MINISTER FOR Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, has stated categorically that the flagship Free Senior High School (SHS) and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) education are not under review.
According to him, the government will continue to fund these educational programmes and improve on them, adding that “we shall not compromise on President Akufo-Addo’s commitment to giving all our children the opportunity to be educated from kindergarten to university, without the ability to pay being a hindrance.”
Delivering the 2022 mid-year budget review in Parliament yesterday, Mr. Ofori-Atta stressed, “Free Secondary and TVET education are not under review.”
There has been concerns that the government will review the Free SHS policy by allocating cost to parents, which the Child Rights International (CRI), a civil society organisation, has said any such move will defeat the universality of the policy.
The Finance Minister assured Ghanaians that the policy had come to stay, pointing out that the Akufo-Addo government has placed human capital development at the core of its national transformation efforts since 2017.
“We have invested GH¢5.3 billion to enable 1,261,495 Ghanaian children access to secondary education under the Free SHS programme at the end 2021 to improve access to education,” he disclosed.
He added, “Out of the 571,892 registered JHS candidates, 555,353, representing 97.1 per cent, were placed into SHS this year. This is significant.”
Mr. Ofori-Atta said, “We are aware of reported challenges in accessing and transporting food for students in SHS and we are fixing it. In response, we have engaged stakeholders and devised a programme that ensures that schools will not be disrupted and our students are well-fed.”
According to him, the government has also recently completed 17 additional projects, including classroom blocks, dormitories, staff bungalows and libraries as part of infrastructural expansion in senior high schools to deal with the record increases in student numbers.
He said thanks to tax payers, since January, 3,620,468 pupils in 10,832 public basic schools had been fed with one hot meal every school going day in the first half of the year under the Ghana School Feeding Programme.
“The programme provides employment for 32,496 caterers. School Feeding Programme remains an important initiative that keeps our children in school and provides jobs and incomes for several people, mainly women,” he asserted.
On the road sector, the minister stated that in spite of the revenue-mobilising challenges, the President is determined to fix the roads, noting, “Our Year of Roads programme is on very much course.”
Mr. Ofori-Atta said Phase I of the agreement with the Sinohydro Corporation Limited comprising Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contracts for 442 km of roads and two interchanges have gained significant progress.
He mentioned them as the Tamale Interchange project (completed and commissioned); PTC Roundabout Interchange project at 35% completion; upgrading of selected Feeder Roads in Ashanti and Western Regions completed; with a lot more to follow; and Sunyani Inner City Road works are at 63% completion.
“Other key road and bridge projects are also progressing steadily, including the La Beach Road Project (Lots 1 & 2), which includes a 3-tier interchange at Nungua, is 34 per cent and 50 per cent complete respectively as at June 2022; and the Phase II of the Obetsebi Lamptey Circle Interchange and the flyover on the Accra-Tema Motorway from the Flower Pot (Spintex Road) are 57% and 30% complete respectively as at June 2022,” he noted.
He added that the Kumasi-Lake Roads and Drainage Extension project, extension of the existing Aboabo drain, and construction of the Chirapatere Bus Terminal is at 92 per cent completion as at end June 2022.
He again mentioned the upgrading of Salaga-Ekumdipe-Kpandai Road at 70 per cent completion; partial reconstruction of Bawjiase-Adeiso Road – Lot 1 at 98 per cent completion; and work on the construction of 50 prefabricated bridges to improve connectivity within areas cut off by waterways in all 16 regions have achieved progress of about 80%.
BY Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House