Many citizens of Ghana believe the Progressively Free Senior High Schools (PFSHS) policy and the Free Senior High Schools Policy are fiascos under Former President John Dramani Mahama and the sitting president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Information available confirmed that, former President John Dramani Mahama’s government and others implemented the Progressively Free Senior High Schools Policy for students among others, while President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) government has fully introduced the Free Senior High Schools Policy in 2017.
It’s said that, during the NDC government, selected students and schools benefited directly from the Progressively Free Senior High Schools Education through government’s subsidized fees, feeding, availability of scholarship opportunity to students, distribution of teaching and learning materials and infrastructure development.
The New Patriotic Party NPP government has also introduced new interventions alongside with the Free Senior High Schools Policy, including but not limited to double track intervention, Free Education among others.
THE POSITION OF THE 1992 CONSTITUTION ON PFSHS AND FSHS POLICIES
As stated in Article 25 1b of the 1992 Constitution, “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) 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.”
It has therefore been a priority of the government and the Ministry of Education to ensure that education is made free from basic to secondary to afford more children in Ghana the opportunity to access quality education.
In September 2017, the Ministry of Education has achieved a major milestone with the implementation of the full Free Senior High School program started by John Dramani Mahama’s administration through Progressively Free Senior High Schools Education. That year, there was an 11% increase in enrolment, breaking records from previous years. In the 2017/18 academic year, a new record was set with the highest enrolment ever seen in the country: over 470,000 students enrolled in senior high school.
According to the Ministry of Education, the two key principles of the Free SHS policy are “Equity and Access”.
The objective is to ensure that the already disadvantaged students in society get equal opportunity and access to quality education no matter where they come from and their family background.
The Ministry note that, the benefits derived from the implementation of the Free SHS policy are not limited to equitable access to quality education alone. There are several Ghanaian companies that have been given lifelines through the implementation of this policy.
An example is the Akosombo Textiles Limited (ATL) which benefited immensely from the Free SHS policy through a conscious decision by the current administration to strengthen existing companies whiles building new ones. The overarching impact of the Free SHS policy cannot be overemphasized.
Government through the Ministry of Education indicated that, the Free SHS policy has not only ensured access to quality education for all but also improved supply of quality food to both day and boarding students. The quantity and quality of food served the students have also improved. Food supply has always been delivered to schools on time since the inception of the Free SHS policy.
The Ministry believe that, the future of TVET looks positive due to the investment this government is putting in the sector. Parents should therefore guide their wards in selecting Technical and Vocational institutions.
The government of Ghana through the Ministry of Education has outlined the following additional information as a contributing factor through the introduction of the Free Senior High Schools Policy.
According to the Ministry;
1. The Free SHS policy has not only increased enrolment in schools but also ensured that schools are provided with the necessary infrastructure needed for the provision of quality education.
2. The policy has as well saved students from the embarrassing situation of being chased out of school for their inability to pay fees and for heads of schools, the free mind to concentrate on managing the schools as all they need are supplied by the government.
3. But for the Free SHS policy, one Bernice Morkpokpo of Adidome Senior High School in the Volta Region, who lost both parents at early stage of her life would have missed the opportunity of being educated at the secondary school level and her dream of becoming a nurse.
4. Nana Brentu Senior High Technical School is a beneficiary of the School Library Transformation Programme of the Free SHS among many.
5 It was an unpleasant exercise chasing students for fees. Because of the implementation of the Free SHS policy, teachers don’t have to move around, chasing students and their parents for school fees because that burden has been removed by the Free SHS policy.
6. The policy has removed the barrier of accessing education and has also ensured equity. That is, notwithstanding your background, you have access to education which position you well to contribute to national development.
7. When the Free SHS policy started, a little over 13,800 students were enrolled in the Western Region. But in 2018, after people experienced the policy and got to know it was real, the region saw an increase in numbers. About 27,000 students, representing over 100% increase, were enrolled.
8. The one hot meal initiative for High school students introduced by the government, has been very helpful. Aside the nutritional value it gives to the students, it has been an avenue for job creation. Clearly, it is not only the students who have benefitted from the policy but caterers as well.
9. It was unfortunate but unavoidable to witness students being sacked from school on several occasions because of their inability to pay school fees. This does not happen anymore because of the introduction of the Free SHS policy. From that angle, one can say that, the Free SHS policy is the best thing that ever happened to students of Ghana.
10. The policy offers our future generation more opportunities to achieve their goals and dreams without destructions.
11. The Free SHS policy has an objective of ensuring equity not only in our education but society at large. The policy does not discriminate and seeks to bridge the gap between the rich and poor.
12. Data from 2015 to 2016, reveals that an average of 100,000 BECE graduates each year, placed in Senior High Schools, do not take up their places. This was largely caused by financial challenges. This is why the government introduced the Free SHS policy, removing the biggest obstacle; cost, that stood in their way.
The Free SHS policy has greatly lessened the burden of parents and students as described.