I am well aware of the fact that I am able to write this article because once upon a time I was taught by a teacher who graduated from a Teacher Training College. Additionally, I have also received good services from College-trained nurses and agriculturists. However, I have thought about the issue of trainee allowances in the country carefully and as a tax payer I have come to the conclusion that these allowances are not only unsustainable but discriminatory in present day Ghana. The allowances are paid to students in the Nursing, Teacher and Agriculture Training Colleges in the country.
My first of five points is that the Ghanaian economy cannot continually support every allowance. The economy has been overstretched and is even unable to cope with the payments of salaries and other essential public goods such as roads, security, electricity and water. Our middle income status also means that as a country we have to look inwards for the continual payments for these services. Consequently, the tax payer cannot continually be made to make payments for category of allowances whose recipients are not directly contributing to the productivity of this country and which simultaneously only benefits few segments of our society.
Secondly, I have no doubt in my mind that the teaching, nursing and agriculture professions are very important. However, I think that all professions in the country are equally important. We need people to manage our resources effectively so that we can generate more revenue; we need our doctors to save lives; we need our electricians and our plumbers to supply us with essential services. All the professions in the country are very important. Consequently, why should tax payers be made to contribute to the provision of allowances for the training of specific professionals whereas training for other occupations does not attract similar allowances for the trainees? One solution will be that all trainees irrespective of their future professions should be given 'free' allowances. However, as I have mentioned earlier, the Ghanaian economy has so much been overstretched that such a proposition will be totally unrealistic.
Thirdly, gone are the days when teachers used the refrain that 'the reward of the teacher is in heaven'. Presently, thanks to the single spine salary policy, salaries of all professions in the public sector are comparable. Again, nursing and teachers 'associations in the country have not hesitated one moment to lay down their tools if they notice any discrepancy in their wages or allowances. If currently, newly recruited professionals of other occupations have to spend a portion of their salaries to repay the loans they accessed whilst studying, why should newly trained teachers, nurses and agriculturists who are also given very competitive wages, and even in their case secure job positions, be exempted from such an arrangement? This situation cannot pass any equity test. It also must also be emphasized that teachers, nurses and agriculturists who are trained in the universities are not given any allowance by the government.
Fourthly, there is general consensus and indeed a constitutional provision which urges government to make basic education Free and Compulsory. If this proposition is to be attained, there is an urgent need for government to build more training colleges to train more teachers to meet the anticipated pupil-teacher gap. Indeed an educational paper published during the implementation of the Multi-Site Teacher Education Project by the Department for International Development (DFID-UK) was emphatic on the fact that if Ghana should implement the FCUBE, the capacity of Teacher Training Colleges in the country should be expanded by up to 400 per cent. Your guess is as good as mine, current cumulative payments of teacher training allowances therefore has to be increased substantially to meet such a necessary action of expansion of Teacher Training Colleges to meet the objectives of the FCUBE. Similar arguments can be made for Nursing and Agricultural Training Colleges. Any government will therefore be reluctant to roll out a policy such as FCUBE because of the enormous increase in expenditure that it will introduce. Additionally, the current arrangement of payment of allowances to trainees will also not encourage the private sector to contribute their quota in the provision of the required colleges to train these professionals.
Finally, Ghana's minimum wage per month hovers around GH ¢ 110. Additionally, national service personnel, most of whom are teachers are also paid about GH¢ 240. These categories of workers/ personnel contribute directly to the productivity of the country's economy. Unfortunately, they receive less money per month than student nurses, teachers and agriculturists in the country's Training Colleges who are not directly, during their time of training, making any contribution to the economic productivity of the country. Students of the Nursing Training Colleges take about GH ¢ 340, Students of the Teacher Training Colleges take about GH ¢ 300 whereas Students of the Agricultural Colleges also take about GH ¢ 300 per month. This situation is definitely not right and also creates enormous inequities in the system.
Generally, trainees' allowances may have been introduced to encourage people to enter those professions. However, the current state of the economy, the introduction of a universal salary scheme and also the lack of provision of direct economic productivity by the trainees make its unsustainable and inequitable for the government to continually pay these allowances.Editor's Note:
Writer: Kwame Agyei
Address: P. O. Box MB 434, Accra
Email: [email protected]