A recent study conducted by Africa Education Watch, a civil society organization in the education sector, indicates that the expenses incurred by parents on prospectuses and related items surpass the costs borne by the government in the Free Senior High School (SHS) program.
Africa Education Watch reported that parents spent GHS 2,477 on prospectuses for their children in boarding schools, along with an additional GHS 4,000 on various personal items. This includes expenditures on provisions (60%), transportation (10%), books (10%), upkeep (10%), and personal effects like toiletries and sanitary pads (10%) during the 2023/2023 academic year.
Mr. Divine Kpe, Senior Programs Officer at Africa Education Watch, presented these findings during a conference on education financing in Accra, focusing on “The Financial Burden of the Free SHS Policy and Implications for Equitable Access to Education.”
The study analyzed the government's costs using budgetary allocations and expenditures related to Free SHS, obtained from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, and Parliament for the academic years 2022/2023. The costs incurred by parents were assessed using historical prices of prospectus items from the Ghana Statistical Service.
According to the report, the prices of prospectuses increased by 38%, starting from an initial percentage of 36 during the initial implementation stage of the policy.
Mr. Kpe highlighted that parents of continuing-day students reported spending an average of GH¢4,400 annually on their children's education, including transportation (40%), breakfast (50%), and books (10%).
The report also revealed that parents of day students spent GHC 5,507, including prospectus costs, surpassing the government's spending of GHS 1,107.
Financial constraints were identified as a contributing factor to a 15% failure of candidates to honour their admission in the 2022–2023 academic year, attributed to the high cost of prospectuses and other educational materials.
To alleviate the cost burden of prospectuses, the report recommended that, in the medium to long term, the Ministry of Education should develop and implement a strategy targeting children from the poorest households, using data from the LEAP program. This approach would enable the government to allocate more funds to cover the full cost of secondary education for students from low-income households.
Furthermore, the report suggested that the Ministry of Finance should enhance the disbursement of funds under the policy to align with the objectives, implementation arrangements, and cash flow projections.