS) education.
He said, “Free SHS is doable and the NPP government is going to do it. We are not oblivious of the obstacles but we hope the president’s direction will put Ghana on the map where financial obstacles will no longer determine how far a person can go in the education cycle.”
Dr. Opoku Prempeh, who took his turn at the ‘Meet the Press’ series in Accra, indicated that a number of students had been placed by the Computerized School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) but could not enroll in Senior High Schools due to the lack of finances.
“In 2013, out of 352,202 students placed, 90,604 could not enroll and in 2014, out of 386,412 students placed, 113,260 could not enroll. Also in 2015 out of 415,012 students placed, 115,363 could not enroll and in 2016, out of 420,135 students, 111,336 could not enroll due to lack of funds,” Mr Poku Prempeh, fondly called Napo, hinted.
He further noted that under the free SHS policy, all fees approved by the Ghana Education Service (GES) Council for first year students other than Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) dues, would be absorbed by the government through settlement of the ‘onetime fee’ for all first years – whether day or boarding.
The onetime fee for first-year students for the 2017/2018 academic year as approved by GES for public SHS costs GH¢435.00 and GH¢438.00 for day and boarding students respectively.
Also the GES approved recurrent fee of GH¢101.47 and GH¢105.47 for both day and boarding students will be absorbed by the government.
The GES Council has also approved a three-meal feeding fee for boarders at GH¢4.80 a day and one hot meal for all day students at GH¢1.60, and subsidies for all continuing students.
The sector minister, however, indicated that parents have a crucial role to play in ensuring that their wards benefit from the policy.
“It is therefore the responsibility of parents to ensure that their wards study hard enough to gain placement through the CSSPS in order to qualify for the free SHS policy,” Napo declared.
However, he stated that non-performing students, who spend more than the approved three years of study programme would be responsible for the fee for the extra year.
Responding to a question on the status of students who get repeated per the Free SHS policy, the minister explained, “We said you can carry your free SHS for three years because that is the duration of your study. So if you go to the first year, we will pay. You repeat your first year in year two, we will pay. When you get to the second year in year three, we will pay. But for year four we won’t pay their fees.”
Under the policy, beneficiaries will not have to pay admission fees, library fees, science centre fees, computer lab fees, examination fees and utility fees, according to the government.
The policy will also cover agricultural, vocational and technical institutions at the secondary school level.