A Deputy Ranking Member on the Education Committee of Parliament Dr. Clement Apaak has raised issues with the decision by the government to wean off public tertiary institutions government subventions.
The former lecturer and educationist argued that such a decision would have serious implications for individuals who want to pursue tertiary education.
To him, the move goes to affirm the argument that the current government has plunged the country into an economic crisis and wants an easy way out.
“As part of measures to address the self-inflicted economic crisis Ghana is facing under the Akufo-Addo government, the beleaguered Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, with the support of Mr. Akufo-Addo has proposed to wean public tertiary institutions off public payroll.
However, it is our position that the proposal to wean public tertiary institutions off public payroll be dropped completely, because it will invariably restrict access to tertiary education and will prevent the poor and marginalised from accessing tertiary education when implemented.”
In his statement, the Minister said, that the following measures will be implemented over the medium-term under Financing and Currency Measures, referring to the procedure of his document of presentation: “Wean-off public tertiary institutions from government payroll and provide them with a fixed amount “block grant,” instead.
Essentially, what the Minister is saying is that government intends to no longer shoulder the cost of paying lecturers and staff of the tertiary institutions. As such, tertiary institutions would have to raise their own revenue to pay for the human resources required to function as institutions of higher learning.
For tertiary institutions under prevailing circumstances to raise the needed resources to pay teaching and non-teaching staff, it will likely require passing a chunk of the bill to students, resulting in higher school fees. Higher fees will be to the detriment of poor students who are even struggling to pay the current fees. “
Recently, some students of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) disclosed that they have been compelled to defer their courses of study over their inability to pay their fees.
The university, in an earlier release, warned that students who fail to pay at least 70% of their fees by last Thursday will be automatically deferred.
The Student Representative Council had also revealed it received over 300 complaints from students potentially affected by the directive.
The school’s University Relations Officer, Dr. Daniel Norris Bekoe had also explained that the deferment directive forms part of the university’s age-old policies that require that students pay at least 70 percent of their fees before taking any examination.
“At the beginning of every semester, all students are supposed to register their courses and pay 70 percent of their fees. We have given a very long grace period for students to do this. Technically we reopened in January and later on, there was the UTAG strike, so we had to restructure the semester beginning on the 24th of February. We are now in April, and we are preparing for mid-semester examination and the policy is that if you do not register your courses, you are not a student so if we have run the semester from February to April, and you have not registered as a student it means that you are not prepared to register,” he said.
Dr. Apaak using this as an analogy said more students would be affected should the government wean off public institutions from subvention.
“When public tertiary institutions become fee-paying, then obviously, government is directly introducing a financial barrier to the already existing infrastructural barrier.
In any case, why would government increase access by making secondary education free, and propose to restrict access by essentially making the cost of obtaining tertiary education by beneficiaries of free secondary education exorbitant?
This proposal, if implemented, would negate any gains that free SHS intended to achieve. For a government that believes that parents cannot afford to pay school fees for their wards at senior high level to now turn around to demand full fee-paying from the same at the tertiary level, is to say that there is lack of appreciation of the whole policy intervention at the secondary level.
In an interesting note only last year, President Akufo-Addo in his attendance made a point in his speech at the Global Education Summit held in the UK, that government was considering free tertiary education. The turnaround by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta makes the exact policy direction of this government on education a wonder.
Public tertiary institutions, aside from their assured quality, are intended to provide an even platform for all, including the poor to access higher education leading to their contributing their quota to the development of this country.
It is in light of the above that government must rethink any measures that are intended to prevent the poor from having access to educational opportunities at the tertiary level.”