First-year Senior High School (SHS) students in the country are benefiting from a mandatory free medical examination initiative as part of the Free SHS programme. The programme is funded by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in collaboration with the Ghana Education Service (GES).
Before the Free SHS Programme, first-year students were required to pay about GH¢50 to undergo the examination which was done by schools that partnered health facilities, both private and public in their districts, to do so.
However, the Chairman of the GES Council, Mr Michael Nsowah, in an interview said that almost all the three cohorts of the Free SHS programme had gone through the medical examination without paying because the Ministries of Health and Education had absorbed the cost.
Mr Nsowah said it was unfortunate that people spoke about the Free SHS without looking at the free medical examination that went with it, saying at least it had saved parents some money.
“No student has been charged for undergoing the free medical examination. Before the introduction of the Free SHS, all students were required to do medical examinations arranged by the schools.
“But now schools, under the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education collaboration, have established a relationship with the nearest government health facilities in their districts to provide the free examination to students without paying,” he said.
Mr Nsowah said the arrangement between the GES and the GHS was smooth so far as no student had reported paying any money to do the examination.
He said students who went through the free examination had their records kept at the health facilities so that in case they needed any health attention, their documents could be picked and attended to swiftly.
Mr Nsowah said the free health care started with the current third-year students but not in all schools, adding that however, almost all the first and second-year students had benefited from it now.
“While we were arranging this for the first batch of students, we stopped the schools from conducting the private medical examination.
“Our students have benefitted because of the arrangement between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health,” Mr Nsowah said.
The government started the Free SHS programme aimed at building an educated population for speedy national development from the 2017-2018 academic year.
In addition to the free tuition, there are no admission, library, science centre, computer laboratory, examination or utility fees.
There are also free textbooks, free boarding and free meals, among other things.
Free SHS was a key campaign promise of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the 2012 and 2016 general elections.
About 1.2 million students are currently benefiting from the Free SHS programme.