Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has warned that government will deal severely with anyone whose actions and inactions will thwart the smooth implementation of the Free Senior High School (SHS) Policy.
He said the Government would move beyond naming and shaming to the prosecution of individuals engaging in fraudulent activities to ruin the implementation of the Free SHS Policy.
Vice President Bawumia gave the warning at the 50th Anniversary celebration of the enstoolment of Nana Boakye Tromu III as Omanhene of Duayaw Nkwanta Traditional Area in the Brong Ahafo Region, at the weekend.
The Free SHS Policy is a flagship programme of the Government, which was rolled-out on September 13, 2017 to ensure all qualified BECE candidates got admission to secondary school without paying fees.
However, there have been reports of pilfering by some school authorities who steal food supplied by government to feed the students enrolled under the Policy, whilst others are charging unapproved fees.
The Police Criminal Investigations Department recently invited Madam Comfort Oduro Bruce, a Senior Matron and Reverend Abraham Donkor, the Headmaster of the Ghana Senior High School (GHANASS) in Koforidua, the Eastern Regional capital, to assist in investigations when Madam Oduro Bruce was allegedly caught by the school security attempting to cart some food items meant to feed the students.
In addition, matrons at Buipe and Tolon Senior High schools have also been reportedly arrested for allegedly trying to steal and sell food items meant for the feeding of first year students in their care.
It is against this backdrop that the Vice President gave the warning and asked all Ghanaians to be watchful and report any act of malfeasance in the implementation of the Free SHS Policy.
Vice President Bawumia said: “In spite of those challenges, government has successfully started the Policy. We need to ensure that no Ghanaian child is denied access to public secondary education. Poverty should not be a barrier for children to have access to a better future.
“However, it is sad to note that in the implementation of the Free SHS Policy, some Ghanaians are making sure that the programme does not succeed”.
He said in the last few months there had been reports of deliberate ploy by some individuals ranging from matrons and heads of institutions attempting to circumvent the regulations by stealing materials intended to benefit the children who were in their care, adding; “This is unacceptable”.
“Government is determined to punish severely wrongdoers and those who have made it a habit to steal and or to obstruct. Actions to curb the situation should not just end at the doorstep of naming and shaming but also with prosecution, where applicable,” the Vice President said.
Touching on the genuine challenges confronting the programme, the Vice President gave the assurance that government was working round the clock to address them.
“While there may be challenges with the implementation of the Free Senior High School programme, the good news is that government has taken note of the problems and is working feverishly to address them and by the Grace God, Ghanaians will reap the benefits in the very near future,” he said.
“Nevertheless, I want to see sterner actions taken against such persons [sabotaging the smooth implementation of the FSHS], particularly those who decide to divert or steal resources meant for the FSHS programme,” Dr Bawumia stated.
More than 400,000 children are currently benefiting from the Free Senior High School Policy, according to figures from the Ministry of Education.
Officials say but for the Policy, at least 90,000 out of the 400,000 would not have had the chance to benefit from secondary education.