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FREE SHS POLICY: IMF’s Review Recommendation Not Coercive but Gov’t Negligence

The Free Senior High School (SHS) policy is one of the flagship programmes of the current government of Ghana, which aims to provide universal access to secondary education for all eligible Ghanaian students. The policy, which was introduced in 2017, has been praised for increasing enrolment, especially among girls and students from poor and rural areas. However, the policy has also faced several challenges, such as inadequate infrastructure, overcrowding, low quality of teaching and learning, and high cost of implementation.

Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has criticized the Free SHS policy for being poorly targeted and suggested that it should be reviewed to ensure that it benefits the most needy students. The IMF report, which was released ahead of the approval of the country’s $3 billion bailout, said that Ghana spends close to 4 per cent of GDP on education with good results in terms of enrolment but poor learning outcomes. The report added that key identified areas of potential improvement in education spending include strengthening primary education resources, better teacher training, and stronger performance-based funding practices.

The IMF’s recommendation has sparked a heated debate among various stakeholders, including the government, the opposition, the civil society, and the international community. Some have welcomed the IMF’s advice as constructive feedback that could help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Free SHS policy. Others have rejected the IMF’s interference as a form of neo-colonialism and slavery that undermines the sovereignty and autonomy of Ghana. They have argued that the Free SHS policy is a constitutional right and a social responsibility of the government, not a mandatory condition imposed by the IMF.

In this article, I will argue that the IMF’s suggestion to review the Free SHS policy is not a form of slavery, but a reasonable and pragmatic proposal that could help Ghana achieve its educational goals and aspirations. I will present three main reasons to support my position: first, the IMF’s recommendation is based on sound economic and social analysis; second, the IMF’s recommendation is consistent with the government’s vision and agenda; and third, the IMF’s recommendation is not binding or coercive, but rather advisory and consultative.

The IMF’s recommendation is based on sound economic and social analysis

The IMF is an international organization that works with member countries to achieve sustainable growth and prosperity by supporting economic policies and programmes that promote financial stability and monetary cooperation, which are essential to increase productivity, job creation and well-being. The IMF also provides financial assistance and technical advice to countries that face economic difficulties or seek to improve their economic performance. The IMF’s engagement with Ghana is based on a mutual agreement and understanding that reflects the country’s priorities and needs.

The IMF’s recommendation to review the Free SHS policy is not a random or arbitrary suggestion, but a well-informed and evidence-based analysis that takes into account the economic and social realities and challenges of Ghana. The IMF has acknowledged the positive impact of the Free SHS policy on increasing access and equity in education but has also pointed out the potential trade-offs and opportunity costs of the policy. The IMF has argued that the Free SHS policy, which covers the full cost of secondary education for all students, regardless of their income or background, is poorly targeted and inefficient, as it subsidizes many students who could afford to pay for their education while leaving out many students who drop out or fail to complete primary education. The IMF has also highlighted the fiscal and budgetary implications of the Free SHS policy, which consumes a large share of the education budget and crowds out other spending priorities, such as improving the quality and infrastructure of primary and secondary education, expanding access and affordability of tertiary education, and investing in human capital development and innovation.

The IMF’s recommendation is not based on a one-size-fits-all or a cookie-cutter approach, but on a context-specific and tailored assessment that recognizes the diversity and complexity of Ghana’s education system and society. The IMF has not prescribed a single or a fixed model of how to implement the Free SHS policy but has suggested a range of possible options and alternatives that could help improve the targeting and effectiveness of the policy, such as introducing means-testing, cost-sharing, scholarships, bursaries, vouchers, or transfers. Ta broad sized the broadening in a broad dialogue and consultation with all relevant stakeholders, including the government, the parliament, the civil society, the private sector, the donors, and the beneficiaries, to design and implement a Free SHS policy that is responsive and adaptive to the needs and aspirations of the Ghanaian people.

The IMF’s recommendation is consistent with the government’s vision and agenda

The IMF’s recommendation to review the Free SHS policy is not a contradiction or a deviation from the government’s vision and agenda, but a complement and a reinforcement of the government’s commitment and aspiration to provide quality and inclusive education for all Ghanaians. The government has repeatedly stated that the Free SHS policy is not an end in itself, but a means to an end, which is to transform Ghana’s education system and society into a knowledge-based and learning-oriented one. The government has also acknowledged that the Free SHS policy is not a perfect or a finished product, but a work in progress, which requires constant monitoring, evaluation, and improvement.

The government has already taken some steps and measures to address some of the challenges and gaps of the Free SHS policy, such as increasing the budget allocation, expanding the infrastructure, improving the curriculum, enhancing teacher training, and introducing the double-track system. However, the government has also recognized that more needs to be done to ensure that the Free SHS policy delivers on its promise and potential and that the policy is sustainable and affordable in the long run. The government has expressed its willingness and openness to listen to constructive feedback and suggestions from various sources and partners, including the IMF, to enhance and refine the Free SHS policy.

The IMF’s recommendation is not a threat or a challenge to the government’s authority or legitimacy, but a support and a contribution to the government’s responsibility and accountability to the Ghanaian people. The IMF’s recommendation is not intended to undermine or discredit the government’s achievements or efforts, but to help the government achieve its goals and objectives more effectively and efficiently. The IMF’s recommendation is not motivated by any hidden or ulterior agenda but by a genuine and sincere interest and concern for the welfare and development of Ghana and its people.

The IMF’s recommendation is not binding or coercive, but advisory and consultative

The IMF’s recommendation to review the Free SHS policy is not a binding or a coercive condition, but an advisory and consultative suggestion that respects the sovereignty and the autonomy of Ghana. The IMF does not have the power or the authority to impose or dictate any policy or programme on Ghana, but only to offer or propose any policy or programme that it considers beneficial or appropriate for Ghana. The IMF does not have the right or the obligation to enforce or monitor any policy or programme on Ghana, but only to assist or support any policy or programme that Ghana chooses or requests. The IMF does not have the responsibility or the accountability for any policy or programme on Ghana, but only to advise or consult on any policy or programme that Ghana implements or evaluates.

The IMF’s recommendation is not a mandatory or a compulsory requirement, but a voluntary and discretionary option that Ghana can accept or reject, partially or fully, according to its judgment and preference. The IMF’s recommendation is not a final or a definitive verdict, but a provisional and tentative opinion that Ghana can agree or disagree, partially or fully, based on its evidence and analysis. The IMF’s recommendation is not a rigid or a fixed formula, but a flexible and dynamic framework that Ghana can adapt or modify, partially or fully, depending on its context and situation.

The IMF’s recommendation is not a sign or a symptom of slavery, but a manifestation and a demonstration of partnership and cooperation that values and respects the sovereignty and the autonomy of Ghana. The IMF’s recommendation is not a source or a cause of conflict or division, but an opportunity and a catalyst for dialogue and consensus that fosters and promotes the welfare and development of Ghana and its people.

In conclusion, I have argued that the IMF’s suggestion to review the Free SHS policy is not a form of slavery, but a reasonable and pragmatic proposal that could help Ghana achieve its educational goals and aspirations. I have presented three main reasons to support my position: first, the IMF’s recommendation is based on sound economic and social analysis; second, the IMF’s recommendation is consistent with the government’s vision and agenda; and third, the IMF’s recommendation is not binding or coercive, but advisory and consultative. I hope that this article has shed some light on the issue and has stimulated some constructive and respectful discussion and debate among the readers.

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