Ghana's Free SHS Policy: Increased Enrollment Amid Challenges

Ghana's Free SHS policy, launched in 2017, has led to a 70% increase in secondary school enrollment, with 1.4 million students now attending. However, the policy's implementation has faced criticism due to insufficient infrastructure, food shortages, and a lack of proper planning.

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Ghana's Free SHS Policy: Increased Enrollment Amid Challenges

Ghana's Free SHS Policy: Increased Enrollment Amid Challenges

Ghana'sFree SHSpolicy, launched in 2017 by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has led to a significant 70% increase in enrollment, with 1.4 million students now attending secondary schools. However, the policy's implementation has faced criticism due to insufficient infrastructure, food shortages, and a lack of proper planning.

Why this matters: The success or failure of Ghana's Free SHS policy has implications for the country's education system and its ability to equip students with the skills needed to drive economic growth. Moreover, the policy's challenges serve as a cautionary tale for other countries considering similar initiatives, highlighting the importance of careful planning and resource allocation.

Under the previous John Dramani Mahama government, total enrollment in second cycle institutions stood at 813,448 students in 2017. With the introduction of theFree SHSpolicy, enrollment has surged by about 600,000 students. Annual enrollment in secondary schools averaged 260,490 students during the era of presidents Prof John Evans Atta Mills and John Dramani Mahama, compared to around 422,940 students under the Akufo-Addo administration.

The government's expenditure on the Free SHS programme has been substantial, with GH₵5.12 billion spent between 2017 and 2021. In the first year of the programme, the government allocated GH₵171.77 million, but expenditure increased exponentially, reaching GH₵1.75 billion in 2020.

Despite the increased enrollment, the Free SHS policy has faced numerous challenges. Insufficient infrastructure has led to the implementation of a double-track system in many schools, with students attending in shifts. Reports of food shortages, students sleeping in uncompleted buildings, and a shortage of educational materials have been continuous. Critics, including teachers, have called for a review of the programme, citing "a lack of proper planning."

While the Free SHS policy has made secondary education more accessible to Ghanaian youth, its implementation has been marred by challenges. The government's significant expenditure on the programme has come under scrutiny, with concerns raised about the impact on other levels of education. As the policy continues, addressing the infrastructure deficits, ensuring adequate resources, and proper planning will be crucial for its long-term success and sustainability.