Ghanaian trade union leaders have warmly welcomed the decision of Ghana’s president to set up the Free Senior High School Programme.
There has been widespread support for the introduction of the Free Senior High School (SHS) Programme in Ghana. The programme, launched in September by President Nana Akufo-Addo, means that education at secondary high school level is now free in Ghana.
The move will benefit over 400,000 pupils in senior high schools having passed the basic education certificate examination (BECE), the main entrance examination for secondary or vocational schools. According to the Ministries of Education and Finance, half of the amount needed to fund the Free SHS Programme for the current academic year has been released to the schools with assurances that the remainder would be distributed by mid-term.
‘’The Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC-Ghana) would like to commend the President and his government for keeping one of the New Patriotic Party's campaign promises,” TUC-Ghana General Secretary Dr. Anthony Yaw Baah said.
Assuring the government of the TUC’s support for the Free SHS programme, he stated that “this is the most important social intervention programme that has been implemented in our country since independence. We believe it is the most equitable way to distribute the country’s resources to all Ghanaians regardless of their socio-economic background’’.
He concurred with President Nana Akufo-Addo's statement that “the cost of providing free secondary school education would be cheaper than the alternative of an uneducated and unskilled workforce”.
Low attainment levels
Data from the Ghana Statistical Service shows that only 15 per cent of all Ghanaians aged 15 or older have reached secondary education or higher. And statistics further indicate that 19.5 per cent of Ghanaians have never attended school, 44.6 per cent did not complete Middle School Leaving Certificate (MSLC)/BECE, and only 20.9 per cent completed MSLC/BECE.
After 60 years of independence, these statistics are not only shameful, but they are also a barrier to sustainable and inclusive development, Baah noted.
Job creation and third-level challenges
While the trade union movement expects the Free SHS Programme to “dramatically improve access to education in all parts of the country”, Baah urged the government to address related issues and ensure that education quality improves.
“This programme provides immense opportunities for young people, increasing the pool of educated young Ghanaians in the labour market, as well as the number of students seeking university education, he said. “Harnessing these opportunities will depend on preparations made now, and job creation challenges need to be addressed to ensure that free SHS does not produce a pool of educated and frustrated young people, as this “will be costly for the country”.
Baah concluded by saying that “the government should start to consider expanding the infrastructure of the country’s universities to ensure that the latter can absorb the large number of SHS graduates in the next few years”.