Ghana’s Parliament on Thursday, January 28, 2021, announced it has declined the Bawku Central MP, Hon. Mahama Ayariga motion for it to suspend the payment of university fees for the 2020/2021 academic year.
The House decision comes after Education Minister-designate, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum told Speaker Alban Bagbin Vice-Chancellor of tertiary institutions has said they do not agree with the suggestion of the Bawku Central MP.
“I have spoken to a number of vice-chancellors who are telling me they don’t know what is going on in this house” he told Speaker of Parliament.
But, an Educationist in a post sighted by Educationweb.com.gh has said Hon. Mahama Ayariga university fees suspension motion was well-intended but was dismissed by Parliament amid lack of consensus.
According to Mr Kofi Asare, the Executive Director of the Africa Education Watch, the Leading member of the NDC motion was well-intended but:
1. One cannot just suspend some fee items in the student bill without government absorbing and reimbursing the same to universities if we expect universities to run smoothly. There definitely would be a financial obligation on GoG, hence, the need for executive buy-in into the motion.
2. Hon. Mahama Ayariga proposed GETFund support, but GETFund is dry as 1V1D. In fact, 2020 student loans are in arrears of GHC 10 million partly because there are inadequate inflows from GETFund. Two years ago, MoE securitized a portion of GETFund for a $1.5 billion loan which is being used to expand SHS infrastructure etc. Consequently, about 30% of GETFund is allocated annually to debt servicing, leaving ‘very little’ for infrastructure, scholarships/student loan financing etc
3. That is not to say it would be impossible for the government to find money; it would be possible if there was executive political will, which in this case is absent. The NDC manifesto promised removal of university fees for 2021. NPP did not propose anything in their manifesto; rather they announced local tertiary scholarships for 15,000 students. Politically, the NPP was never going to support the implementation of the NDC Manifesto using Parliament.
4. The 15,000 tertiary scholarships was announced days before the December elections. Immediately after, the NPP Free SHS Students Association announced that most of its 60,000 members were going to apply. Since then, it became obvious that facility was not meant for ‘ordinary’ needy students, more so, when the Patron of the Association doubled as the Head of the Scholarship Secretariat responsible for managing the local tertiary scholarships.
5. Moving forward, It is note worthy that some 30% of admission offers are yet to be honoured in some public tertiary institutions, including UPSA. In house, About 40 students have applied to Africa Education Watch for support which is not even forthcoming.
What government can do is, to negotiate extended admission and pre-finance the fees for this small number of genuinely needy students, until the student loan for 2021 is ready, after which government can recoup from the source.