Free SHS threatens our investments, jobs – Private school heads

The Conference of Heads of Private Second Cycle Schools (CHOPSS), is demanding the government expands the coverage of the free secondary education policy to include private schools to save them from possible collapse.

The conference has expressed its disappointment with the effect the policy is having on admissions in private schools, with reports that enrollment of first-years has dropped significantly.

Addressing the press in Accra on Wednesday, the National Secretary of CHOPSS, Joseph Dzamesi, conveyed the fears members of the conference losing the investments they had made in the private secondary schools and the possible job losses.

“What is to happen to the millions of Ghana cedis that have been invested into our schools. What is to happen to 10,000 plus Ghanaian workers who are employed in our schools,” he questioned.

A country like Rwanda, which introduced free education in 2003, has seen similar fears manifest with dwindling admissions leading to 30 private schools closing indefinitely in 2017, while others are struggling to stay afloat after losing students to public schools.

The private schools in Rwanda that stayed open were struggling to meet their operational costs because of the sharp decline in enrollment.

With these fears in mind, CHOPSS is asking what the government’s plan is “to provide a platform that gives our [private] schools a realistic chance to thrive.”

Provide option for private schools

Offering their suggestions, they asked the government to, as a matter of urgency, include private SHSs among the schools listed on the self-placement website, which ordinarily has public senior high schools which are covered under the free SHS policy.

“Our schools should be tagged private and the parents should be informed that when a private school is selected, the students would have to pay the school fees,” Mr. Dzamesi stated.

“With this, a student who may not be happy with his or her placement or a student who is not able to find a school that he or she likes may select a private school on the website and go to that private school.”

Explaining how extending the free SHS policy to private schools would work, Mr. Dzamesi said the government could mimic the National Health Insurance system and simply give students the money to cover their secondary education so they could choose between a private or public school.

“We, therefore suggest that the amount of money earmarked per student to attend senior high school be granted to the student, whether he or she attends a public or private senior high school… if a parent needs to add GHc200 to it in order to afford the total fees in a private senior high school then that becomes the option of the parents.”

Mr. Dzamesi underscored the NPP’s belief in the private sector as the engine of growth for the economy, reminding the government that, “across different sectors of the economy, government has partnered with the private sector in the delivery of quality services to Ghanaians.”

By: Zoe Abu Baidoo/Delali Adogla-Bessa/citifmonline.com/Ghana