The government allocated a total amount of GH¢7.62 billion for the implementation of the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme during the past five years, the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, has told Parliament.
He said GH¢4.18 billion out of the amount representing 54.76 per cent, was sourced from the government of Ghana (GoG), while the remaining GH¢3.44 billion, representing 45.24 per cent, came from Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA).
“Mr Speaker, the government has taken no loan to specifically finance the free SHS policy which has since its inception been financed from the ABFA and the GoG funding sources,” he said.
Mr Ofori-Atta disclosed this on the floor of Parliament Wednesday, July 21, when he answered a question by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Builsa South, Dr Clement A. Apaak, who wanted to know if the government took a loan or loans to finance the implementation of the Free SHS policy.
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The Finance Minister said the Free SHS policy was instituted to ensure that no child was denied access to education.
Interventions under the policy, he said, included tuition, meals for both boarders and day students, textbooks, library fee, boarding, science laboratory, examination and utility fees.
He told the House that student enrolment at the SHS level had increased from 881,600 in 2016 to 1,261,125 in 2021 primarily due to the policy.
According to him, five years after the implementation of the policy, 411 out of the 465 candidates who scored grade A in all subjects at the 2020 WASSCE were beneficiaries of the free SHS.
“Mr Speaker, Free SHS beneficiaries constituted 88 per cent of all candidates who scored grade A in all subjects at the 2020 West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE),” he said.
Emphasising the benefits the nation sought to derive from the Free SHS policy, he quoted President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as saying at a point in time that: “This process of expansion of educational opportunities has to be the bedrock of educational policy in the 21st century for our nation if we are to make the rapid transformation of the social and economic lives we all seek.”
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Mr Ofori-Atta denied reports that the government intended to use $1 billion green bond issued to finance the Free SHS programme.
He said the government incurred “extraordinary expenses” in 2020 to enable more students access to secondary education.
The minister said expenses were incurred on the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitation equipment.
“As you know, we spent over GH¢13 billion extra last year in all sorts of expenditures and with revenues also coming down,” he said, and gave an assurance to return to the House to provide detailed breakdown on the quantum of expenditures.
When the National Democratic Congress MP for Bolgatanga Central, Mr Isaac Adongo, asked the minister if he identified GH¢ 2.4 billion to be spent on the Free SHS programme under the government’s Eurobond Utilisation programme in 2020, Mr Ofori-Atta said: “Mr Speaker, I think I can really confirm the statement that the MP is alluding to.”
“I will check and let him know where that statement is from and to indicate how those resources were iced. Mr Speaker, we do not go out to raise money and misuse those proceeds anyway.”