The Tertiary Education Institutions Network of the National Democratic Congress (TEIN-NDC) has become aware of the lamentations from internet users from across the length and breadth of the country with regard to high cost of data which makes it difficult for users to access internet services smoothly without running-out. Students have thus been affected greatly as they find it difficult in participating in online lectures. The calls resonate especially from the backdrop of interventions by their institutions and government to engage students through E-Learning platforms amidst COVID-19 pandemic and the associated measures to curtail the virus including the closure of schools.
Following the eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is an existential threat to the human race, social distancing has become a key protocol for winning this battle according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Schools have thus been closed down. However, learning must still continue. It is in this regard that e-learning has become the only available option in these trying times. It is a known fact that data is now the most essential commodity in this e-learning era. It is unfortunate, however, that this essential commodity is still too expensive in this economic meltdown period where businesses have come to a standstill as almost every country is experiencing lockdown and students who are dependents are equally frustrated.
TEIN on this note strongly calls on government to, as a matter of urgency, engage the Telecommunications industry to not just reduce the cost of data but guarantee its speed and reliability as well to minimise the plight of students at this challenging times to enable them to partake in online lectures without running out of data.
We take particular notice of a memo/statements from KNUST, UPSA and UCC etc concerning their examinations and other online academic interactions and looking at the workload, it will be extremely difficult for most students to afford data to sit for the examination in our current state of data cost in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic.
Without any form of hesitation, the 50% Communication Service Tax (CST) must be scrapped off. Already, data cost stands at 3.60% GB which is a slap on the UN Sustainable Development Goal 9 which highlights the need for affordable data for all by 2020. The effect of this CST on data usage in this challenging period makes life unbearable, and education a "survival of the fitters" affair making our quest to meeting the Sustainable Development Goal four (SDG-4) a lost battle; Its purpose in scale, scope and ambition would not be achieved.
We are not in normal times and the government must get to appreciate the concerns and act in the interest of vulnerable groups such as students. Already parents are troubled as there’s a barricade in the global supply chain due to COVID-19, and this is obviously affecting the source of livelihood of almost every household across the globe. As data price remains as high as it is now, it will deepen the woes of parents and students thereby making it difficult to purchase data for online lectures.
As a matter of fact, government MUST act urgently in response to the numerous calls by well-meaning Ghanaians including Former President John Dramani Mahama to reduce data prices at this abnormal times for students to learn and gain knowledge and also ensure a stable and reliable supply of power/electricity in our homes.
Data MUST be affordable, and it MUST begin from now!
National TEIN Coordinator