THE CASE OF FINANCIALLY CHALLENGED STUDENTS Most people resident in the United States would be familiar with the United College Negro Fund's slogan, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”. Unfortunately, the rate at which the cost to attend tertiay education is Ghana is escalating, the nation would be wasting a lot of talents and beautiful minds. Sad story, but happening albeit at gradual level. The government, private sector and financially able citizens need to step up effort to educate these future generations, or, I am tempted to suggest that all efforts of past and present governments, various organizations and individuals that had made generous contribution to the Ghana education trust fund, GetFund, Otumfuo Education Fund and others, would end up to educate mediocre leaders, or be worthless. Why?, because, the country would be left in the hands of incompetent citizens, who would be incapable to make palpable decisions to move the nation forward. HIGH COST AND THE PROBLEM TO FINANCE: The current semester is over for the tertiary institutions and that marks a renew struggle by students, parents and guardians to come up with money to finance next semester. For most parents and students this is not an infinitesimal task.
It is unbelievable to understand some of the practices that are happening at University of Cape Coast, for example. For a start let's ponder on the issue of ACCOMMODATION. I was informed that to get accommodation close to campus, some Landlords are collecting somewhere in the range of 800,000 to 3.5 million cedis per student for four students in a room, at a duration of two semesters. SSNIT, am told, charges 3.2milion cedis per student for 4 in a room. Let's bear in mind ladies and gentlemen, that SSNIT, through its loan scheme allots 1,000,000 cedis per semester to each student. And also some of these apartments maybe mediocre at best and in delapidated state. I don't know, may be I am delusional, not logically gifted and lacks the business acumen to comprehend the situation. In which case, I don't think I am, I think this is just shear robbery. I am an inch shy to characterize the business doings of the landlords/ladies and SSNIT, as arm robbery. But I am too nice a fellow to say that in that if anything at all I would take solace in the fact that they are providing a place for the future leaders to lay their heads and somehow it's business. But I don't think that it is morally right to rip these cash strap students of their borrowed money in a robbing Peter to pay Paul scheme. Ridiculous!. Ridiculous indeed, because that was just the problem with accommodation, there is also direct cost to attend, which some students were paying about 1.7million cedis as at last semester. Oh yes, I haven't mentioned the cost of living, which anybody who is familiar with the living standard these days in Ghana especially in the cities, is no joke. A typical student might spend about 20,000 cedis a day, and that is a stretch, all-though, in the grand scheme of things, this is no money. Considering these students need to get proper nutrition to nourish their brains. I am most certain that this scenario at Cape Cost is no different from other campuses of the nation's universities. FINANCING/WAYS TO IMPROVE FINANCE: GetFund
The Ghana Education Trust Fund, and the Otumfuo Education Fund are among some of the great initiatives to improve finance for education in the country. The main contributor to the GetFund is the government, but a search at the GetFund website (www.getfund.org), which I found out as I began to write this article, reveal that some business organizations and individuals had contributed to the fund. GetFund needs to increase its exposure to the public through mainly advertisement to encourage people to make contribution. The government can give tax incentives to companies and individual business owners who contribute to the fund. It is important that the government and the trustees think about more ways to increase fund to undertake critical needed structures on the various campuses, like lecture halls and resident halls.
Private Sector finance
Probably, there exit already private sector loans. But the question is how many of the average Ghanaians who are willing and can guarantee for a student loan, know about them? Public education is paramount here. Suffice to say only the elites in the society takes advantage of these things, which is not fair to the uneducated masses. Moreover, banks can encourage and introduce in collaboration with the state to develop educational savings plan as in the United States (Future Scholar 529 College Savings plan). Again, the government can give tax incentive to individual companies who setup scholarship funds to identify need base students to reward. Probably, some of these schemes already exit, does the government oversee these schemes to be sure it is not the managing director's child who is benefiting? Does the modalities to apply known to the needed students and parents?
I read a report about a new “Student Loan Trust” being developed to help finance college education. This is great, and the fund should make sure whatever they give out to student commensurate with the prevailing cost to finance education.
Arguably, the amount that SSNIT gives to student is less to cover the current cost of education. Yes, parents, guardians, are supposed to play their parts in the education of their wards. But, please, we are talking about Ghana, majority of the people live in poverty, which makes it all too difficult to argue for parent's contribution. I understand one would make the argument that SSNIT can not dish-out huge money to these students who fail to payback. Yes, this is a huge problem. However, if SSNIT is going to be in the business of giving loans to students then the trust has to come out with better mechanisms to recover the money. The suggestion by the past NUGS' president, Mr. Edward Bawa, that SSNIT should deduct 5% directly from students that owe the trust is nothing, but clever. Government can certainly require companies to ask students to seek SSNIT clearance prior to employment. This way, beneficiaries could be identified and the necessary deductions can be instituted. Moreover, SSNIT should make sure it is not dealing with some fictitious guarantors. When the right measures are implemented to collect loans, then SSNIT can give out more money to measure up to what they are charging now for their apartments.
Until then it is ridiculous to charge such amount when you know most students can't afford it. Also, the government should step in to regulate the prices that some of these landlord/ladies are charging. Remember, all these sort of things, tie in together with other things as corruption. The working class who can't afford it, but has to make sure his/her child is in school would resort to other means to finance it. Just food for thought, good policies in all aspect could help reduce corruption. Let us not loose focus here, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”
Collins Karikari Johns Hopkins University Maryland, USA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.