African Education Watch Study Unveils Parental Costs Surpass Government Spending in Free SHS Program

A recent study conducted by African Education Watch, a civil society organization dedicated to educational matters, has brought to light that expenses incurred by parents, including prospectus and additional items, surpass the government’s expenditure in the Free Senior High School (SHS) program.

The study’s findings indicate that the government’s average spending per student in boarding schools was GHS 1,147, and GHS 1,107 for day students. However, parents reportedly spent GHS 2,477 on prospectuses for their children in boarding schools and an additional GHS 4,000 on personal items such as perfume, detergents, and sanitary pads during the 2021–2022 academic year.

Mr. Divine Kpe, Senior Programmes Officer at African Education Watch, presented the report at an education financing conference in Accra under the theme “The Financial Burden of the Free SHS Policy and Implications for Equitable Access to Education.”

To assess government costs, the report analyzed budgetary allocations and expenditures related to the Free SHS program obtained from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, and Parliament for academic years 2017–18 through 2022–23. The costs incurred by parents were scrutinized using historical prices of prospectus items from the Ghana Statistical Service.

According to the report, prospectus prices surged by 38 percent, up from an initial 36 percent during the policy’s early implementation stages.

Mr. Kpe noted that parents of continuing day students spent an average of GH¢4,400 annually on their children’s education, with transportation constituting 40 percent, breakfast 50 percent, and books 10 percent. The report further revealed that parents of day students spent GHC5,507, including prospectus costs, surpassing the government’s spending of GHS1,107.

Financial constraints were identified as a contributing factor to a 15 percent failure of candidates to enroll for the 2022–2023 academic year, with the high cost of prospectuses and other educational materials being a significant factor.

The report recommended that, in the medium to long term, the Ministry of Education should develop and implement a strategy focusing on children from the poorest households, utilizing data from the LEAP program. This, it asserted, would enable the government to allocate more funds to cover the complete cost of secondary education for students from lower-income households.

Furthermore, the report called on the Ministry of Finance to enhance the disbursement of funds under the policy, aligning it with the program’s objectives, implementation arrangements, and cash flow projections.

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