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Food supplied to schools can’t last till end of term – Dr. Clement Apaak

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The Member of Parliament for the Builsa South Constituency and Deputy Ranking Member on the Education Select Committee in Parliament, Dr. Clement Abass Apaak has expressed some disquiet about the quantities of food supplied to the various senior high schools across the country after the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) in the Upper West Region, Upper East Region and the Eastern Region warned that the food situation in some schools was dire and that schools risk being shut down.

Alternatively, CHASS warned that the management of the various schools in question may be forced to ask students to feed themselves in the event that government did not listen to their call.

In a recent letter signed by the Chairman of CHASS in the Upper East Region and sighted by this website, CHASS said “[There is a] shortage of food in the various schools in the Region The following food items were generally in short supply in the region [are] rice, maize, beans, gari, millet, peanut, sugar, vegetable oil, bread flour, mackerel and sardine.”

“The problem regarding food shortage was as a result of refusal of suppliers to supply. Suppliers claim they have not been paid for huge supplies they earlier delivered. According to them, Government’s indebtedness to them is so huge that they are unable to raise funds to further supply food to the schools. Their additional worry is that the value of their monies locked up with the government is declining very fast, considering rising inflation.”

“The few suppliers who agree to supply, give under-weight bags to the schools. For instance, instead of 100kg, suppliers give between 50kg and 60kg to the schools, complaining of low prices paid by the National Food Buffer Stock Company.”

Subsequently, the Ministry of Education gave the assurance that schools that were hit were going to receive full complement of food items. Dr. Apaak contends that while some food items may have been supplied to a number of schools across the country, the quantities were inadequate and could not last the schools till the end of the term.

He said this when he spoke on A1 Radio’s Day Break Upper East Show, today, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.

“As we speak, not sufficient food items have been supplied to the schools. Contrary to the impression being created by the management of our educational sector, that these were isolated cases, evidence now shows that these cases are across the country. We now know, for example, that it is not only the Upper East Regional Chapter of CHASS of the Upper West Chapter of CHASS that has met and written a resolve to close down schools or send the students home if they do not get food in sufficient quantities.”

“We are dealing with a very gargantuan challenge. The questions that many are asking is this; if for 2022 alone Parliament has approved and allocated Ghc2.3 billion Ghana cedis to finance the Free Senior High School policy, why would government still owe buffer stock food suppliers to the extent that they are now refusing to supply food items to the schools?”

The Deputy Ranking Member on the Education Select Committee fingered the Finance Minister as the reason for the current debacle.

“The issue is the refusal of the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta, to disburse the funds to the Ministry of Education for onward payment to buffer stock for suppliers who we are told are owed some Ghc400 million. The Minister of Education, I believe in Friday, gave the impression that the Minister of Finance had released Ghc150 million. You owe over Ghc400 million and you have given only Ghc150 million, how do you expect them to dispense with their obligations when they are still owed as much as they are owed.”

Dr. Apaak’s blame on the Minister for the current woes of the Free SHS programme agrees with the position of the Ranking Member on the Education Select Committee.

Earlier, it was suggested that the Finance Ministry led by Ken Ofori Atta may be the Free Senior High School policy’s biggest threat. This is according to the Ranking Member of the Education Select Committee in Parliament and MP for Akatsi North, Peter Nortsu.

This is because since the Free SHS moved from the Office of the President and was situated under the Ministry of Education, the policy has continued to struggle. The biggest struggle for the policy is the disbursement of funds.

The Ranking Member on the Education Select Committee said this when he spoke on A1 Radio’s Day Break Upper East Show.

“The Finance Minister is the biggest problem for the Free Senior High School policy. I can tell you that the Minister for Finance himself is not interested in this free senior high school because he made a comment before the implementation of the Free SHS that if parents can pay for private basic education, why should the government be paying or taking that responsibility [at the SHS level.].”

“He [the Finance Minister] is holding the purse and he knows what is there; what they are spending on the Free SHS. The release of funds is creating problems for the Free SHS. Since they removed it from the Flagstaff House to the Ministry of Education, monies are not being released early.”

Source: A1radioonline.com|101.1MHz|Mark Kwasi Ahumah Smith|Ghana

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