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18.08.2005 General News

NDC is wrong on fees - ISODEC


Accra, Aug. 18, GNA - The Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) on Thursday scolded the National Democratic Congress (NDC) for calling for the inclusion of students in private schools on the list of Government's capitation grants but it also told the government to do more on access to education.

"Government should also do more to improve on access to education to make sure that all children are enrolled," Dr Steven Manteaw, an official of ISODEC, said.

At a press conference to react to the main opposition political Party's call on the Government to include private school pupils its plans to pursue free education, he said the NDC had sidestepped its political philosophy of social justice and equity. He said finance was a real problem for many families trying to access education for their young ones adding that these children were those struggling to be enrolled in public schools.

"The essence of a welfare system, which the NDC preaches, dictates that society can discriminate positively in favour of the poor, weak and less endowed to achieve equity," Dr Manteaw said.

Mr Jerry Annan-Forson, a member of the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition, said abolition of user-fees should go hand-in-hand with conscious efforts at ensuring that every community in which a child lived had a school with structures and facilities conducive for teaching and learning.

"It is imperative to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio, as well as pupil-textbook ratio and to review the remuneration and conditions of service of teachers, especially those in deprived areas, to provide the needed incentive to engender the required improvement.

"The stark reality, 10 years after the launch of the FCUBE programme, is that the goal of universal coverage and free basic education remain implausible."

As it stands now, tuition at the public basic level is free. However, various surveys have revealed that user-fees are major barriers to access at the basic level.

He commended the Government for deciding to pay capitation grants to cover fees for basic schools.

"That purpose, it must be understood, is to remove user-fees, which have become a barrier to many poor families and communities." Mr Annan-Forson said the grant figure per child, which was about 30,000 cedis per annum, fell far short of the actual user-fees payment in many districts.

"In the Dangbe East District for instance, user-fees at the primary level are as high as 367,000 cedis per annum and at the JSS level (the fees) are 717,000 cedis per annum.

"(This) means that at the current proposed level, the capitation grant will not cover all the fees and, therefore, will not succeed in removing the cost barrier that many poor families are confronted with", he said.