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Dec 2, 2014

Gov’t has enough cash to sustain free SHS – Ablakwa

The Deputy Minister in charge of Tertiary Education, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa is confident government will sustain its free Senior High School (SHS) policy.

Critics of government’s move have cited how government is struggling to manage the School Feeding Programme, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and other social interventions. But speaking on the Citi Breakfast Show, Okudzeto Ablakwa said government has over the years demonstrated that even though it faces challenges in managing such programmes, the programmes are usually sustained.

“We have always as a country made sure that the children don’t suffer, we don’t drive them away or we don’t cancel for interventions because there are financial difficulties. There may be some momentary delays but we always make sure that we redeem the pledges and that the children’s academic progression, their academic calendar doesn’t suffer …,” he said.

The free SHS programme is expected to cost government about  GHc42 million just for the first phase. But an Educationist, Anis Haffar has warned government to be cautious in its attempt to introduce the policy.

He questioned whether government has adequate resources to fund the project, saying “…if we are bringing in GET Fund, do we have operations money in it to able to carry out this gigantic task? Because there is a lot of money involved in this that is why anytime politicians begin to preach free this, free that, a lot of people become nervous because at the end of the day, the system is going to collapse.”

In a related development, the Minister has said over 3000 students are expected to benefit from government’s free SHS policy.

The free SHS policy was the main campaign message of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the 2012 general elections; a policy which was criticized by the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC). But President John Mahama in his 2014 State of the Nation address announced that his administration was going to introduce a free progressive SHS education.

His announcement has received intense criticism from the opposition while some teacher unions have also expressed grave concerns that the policy may affect the quality of education. --  By Marian Efe Ansah/