SEND Ghana on Tuesday raised concerns over government’s focus on the Free Senior High School initiative in its allocations of Goods and Services, to the detriment of other levels of education.
Government in the 2019 budget statement increased allocation for Goods and Services to the education sector to 25 per cent of the total allocation. However, 88.8 per cent of this would go to the Free SHS initiative, leaving only 11.2 per cent for other levels of education.
Mrs Harriet Nuamah Agyeman, Senior Project Officer at SEND Ghana, raised the concern at a forum in Accra on the 2019 Budget Statement and Economic Policy. She said although SEND Ghana was happy to see the increase to 25 per cent of the Goods and Services line item in the 2019 budget, as they had been advocating, that happiness was short lived due to the unequal distribution of the amount between the educational levels.
These include the pre-school, primary, Junior High School, non-formal special schools and tertiary levels. “So if one level, out of these, is taking 88.8 per cent, then you’re saying the remaining should use just 11.2 per cent for the running of those institutions as well as for teaching and learning; and we think that is not fair enough,” she stated.
She said although they were not against government supporting Free SHS, it should not be at the neglect of other levels of education and called on government to find resources to give each level a fair allocation. Mrs Agyeman also noted that an analysis of the Controller and Accountant General’s report for 2016 and 2017 showed that only a small per cent of the amount allocated was actually released, even though allocation for compensation is usually released and sometimes overrun.
She noted; “If you pay salaries and even overrun that line to the detriment of Goods and Services, then what are you paying the staff to work with? Noting, that this impacted negatively on quality of education. While commending government for progress in expanding access to education, she urged it to think beyond access to providing quality, which would come from quality teachers and availability of teaching and learning materials as well as effective ministering and evaluation.
She also raised concerns with the lack of prior arrangements for absorption of the first batch of Free SHS students into tertiary institutions, especially considering that intake at the SHS level doubled due to the policy. “We have only one year between now and then. We need to begin to talk about space, availability of lecturers, accommodation and others in preparation for 2020,” she said.
Touching on provisions made for social protection in the 2019 budget, she urged government to consider increasing the quantum of cash transfer per household for beneficiaries of the Livelihoods Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme. She said the current amount of GH¢64.00 every two months, was below international standards of GH¢5.00 per day.