Government to Present Free SHS Bill to Parliament

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The Ghanaian government is preparing to introduce the Free Senior High School (SHS) Bill to Parliament, aimed at solidifying the policy and ensuring its continuity. This legislative effort seeks to address the ongoing concerns about the program’s sustainability and protect it from potential future reversals by subsequent administrations.

Since its implementation in 2017 under the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, the Free SHS policy has significantly expanded access to secondary education in Ghana. The policy covers tuition, meals, and other school-related expenses for all public high school students, leading to increased enrollment and reduced financial burdens on families. However, the program has faced challenges, including budget constraints and criticisms regarding its broad application, which some argue dilutes resources that could be better targeted towards the neediest students

The proposed bill aims to formalize the Free SHS policy within Ghana’s legislative framework, thus providing a more robust mechanism for its implementation and longevity. According to the Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, the bill seeks to make the policy “justiciable,” meaning that it would be legally enforceable rather than merely aspirational. This move aligns with the goals outlined in Chapter 5 of the Ghanaian Constitution, which includes provisions for the right to education.

Educational stakeholders, including the Africa Education Watch (EduWatch), have provided input on how the Free SHS policy could be refined and made more sustainable:

Targeted Assistance: EduWatch suggests that the policy should focus more on children from low-income households. They recommend using data from the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) program to identify and support these families.

Boarding Fees: They also propose that parents who choose boarding facilities for their children should be responsible for those additional costs, which could help alleviate financial pressures on the program.

Afenyo-Markin highlighted that the current constitutional provisions regarding the right to education are “aspirational” and not enforceable by law. By enacting the Free SHS Bill, the government intends to transform these provisions into actionable rights that citizens can legally claim and uphold.

During a recent Leaders’ Media Briefing, Afenyo-Markin expressed the government’s commitment to making the Free SHS policy a permanent fixture in Ghana’s educational landscape. He stressed the importance of legislative backing to ensure that the policy not only continues but also adapts to meet the evolving needs of Ghanaian students and their families.

As the Free SHS Bill is set to be presented to Parliament, it marks a significant step towards institutionalizing a policy that has transformed Ghana’s educational system. The government’s approach to enacting this bill underscores a broader commitment to securing educational rights and enhancing the quality and accessibility of secondary education for Ghanaians

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