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Make use of population data to sustain free SHS – Analyst

Dr. Andrew Arkutu, Chairman, National Population Council

A former chairman of the National Population Council, Dr. Andrew Arkutu says the government’s Free Senior High School program will experience challenges if planners do not make use of available population data of schools.

According to him, the recent challenges with the Senior High School placement indicates that the population data was not considered in the placement process, hence threatened the delivery of the government’s Free SHS progamme.

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Speaking at a lecture organized by the Ghana Association of Former International Civil Servants (GIFICS) in Accra, Dr. Arkutu expressed regret that the placement of Junior High School graduates in various Senior High Schools in the country turned chaotic with some schools being given students in excess of what they could accommodate.

He said programmes such as the Free SHS programme, “and interventions that are intended, and have the power, to transform the lives of our people, communities and society, should not be launched on a whim and a prayer.”

He said, one of the major challenges in the education sector is the issue of accommodation and so the government must pay attention to population data in relation to existing infrastructure to determine the placement of students.

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“Available figures indicate that there are some 21,438 public basic schools, 8,850 Junior High Schools and 900 Senior High Schools (including private schools) in the country. If media reports are correct, there is a severe infrastructure deficit. Many existing schools, including many senior high schools, are in deplorable conditions. Over 7,400, representing 35% of public basic schools have no toilet facilities. The majority of Senior High Schools are overcrowded and their dormitories are completely full,” he said.

He noted that if planners took available population data into consideration, “Many of the challenges faced on the first day of school this year, and the frustrations and distress that many Ghanaian families experienced could and should have been foreseen, and possibly, prevented.”

Dr. Arkutu further warned that if measures are not taken to address the teething problems, looking at existing data, the same incident will replicate itself in the next academic year.

“Unless urgent steps are taken, our tertiary institutions will face a tsunami as cohorts of beneficiaries of the Free SHS come seeking admission to universities in 2020,” he said.