Free SHS: ‘It does not make sense to pay for people to go to boarding school free’ – Kofi Bentil

The Vice President of IMANI Africa, Kofi Bentil, has asserted that the main challenge confronting the Free Senior High School (FSHS), as regards funding, is the boarding system.

According to him, the high cost of boarding and feeding the students leaves less funds to cater for other aspects of the programme.

He explained that it is imprudent for government to pay boarding fees for all students no matter the economic status of their parents.

“We have a situation where what is not necessary to guarantee education for Ghanaian children is what is killing education for Ghanaian children. Nobody can make a good enough argument why we should pay for rich people and even ordinary people to go to boarding school. It does not make sense to pay for people to go to boarding school free. Not even the developed countries do that.”

Speaking on JoyNews’ NewsFile on Saturday, Mr. Bentil said what has engendered the status quo is “lack of funds and lack of competent management.”

He emphasised that operating boarding schools is not what is required to deliver an efficient education system yet the managers of the sector have not shied away from it.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Africa Education Watch, Kofi Asare says government spends between GHS1.3bn to GHS1.4bn every year to feed students in Senior High Schools under the Free SHS policy.

According to him, 70 percent of government’s budget for the Free SHS policy is being spent on feeding students alone.

This, he explained has caused challenges in food supplies to senior high schools due to the liquidity challenges the government is currently facing.

“Because of our economic situation, because there are liquidity issues, what is happening is that the Ministry of Finance is unable to raise funds to fund both the feeding and un-feeding aspect so fund delay is normal,” he said on Newsfile, Saturday.

He said while fund delays for other aspects of the budget could be managed, the huge amount spent on feeding cannot allow the government to manage the shortage of food supplies and feeding challenges.

“Those [fund delay] affecting feeding can hardly be managed because the children are in boarding houses and so the delay in funding has caused suppliers who say their funds have been locked so they do not have money to keep supplying a particular school or group of schools…when they supply you find out that they undersupply,” he explained.

Kofi Asare thus suggested to the government that parents of students from private junior high schools could be allowed to pay for their wards’ fees to save government some money to support the feeding challenges currently experienced.

“If we ask parents of private junior high school students to pay their free senior high school fees, the average free senior high school fee government is paying is GHC1,500 for a whole year, so if we have these parents who came from the private sector to pay their GHC1,500 for a whole year as Free SHS school fees, what will happen is that government will save GHC520m to support what we are now struggling to finance,” he said.