How Is Education Free If Not Compulsory?

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Article 25, section 1 (b) of the 1992 Constitution states that, secondary education in its different forms including technical and vocational education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education.

The issue of free education, with emphasis on Secondary education, became manifest when it was first politicized in 2008, when the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, made it the cardinal promise of his campaign.

A campaign he championed in succeeding elections of 2012 and 2016, although in all these times, he evaded the question of funding, even when he was interviewed on BBC.

The administration of John Dramani Mahama, which is not against the implementation of Free Senior High School (SHS) felt that that the level of funding for the education sector, from the basic to the tertiary level was not sustainable, as resources were not sufficiently available to carry on with such budgetary allocation and so decided to respect the aspect of the Constitution that talks about making education progressively free.

Akufo-Addo, upon winning the 2016 presidential election, rolled out the programme and since 2017, Civil Society Organisations, heads of second cycle institutions, political parties, well-meaning citizens, including the finance minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, have raised issues on the possible negative implications the policy is having not only on the students, but the economy as well.

The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates that nearly 623,500 children of school going age are still not enrolled in primary school and one out of four children in the kindergarten age range (from four to five years of age) are not in pre-school.

In our considered opinion, education at every level is never free, until it is compulsory, as dictated by the Constitution of the country. So the trump card of the current administration of making secondary school free, is not entirely free, but rather progressive.

Ghanaian students in private secondary school are not enjoying free SHS, the Constitution did not make a distinction between private and public, it said equal and balanced access to secondary and other appropriate pre-university education, equal access to university or science and technology.

The lack of infrastructure in our schools, which has necessitated the government to introduce double track, is as a result of fritting away the little resources that is available through corruption.