In September 2017, when the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s government began the Free Senior High School (SHS) programm with only first-year students, some political analysts questioned the essence of ‘Free SHS’ as it only benefitted first-year students and not all SHS students.
Prior to the 2016 election, when then-candidate Nana Akufo-Addo promised the Free SHS policy, it was believed by many that Free SHS meant free for every student in SHS at the time.
However, when the programme was implemented in 2017, it saw only first-year students as the pioneers of the programme – amidst heavy criticism from his political opponents.
Now, two years down the line – as the third batch of beneficiaries have completed their Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) – from September this year, when they receive their placements into various SHSs across, the country will make every SHS student in the country a beneficiary under the policy.
The placement of these candidates into SHSs by September will also bring the number of beneficiaries of the policy to about 1.3million.
The first year of the programme’s implementation saw the enrolment of over 400,000 students in the various secondary schools. Last year, about 500,000 students also benefitted from the programme.
This year, over 500,000 JHS candidates sat for the BECE, and they will receive their placement into the various SHSs by September.
This is expected to increase government spending on education in next year’s budget, as the enrolment for SHS is expected to go up to a total of 1.3 million students – the highest since independence.
Before the Free SHS programme was introduced, the total population of students in SHS stood at 432,780 per the 2016 academic year data; with GH¢2,312 spent on each student per year by government.
Already, government has spent about GH¢800miliion on the Free SHS policy since its implementation, and this is expected to increase in the next budget.
In the 2018 budget, GH¢455.9 million of petroleum revenues was allocated to the Free SHS programme.
President Nana Akufo-Addo, during the launch of the free SHS policy in 2017, said his government would invest revenues from oil in one of the most ambitious social programmes of the country’s history – that is, the Free Senior High School policy.
According to him, the Free SHS is ensuring that the country’s oil revenues are being equitably distributed to the people and not ending up in the pockets of a few.
However, since government announced it will use oil money to fund the Free SHS policy, there has been criticism by some civil society groups that it is risky for government to rely solely on oil revenue to fund the Free SHS programme; insisting that it must diversify its sources of funding for the programme due to the instability of oil prices on the world market.