Prospectus, other expenses by parents outweigh cost under free SHS – Report

A study carried out by African Education Watch, a civil society organization focused on education, has uncovered that expenses incurred by parents, including prospectus costs, surpass the government’s expenditure under the free Senior High School (SHS) program.

According to the findings, the government’s average spending per student in boarding schools was GHS 1,147, while it was GHS 1,107 for day students. However, parents were reported to spend GHS 2,477 on prospectuses for their children in boarding schools, with an additional GHS 4,000 on personal items like perfume, detergents, and sanitary pads during the 2021–2022 academic year.

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Mr. Divine Kpe, Senior Programmes Officer at African Education Watch, presented the study’s results during an education financing conference in Accra. The report, titled “The Financial Burden of the Free SHS Policy and Implications for Equitable Access to Education,” analyzed government costs using budgetary allocations and expenditures from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, and Parliament for the academic years 2017–18 to 2022–23.

The study also considered parent costs, utilizing historical prices of prospectus items from the Ghana Statistical Service. The report revealed a 38 percent increase in prospectus prices compared to the initial implementation stage of the policy.

Mr. Kpe highlighted that parents of continuing day students spent an average of GH¢4,400 annually, with 40 percent on transportation, 50 percent on breakfast, and 10 percent on books. Furthermore, the report indicated that parents of day students spent GH¢5,507, including prospectus costs, exceeding the government’s expenditure of GH¢1,107.

Financial constraints were identified as contributing to a 15 percent failure of candidates to honor their admission in the 2022–2023 academic year, with the high cost of prospectuses and other education materials being cited as the cause.

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To alleviate the prospectus cost burden, the report recommended that the Ministry of Education develop and implement a strategy, focusing on children from the poorest households using data from the LEAP program. This approach would enable the government to cover the full cost of secondary education for students from lower-income households. Additionally, the report suggested that the Ministry of Finance improves fund disbursement under the policy to align with objectives, implementation arrangements, and cash flow projections.

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