The implementation of the Free School Uniform Programme is facing some distribution challenges, making it impossible for most beneficiaries to sort and get their correct sizes.

Some of the uniforms presented to the schools for the poor and needy pupils have been identified to be wrongly labelled, over-sized or under-sized, while some of the materials used to sew the uniforms were also found to be of poor quality.

Some school authorities at the district level also hoard the uniforms because the sizes do not fit their pupils, and therefore, the need to decentralize the distribution of the school uniforms.

These were parts of the findings in a SEND-Ghana tracking initiative undertaken in 30 districts within the Greater Accra, Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions in June last year.

The issue of decentralizing the programme to ensure that the district authorities and local community people got involved to ensure job creation in fulfilment of the objective of the programmes was also identified as another challenge.

Presenting the findings at a national dialogue on the Free School Uniform Programme in Accra on Tuesday, Harriet Nuamah Agyemang, Senior Programmes Officer of SEND-Ghana, however said despite all those challenges, information gathered indicate that the free school uniforms programme together with other government interventions like the school feeding programme, and the distribution of free sandals, had helped to increase enrolment in certain schools in deprived areas.

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The dialogue which brought together various stakeholders in education was held to discuss the status of the implementation of the free school uniform to help secure government’s full commitment towards addressing the challenges facing the distribution of uniforms.

The tracking falls under a project titled “Making the Budget Work for Ghana” funded by Global Partnership for Social Accountability through the World Bank.

Mrs Nuamah Agyemang said the project was aimed at tracking priority interventions in the health and education sectors and that the school uniform programme was a priority for the previous government.

Mrs Nuamah Agyemang, said despite all these challenges, information gathered indicated that the free school uniforms programme together with other government interventions like the school feeding programme, and the distribution of free sandals, had helped to increase enrolment in certain schools in deprived areas.

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She said the tracking revealed that the objective of creating jobs for local tailors and dressmakers within the districts, and increasing the enrolment and retention in schools needed to be made to work and to be attained, while the government should equip the local textile printers to be able to print the fabrics for the uniforms.

She said there was also the need to step up with monitoring and supervision even before the production of the uniforms was done to be able to identify better quality uniform fabrics and to ensure value for money.

She said government officials needed to collaborate with local and community people as School management committees and the Parent Teacher Associations, in the sewing and distribution of the school uniforms as well as to educate parents on the real essence of the school uniforms, mean to encourage poor and needy children to go to school.

The tracking revealed that when politicians get involved in the distribution of school uniforms as happened last year, they tend to give them out to children who were not targeted under the programme, thereby defeating the purpose of the programme.

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She explained that from the start of the programme in 2009 till date, the number of uniforms distributed had not been properly documented and the amount of money spent on the uniforms as being quoted by the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Ministry of Finance was also conflicting.

She called on the GES to provide the districts directorate of Education the guideline for the distribution and acceptance of the uniforms to enable recipient schools to reject low quality fabrics.

Mr Siaka Stevens, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education and MP for Jaman North, together with Mr Peter Nortsu-Ketoe, MP for Akasti North and Ranking Member of the Committee, both pledged their commitment towards ensuring that the government was put on its toes to improve the social and national interventions through offering of quality services to the people.

Mrs. Linda Ofori-Kwafo, Executive Director of Ghana Integrity initiative (GII), lauded Send Ghana’s initiative that would go a long way to improve or reduce the challenges the free school uniform programme was currently facing.

Source: GNA/Newsghana.com.gh