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Parents call for review of Free SHS without ‘political innuendos’

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Parents are reminding the government of its initial intention to review and rationalize the Free Senior High School (SHS) program. The government stated its intention to rationalise and review the Free SHS in a correspondence between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Country Policy Document Report No. 24/30, issued in January 2024.

The report, which outlines the government’s policy agenda, states: “In the education sector, we will review and rationalize the Free Senior High School (SHS) program.” This statement is found in Point 47 on page 76 of the document.

The Free SHS policy, introduced in 2017, aimed to increase access to secondary education by eliminating tuition fees for students. However, the program has faced numerous operational challenges, including concerns over quality, affordability, equitable access, skill improvement, and infrastructure expansion.

The National Council for Parent Teacher Association (NCPTA) says that while the Free SHS policy, along with other initiatives like the Capitation Grant and the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), has contributed to increased enrollment and retention rates, they are all beset by teething problems that necessitate a review.

The National Council for Parent-Teacher Associations (NCPTA) welcomed the proposed review, calling for a consensus-building approach involving all stakeholders, including teacher unions, civil society organizations, and education experts.

“Development in education is a shared responsibility, and one head does not go into council, especially in a crisis situation,” said Christian Aikins Astu, National President of the NCPTA, in a statement. “Government must leave no stone unturned to exploit the middle way out in order to deal expeditiously with the matter for the restoration of industrial peace and harmony within the pre-tertiary level of education.”

Meanwhile, the National Council for Parent-Teacher Associations (NCPTA) is worried about the longstanding feeding challenges in senior high schools.

In a statement signed by the National President of the NCPTA, Christian Aikins Astu, the parents stated that revisions in the distribution of food items to schools under the policy exacerbate the feeding challenges in the schools.

The arrangement, through the buffer stock, according to the parents, is problematic.

“Furthermore, the operational challenges in relation to the emerging food crisis at some basic schools across the country under the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) and the senior high/technical and vocational schools’ feeding program under the Ghana Buffer Stock Company (GBSC) across the country are due to the government’s inability to pay contractors (food suppliers) who, through the GSFP and GBSC, have been contracted to supply adequate food to feed our students at the basic and secondary educational levels, respectively.”

“This unfortunate situation has resulted in food rationing due to the shortage of food in our schools, a review of the feeding timetable in schools based on the food items available, hence compromising the quality, quantity, safety, and security of the meals provided by school administrators due to the demand and supply situation on the ground,” portions of the statement read.

The parents were even more worried that the government continues to deny the situation that exists.

“This unfortunate reality on the ground and the deliberate denial by the government and its spokesperson have compelled Joy News to carry out a fact-finding documentary on the feeding situation in our SHS dubbed ‘Empty Plates.’ The recent Free SHS National Policy Dialogue and the call for a review by the general public clearly show that all is not well for the popular Free SHS program,” the statement said.

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

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