A closer look at the manifesto of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the presentation that was made in July, 2008 by the party on their programmes and policies regarding the educational sector at a presidential debate dubbed Educational Conference 2008, that was organized by the then leadership of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) at the great hall of the University of Ghana, Legon, shows that virtually most aspects of education and the smooth running of the system have been captured. Indeed the paperwork look promising, but can the Mills Government live up to this social contract that it has signed with the students of Ghana and the Ghanaian people at large? Or it's just a political promise?
Amongst the prescriptions given includes looking seriously at the teacher as the centerpiece of success in the educational sector. It's in this vain that, the party agrees that “The place of the lecturer/teacher is paramount and plays a central role to every educational reform process.” Therefore, the package for teachers should not only be the payment of good salary but should include health and other insurance packages.
The Party admits that, chalk is still widely and traditionally used for teaching despite its enormous health hazards as such there is the need to look at introducing power point presentations and flip charts for all levels of the educational ladder, in this case we would not only be making the profession more dignified but also convenient and in line with modern trends.
Also, the document captures the following; “Improve the general conditions of teachers through the payment of competitive salaries, provision of decent accommodation and enhanced retirement benefits, among others;
Provide access and support to teachers for training and professional development.”
The Plan of the NDC to establish at least two Public Universities to increase access to tertiary education: thus a University of Health and Allied Sciences at Ho, with a campus at Hohoe, and a University of Energy and Natural Resources at Sunyani. I think this is laudable since the rate of intake into the present public universities against the number of qualified candidates is relatively low. This is not only going to increase access and cut down on the cost incurred by parents and students but will also help broaden the intellectual capacity base of the country as we march toward developing our country.
The most interesting promise in the manifesto that students of tertiary institutions would want to see is; “There will be no cost-recovery at the tertiary level of education. Students or their families will continue to contribute towards the cost of University education but the Government will absorb the greater percentage of the cost of tertiary education, including all tuition costs.”
In the face of increasing user fees, hostel and other related charges, one would believe that this promise will bring a sigh of relief to students.
“The Students Loan Scheme will be reviewed to meet the needs of students and their programmes.”
The repayment plan of the loan I believe is the problem, since it is tied to the prevailing interest rate or better put, Treasury Bill rate of the bank of Ghana which is charged every six (6) months. The loan, however, is inconsistent with the very objectives that it was established to achieve, the amount in terms of figures is woefully inadequate.
Another issue that featured prominently in the NDC manifesto is the University for Development Studies (UDS) which was established by the previous NDC government. Though this university is growing in terms of population and campuses, much however, is still required to be done to overcome the seemingly insurmountable challenges in the eyes of students and administrators of this institution. Indeed it's fair for one to say that it's these problems that have seen the authorities and students of the UDS at each other's throat in recent times, therefore, President Mills honouring the Manifesto promise regarding the UDS will not only ease the suffering of students but will also guarantee peace and tranquility, a requisite for serious academic work.
One of the fresh reminders to the long-standing issues at the University for Development Studies has been the CAN 2008 GETFund hostel that was to be given to students, as a hostel facility but was later turned into a hotel/Guest house by the UDS management while students continue to struggle with lack of good accommodation and infrastructure including furniture while the facility is being used for commercial purposes proceeds from which do not directly benefit the students.
One commendable novelty that the student movement would remember the NDC Government for, if it can live up to the promise of a permanent office accommodation, as it prominently featured in the manifesto; “In recognition of the critical role played by Ghanaian students in the establishment of the GETFund, the NDC Government will construct a modern office complex for the NUGS and its affiliate organs as well as other student unions and associations with resources from the GETFund to give encouragement to students to play a more strategic role in educational advancement.”
This has become very necessary stemming from the fact that since 2005 when NUGS was ejected from the former GFA building, it has been squatting and I am even told that their present landlord has served a quit notice.
Promises are good when they are made and better when honored, it's my candid hope and prayer that the NDC fulfills these promises not only to alleviate the suffering of the students of Ghana but also to show the whole world that they did not only capture them to win the votes of the students of Ghana, after all four (4) years is not that much.
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