Cost of Free SHS: Figures from Finance, Education ministries contradictory


The Akufo-Addo administration started the implementation of its flagship education policy, Free Senior High School, in September 2017.

The policy has received cheers for increasing access to senior high school, particularly among the most vulnerable section of the Ghanaian population.

However, it has been criticised for drawbacks including congestion, which has forced the Ministry of Education to roll out the double track system.

Although the policy increased enrolment in senior high schools, its critics say it has rather increased the cost of senior high school education to parents as they are forced to spend on extra classes for their wards. These students spent at least three months on vacations.

In recent times, the cost of feeding the students has become a fodder for public discourse. Food shortages have become rampant in senior high schools with school heads threatening to shut down their institutions.

But the actual cost of the policy continuous to create doubt in the minds of Ghanaians.

When the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, presented the 2021 mid-year budget on July 29, 2021, he said “over the past five years, a total amount of GH¢7.62 billion has been spent to implement the Free SHS Programme.”

That figure covered all students who benefitted from the programme from 2017 to 2020.

But to the shock of analysts a year later, Mr Ofori-Atta on July 25, 2022, announced in parliament that the government had invested GH¢ 5.3 billion to enable some 1,261,495 children to access free education under the Free senior high school programme at the end 2021.

That announcement before the lawmakers attracted the scrutiny of civil society.

The Executive Director of Africa Education Watch, Mr. Kofi Asare, in a Facebook post observed that the expenditure on free SHS kept reducing as the number of beneficiaries increased.

“The total amount government has spent on free SHS since 2017 keeps reducing as the number of beneficiaries increase? Mercy, Lord,” he wrote.

He was right.

Ideally, the expenditure for 2022 should have increased as the number of students shot up. But it was even less than the 2021 figures. The 2022 figure was GH¢ 2.32 billion less than what was presented in 2021.

A month before Mr. Ofori-Atta’s presentation to Parliament, Education Minister, Dr Yaw Adutwum also mentioned a different amount when he was invited to the Meet the Press Briefing at the Ministry of Information on June 7, 2021.

Dr Yaw Adutwum stated that a total of GHC 7.7 billion had been spent on the Free SHS programme.

“In all, we’ve spent to date, GHC 7,703,783,456 and that is the data that was given to me by my Chief Director who I trust,” he said.

That figure is also GH¢800,000 more than the finance minister presented a month later in July 2021.

Numerous attempts by Fact-Check Ghana to get the Coordinator of the Free SHS Secretariat, Mr. William Darkwa, to speak to the disparities proved futile.

Calls, text and WhatsApp messages were ignored.


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