The Akufo-Addo government says it has set aside an amount of Ghc80 million cedis to address challenges relating to furniture following the implementation of the Free Senior High School education policy.
The attempt to bridge the access gap at the SHS level has been largely successful, but has come with increased pressure on facilities in some schools.
Citi FM has carried reports about some of these challenges, notably at the La Presby SHS in Osu, Accra, where first years were sitting on cement blocks for classes and Vitting SHS in Tamale, where some students were sleeping on mattresses on verandas.
La Presby SHS has since benefitted from desks donated by McDan Shipping and the La Dadekotopon Assembly, whilst the Northern Regional Minister has been to Vitting SHS on a fact-finding mission.
This state of affairs has seen the Akufo-Addo administration met with some criticism for not anticipating the pressure on school infrastructure.
Gov’t appeal for patience
But the Minister of Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku-Prempeh, appealed for some patience when he spoke to some journalists after appearing before Parliament on Tuesday.
“We are not oblivious to the challenges and stress this free SHS is bringing. This is a government that acknowledges that and we will deal with it,” he said.
He noted to the media that Ghanaians could not expect the Free SHS policy to solve problems that were already existing within secondary education.
Dr. Opoku-Prempeh argued further that, some students in the Northern Region have benefited from scholarships but have still had to contend with dire infrastructure conditions.
“Some parts of this country have enjoyed free secondary education. Have all access problems in those areas been solved? For 50 years, people have enjoyed partial free scholarship in the Northern Region. Have we finished building schools in that part of the country? Have we finished supplying furniture in that part of the country?”
“Let’s not feel and be led to believe that the scholarship will necessarily solve every problem. The scholarship is about solving the problem of access, financial access,” the Minister said.
When the Free SHS policy was launched in September, equity, skills development, infrastructure development and quality were touted as the pillars of the policy, and Dr. Opoku-Prempeh assured that the full scope of the policy will eventually be realized.
To address the infrastructure challenges, he said that “there are emergency interventions that are ongoing in acquiring furniture, bunk beds and things like that.”
Every school has made known its deficit gap to the government, according to Dr. Opoku-Prempeh, who added that “when we talk about the Free SHS furniture challenge alone, it is about GHc 80 million [that has been allocated].”