The National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) has asked for an urgent review of the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy to allow parents and guardians to support the funding of pre-tertiary education in the country. In far-reaching proposals, the students’ body also demanded the uncapping of the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) to free funds for the expansion of infrastructure in second-cycle schools.
The General Secretary of NUGS, Ismail Tuohesung Issahaque, further urged the government to honour the 18-month arrears of allowances for nursing trainees and appealed to the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to not let the 22,000 Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) candidates suffer for the poor judgement of supervisory elements.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra last Tuesday, Mr Issahaque said it was time for the Free SHS policy to succumb to a review, given the chequered list of challenges that had bedevilled its implementation over the years. In the company of the Secretary for International Relations, Joshua Nakpri; the Secretary for Union Development, Ebenezer Dehar Krah, and a Committee Member, Ellis Dennis Adjei, Mr Issahaque said while NUGS commended the government for the Free SHS initiative, the challenges facing second cycle schools needed to be addressed for smooth academic activities.
He said infrastructure and facilities needed to be improved in SHSs to deal with congestion in the various institutions, as well as the regular provision of food items for feeding the students. Mr Issahaque called for a review of the policy to enable parents, especially those who could pay, to contribute towards the policy, especially when it came to the issue of feeding, among other things. “We commend the government for such a brilliant policy, but we think it is time we reviewed the policy for parents to contribute to addressing all these issues,” he said.
The NUGS General Secretary blamed some of the challenges facing the education sector from the basic school level to the tertiary stage on the problem of capping the GETFund, the only reserve used to cater for the country’s educational system. “As we sit in the 2023 budget, the government is expecting GH¢4.1 billion from GETFund revenue. Out of this amount, the education sector is only getting GH¢2.1 billion.
This is a policy that was formulated with the motive of catering only to education, and now 55 per cent of the revenue that would be generated is not going into education. “So, as a matter of urgency, NUGS is calling on the government to uncap the fund to enable it to take care of what it has been set aside to do.
It is for education,” he said.
On nursing training, Mr Issahaque said for the past 18 months, students in the training schools in the country had not received their allowances, adding that the allowances served as stipends that supported the students in their day-to-day lives. He said some of the students used the money to pay their school fees, among other pressing issues in school. He urged the government to put in place a structure of school fees that would be common to all nursing training institutions.
He also said that WAEC should ensure that no punitive action would prevent the 22,270 candidates whose 2023 BECE results were withheld from continuing to the SHS level. Mr Issahaque said the students should not be made to suffer any punishment other than those who were supposed to supervise them.
He said if there was any optional punishment, WAEC should opt for it and not take the children off schooling. Meanwhile, WAEC has confirmed that from today, it began a series of meetings with the 22,270 BECE candidates whose results are under scrutiny. The Head of Public Affairs of WAEC, John Kapi, told the Daily Graphic that the results of the candidates were being withheld mainly because of “collusion”.
On November 9, 2023, WAEC released the provisional results of candidates who sat for the 2023 BECE. “There are two processes that we have to go through. One is to do our preliminary investigations, and then we would also have a one-on-one with the candidates,” he said.
By: Raymond Arthur