The 2017/2018 free Senior High School policy announced by President Akufo-Addo is big on equity but small on issues of quality and access, the former deputy education minister Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has suggested.
He said education is the biggest gift any government can give its citizens therefore any attempt to invest in education is welcomed but added such gift or policy must address the three cardinal principles in education- access, equity and quality.
He stated on Joy FM’s Super morning Show Monday, the comprehensive free education policy announced by the president only caters for equity with little or no information about how to address the access and quality aspects which are important in the education sector development.
His comments are in response to the announcement of free SHS policy program announced by President Akufo-Addo over the weekend, a policy which is expected to be implemented in the 2017-2018 academic year.
“So that no one in Ghana is left in any doubts…by free SHS, we mean that, in addition to tuition which is already free, there will be no admission fees, no library fees, no science centre fees, no computer lab fees, no examination fees, no utility fees; there will be free textbooks, free boarding and free meals, and day students will get a meal at school for free.” It kicks off 2017/2018 academic year,” President Akufo-Addo stated during the Speech and Prize giving Day ceremony of Okuapeman Secondary.
The policy is in fulfillment of a campaign promise the NPP made in 2012 which was reiterated in the 2016 electioneering campaign.
But his announcement has been met with some criticisms. Even though the policy was partially implemented by the Mahama led government in the 2015 academic year, the Minority in Parliament say the revamped policy announced by Akufo-Addo is going to be a costly enterprise.
Contributing to the matter on the SMS Samuel Okudzeto said there is bound to be an increase in the enrolment numbers and that will create a problem of access which has to be addressed.
“Any time social interventions have been introduced enrolment numbers shoot up..”
“Even when we started with the progressively free day students numbers shot up by about 25%. So that is one factor we should be looking at. The announcement of free SHS from September will see the number of enrolment shoot up beyond the current 800,000 students,” he stated.
He said whilst it is very important to ensure that education is made available and affordable to all, government must also take a second look at the criticisms from UNESCO which suggested that some of our policies are to “general and generous.”
He said there are families that would want and can afford to pay for the education of their children and so for a free education policy to cover such people is not acceptable.
He called for better targeted intervention to ensure a better implementation of the policy.
“President Akufo-Addo has been heavy on the equity side of things- how free and affordable but we are yet to hear him on the quality and access,” he stated.