Education Minister challenges Akufo-Addo’s free SHS numbers

Nana Akufo-Addo

The Minister of Education, Mr Lee Ocran, has challenged figures given out by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) flag bearer, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, regarding the funding of free senior high school education in the country.

According to him, the NPP leader had grossly underestimated the cost of implementing free education especially in the first year of its implementation in the figures provided.

“Contrary to the GH¢78 million Nana Akufo-Addo is claiming funding free education will cost in the first year, it is GH¢1.2 billion.”

The NPP presidential aspirant at his encounter with the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) had stated that the additional cost which included tuition, boarding, feeding and all the other charges for the 2013/2014 academic year was estimated GH¢78 million.

The figure, according to Nana Akufo-Addo, was 0.1 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic products (GDP), which is the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time.

The NPP leader had also said the free  SHS will increase the total education expenditure from 4.1 per cent of GDP in 2011 to 5.8 per cent by 2016, a figure which  he stated would still be below the United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO)  minimum of six per cent.

But at a press conference in Accra yesterday, the education minister maintained that the NPP flag bearer got it all wrong, saying that the country was spending 9.3 per cent of GDP on education.

Mr Ocran said the problem with the country’s education sector was infrastructural deficit both at the basic and secondary level.

To lend credibility to his assertion, he said currently, some 376,000 pupils graduated from junior high schools but the space available for them at the SHS level was 202,000.

He said enrolment figures at the SHS had been increasing and noted that in 2007/2008 academic year, there were a little over 484,000 SHS students in the various second cycle schools but by 2012, the figure had jumped to 728,076.

He accused the NPP of paying lip-service to infrastructure after rolling out the four-year SHS programme.

According to him, a strong foundation for basic education and expansion in infrastructure was a major solution to the problem and not making education free without expansion in infrastructure.

In that regard, he said the NDC had on its chest, a project to build 200 senior high schools which would cost an estimated $250 million.

“After every 10 kilometres, you will have a senior high school that is what is being done in other parts of the world. It is cheaper,” he said.

He observed that with the increase in enrolment in the first year of the implementation would come a challenge of getting adequate teachers to handle the students, saying “it takes close to four years to train one teacher, where would the NPP get the extra teachers needed for the classroom”.

Mr Ocran also took on Nana Akufo-Addo for what he described as double standards on the part of the NPP flag bearer so far as funding sources for the policy he was touting was concerned.

He explained that the NPP leader had in mid-1995 led demonstrations opposing the implementation of the Value Added Tax (VAT), which was now the sole source of the GETFund, a funding source the NPP had mentioned for the free education policy.

He observed that by touching funds meant for Ghana National Petroleum Company as a source of funding for the policy, the NPP would undermine the exploration projects of the GNPC.

Mr Ocran discredited assertions that education was free in the Nkrumah era and noted that it was tuition that was free but not boarding.

According to him, the NPP in 2005 started the payment of capitation grant to public junior high schools (JHSs) because it was bounded by the 1992 Constitution which mandated governments to make education progressively free.

The education minister also warned that the ministry would deal ruthlessly with heads of schools that were charging a full-year fees before enrolling students.

“We urge parents to report to us any person not charging the approved fees. The ministry would be swift in dealing with it,” he said.

Source: Daily Graphic

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