THE government has shifted the cost burden of the direct funding of its free senior high school (SHS) programme to the Scholarship Secretariat.
Consequently, government has reduced its Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA) allocation to the programme from GH¢212 million last year to GH¢10 million this year.
The amount represents a 95.3 per cent reduction of the funds allocated for the government’s flagship education policy in its first year of implementation, a report by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education stated.
A total number of 355,053 first year SHS students comprising 113,622 day students and 239,431 boarding students were catered for under the programme.
The number of beneficiaries is expected to double when fresh admissions are opened in September this year to commence a new academic year.
So far, the Scholarship Secretariat will be spending about GHc500 million in financing the free SHS programme out of its budget of GHC1.2billion.
The source of funding for the Free SHS programme has been a vexed issue since the government rolled it out in its first year in office with a section of the public raising doubts about its sustainability.
These concerns were however, allayed when the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori Atta, in delivering the 2017 Annual Budget statement in Parliament, said that the programme would be financed from the ABFA.
Already, the minority in parliament has described as illegal, the government’s decision to allow the Scholarship Secretariat to administer funds for the implementation of the policy.
The minority leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu in December last year said the Act governing the operations of the Ghana Education Service, had been breached with the allocation of GH¢ 1.2 billion to the secretariat.
“The Scholarship Secretariat deals with scholarships. This is a major government policy of providing bursaries to ensure free secondary education so the scholarship secretariat must focus on Cuban students, Ghanaians students in Moscow.”
Although GH¢9.3 billion was allocated to the Ministry of Education to implement its programmes and activities this year, which is 11.2 per cent increase over the GH¢8.4 billion allocated to the ministry last year, the source of funding for the budget has changed significantly.
Officials of the ministry explained to the committee that a significant portion of the ABFA allocation for 2017 was meant for the implementation of the free SHS programme, but those funds had been slashed following the decision to ensure that the implementation of the programme, this year would be catered for by the Scholarship Secretariat hence the decrease in the 2018 ABFA allocation.
Meanwhile, Mr Ofori-Atta in presenting the 2018 budget said a fund to receive voluntary contributions from individuals to sustain the policy was to be set up this year.
He said the setting up of the Fund had become necessary following proposals made to government by individuals.
“With the successful launch of the free SHS programme, government received proposals from the public, several of which encourage the establishment of a fund to receive voluntary contributions to support education.
“Thankfully, the GETFund Law allows for the setting up of other education-related funds. In 2018, the Ministry will work with GET FUND to set up this education fund to enable Ghanaians make voluntary contributions to support education,” he added.