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Why Free SHS was not targeted

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According to Kwasi Kwarteng, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Ghana lacks the infrastructure to determine the incomes of parents and guardians, which is why the government’s Free Senior High School (SHS) program is not targeted.

He claims that in nations whose free SHS policies are intended to benefit people from impoverished and marginalized households or communities, processes have been put in place to validate that the pupils actually come from these places before they are accepted into the free SHS.

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He stated that because Ghana’s economy is mostly informal, most residents do not register their holdings, and the government cannot track their earnings, implementing such a targeted system there will be ineffective.

In an interview with PM Express, he stated that this is the rationale for the government’s decision to use the untargeted free SHS policy to reach everyone.

“I mean, initially you’ll recall that we had close to 100,000 students that complete basic school and are unable to attend SHS or unable to proceed to the SHS level. So based on this you had the president making an intervention and making a promise that we are going to address such a situation. And so at the end of the day free SHS policy came to address such a concern.

“So, I mean, it was a question of whether or not you’re denying 100,000 students access to education every year. So we made that bold decision and said that we’re not going to deny 100,000 students access to education. But of course the contention has always been this; if you look at countries where the free SHS policy has been targeted those are countries that have very strong and reliable data on income.

“For instance, if you come to Ghana, especially within our informal economies, you are unable to look into the face of the woman at Abossey Okai or the woman at Makola and say that because government does not have any system and structures to track the revenues or the income you make annually, based on that your child qualifies or does not qualify for free SHS.”

He said that if such a free SHS model was prematurely implemented in Ghana, it might only apply to employees of the government, whose wages could be easily traced since they were paid by the government.

“Of course, the argument if you want to even sustain such logic, what it essentially means is that we may only be looking at those incomes that are very reliable and are always declared, that is, about the 700,000 or so people that are on government payroll annually and those are the people government is going to look into their faces and say that well, because we’re able to track your income then it means that at the end of the day you’re able to afford education at every level.

“So yes, at the end of the day, until we get a very reliable system that will be able to help us track the various income that we as a people generate, and of course beyond the system too, until citizens also develop that habit of reporting income truthfully so that government will be able to know that this person is eligible for free education that person is not eligible for free education, we will be denying most students access to free education and that will take us to the earlier problem that we had where more than 100,000 students were denied access to education at the end of the day.”

In IMF’s May 2023 country report on Ghana, it said the government had promised to “review all government flagship programmes and publish a strategy to decide their future course.”

One of the government’s major programs, the Free SHS initiative is anticipated to cost about GH2.9 billion. The Free SHS has been labeled as having inadequate targeting by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The IMF also revealed that Ghana spends close to 4% of its GDP on education, with strong enrolment numbers but subpar academic achievements.

enhancing basic education resources, improving teacher preparation, and enhancing performance-based financing procedures are three major areas the IMF has recognized as needing potential improvement in education expenditure.

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