Businesses have been asked to join the debate to find a more sustainable way of financing education in the country.
A deputy Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, who made the call in Accra yesterday said, “businesses cannot be left out of this debate because they are also a beneficiary of educational products.
He, therefore, advised them to join forces with the government to ensure this happens for the benefit of all.
He said that when he opened the last in the series of the GRAPHIC BUSINESS/ STANBIC BREAKFAST MEETING for the year at the Labadi Beach Hotel in Accra.
It was on the theme: “Financing Free Quality Education in Ghana – Sustainable Funding Options.”
The deputy minister said the path taken by the government would not be reversed because of its value to the economy but was quick to add that the support from businesses to make it work better could not be underestimated.
The debate on the government’s Free Senior High School (SHS) Policy continuous to rage with people from varied backgrounds making their views known on how to ensure that quality is not compromised while the policy is being rolled out.
While one school of thought believes that the policy should be well-focused to allow those who can pay to do so, the other school also thinks that once the government has thought it wise to carry the burden alone, nothing should change that direction.
In the 2018 Budget Statement, it was estimated that the Free SHS will cost some GH¢1.3 billion.
A professor in Economics and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, however, said his estimates showed that about GH¢3.3 billion will be required to finance the programme in subsequent years.
He said the amount, which excludes staff salaries, will be needed to ensure that the necessary infrastructure and learning materials are added to improve quality and maintain the status quo.
On funding, while some feel that increasing taxes will bridge the funding gap, others are strongly against the idea because they are of the view that businesses are already suffocating under too many taxes. Instead, they want the government to come up with incentives that will entice businesses to support the policy.
The deputy minister said the government was open to suggestions on how the free SHS policy could be sustained in terms of funding with support from businesses. He, however, added that the government would not abandon the policy no matter the cost to the nation”.
“We need more of the people who are not in school because of fees to be there. Other countries outside Africa have made it and we can make it too,” he said.
He insisted that there could be no investment better than educating the citizens hence the need to sustain the Free SHS Programme.
Against the widely held perception that the nature of the implementation of the programme would affect quality, Dr Adutwum disagreed saying that the government was still providing the funds to ensure that what the schools needed to enhance teaching and learning was still intact.
He said the initial challenges being encountered should not be made to look as if the whole programme was geared towards quantity and not quality.
According to the deputy minister, the government wanted quality education because without that, the products would not be able to help shape the economy as expected.
While arguing in favour of the position of the government on the issue, he reiterated that funding support from anywhere was welcome to make it better than what had been envisaged.
Dr Adutwum said government was working to ensure that the era of what was commonly referred to as ‘chew, pour and forget’ was made a thing of the past.
He said more innovative means of teaching and learning were being explored to incorporate them into the curricular.
Importance of education
The Acting Managing Director of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), Mr Ransford Tetteh, entreated the government to pursue the Free SHS programme relentlessly, in spite of the glaring challenges.
He asked the authorities to prioritise the importance of education to the future of the youth in the build-up to attaining quality and sustainable Free SHS education in Ghana.
Mr Tetteh said: “Despite the teeming challenges, I believe it is a worthwhile venture that the government must pursue to its logical concluson because the dividend of good investment in education will always be phenomenal."
He, therefore, said it was expedient to explore available funding options and strategies to ensure quality and sustainable SHS education in the country.
Mr Tetteh expressed gratitude to the co-host of the event, Stanbic Bank, for the partnership, which is aimed at sparking discourse to influence policies towards funding quality and sustainable Free SHS education in the country.