The National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) has held an education conference seeking to find answers to the funding gap of higher education in the country.
At the maiden conference themed “Graduate Destination Markets and Building Sustainable Funding Models for Higher Education in Ghana”, students and their leaders called for a review of the Ghana Education Trust (GET) Fund.
They also want the establishment of a National Student Fund (NSF).
These are part of the resolution reached after the conference held on July 28 and July 29 at the National Council for Tertiary Education’s auditorium.
Find below the Resolution of NUGS
Resolution unanimously Adopted by Students and Student Leaders at the end of the Maiden Edition of NUGS’ Education Conference held at the Auditorium of the National Council for Tertiary Education on July 28 and 29, 2016 on the theme “Graduate Destination Markets and Building Sustainable Funding Models for Higher Education in Ghana”
We the Students of Ghana, as stakeholders in education, in our quest to ensuring the existence of a Graduate Destination Market and Building Sustainable Funding Models for Higher Education in view of the several challenges with the current funding model, do hereby accept this resolution, having consulted other relevant stakeholders and explored several alternatives of addressing the challenges with the current funding regime and graduate market. This, we reckon would significantly assist the country to create a viable graduate destination market and also build a sustainable funding model for higher education.
We have noticed with regret that the nation’s media landscape has been replete with negative headlines on the state of our tertiary education especially the seemingly intractable financial difficulties school authorities endure in administering these institutions. Again, students and their parents or guardians are heavily constrained in contending with the astronomical hikes in school fees as well as other bills that they are expected to foot. This rather lugubrious development is compelling some otherwise brilliant but needy students to defer their courses annually and on semester basis with some more numbers having to truncate their education abruptly. Unfortunately, government and the private sector are doing very little to arrest the trend in order to secure the future of students with the merits of education.
The sad story of GETFund, has been successive government’s inability to ensure timely release of statutory funds to the Authority and this clearly is in contravention of the GETFund Act of 2000, Act 581.
NUGS argues that the conduct of successive Governments in the running of GETFUND speaks volume of its commitment to addressing this menace. Meanwhile, GETFund is supposed to be the primary source of funding for the nation’s education sector. As a matter of fact, it is GETFund that finances the Student Loan Trust Fund (SLTF) as well as the Scholarship Secretariat among other financial commitments on the GETfund which includes funding infrastructure projects on campuses.
It therefore comes not as a surprise that a careful tour in various tertiary institutions reveals that almost all GETFund projects have stalled completely; a development which has now compelled some school authorities to surcharge students as a desperate measure to raise funds for the completion of such projects. Two years ago, students of the University of Ghana, for example, had to each be billed an amount of hundred (100) cedis in order to complete some projects long abandoned by GETFund for obvious reasons.
After a thorough review and stakeholder consultation on the current funding regime for higher education in the country, we wish to make the following recommendations to address the prevailing challenges and accordingly call for a sustainable funding model for higher education in the country. Our prescriptions include:
➢ A review of the GETFund Act
➢ Establishment of a National Student Fund (NSF)
➢ Allocating 15 % of the oil revenue that is earmarked for capacity building for Funding Higher Education
➢ instituting a regulatory regime for the use of utility on campus
➢ Establishment of Private Education Trust Fund (PETFund)
1) REVIEW OF THE GETFUND ACT
In view of the difficulties associated with the current funding regime of GETFund involving the inability of central government to ensure prompt release of fund to the authority, we recommend a REVIEW of the GETFund Act of 2000 (Act 581) in order to give the Authority, an autonomy status and insulate it from governmental control. It is instructive to make the point that, per the GETFund Act, the primary source of funding for the Ghana Education Trust Fund is two and half percent (2.5%) of the prevailing rate of the Value Added Tax (VAT). This amount is required to be transferred to the Fund account within 30 days of receipt of the VAT revenue.
However, this section of the Act is consistently flouted with impunity by government. In 2013 for instance, the Fund received less than 18% of its annual budgetary amount (Gh¢130 million out of Gh¢730 million). The story is not very much different over the years. Not even a court order secured in 2014 by Richard Neamah, a youth activist, with support from NUGS could compel government to clear the GETFund arrears as due. Unfortunately, the GETFund Authority does not have the wherewithal to take on the Finance Ministry in case of default because of the existing architecture crafted by the legislation that birthed the Authority. For instance, section 7(2) of the GETFund Act says, “The finance minister may give general directives to the Board in writing on matters of policy and the Board shall comply with the directives”.
Again, sections 18(2) states that “all administrative expenses shall be paid out of the fund subject to the approval of the Ministry in consultation with the Minister for Finance”. Furtherance to this, the president is enjoined to appoint the administrator of the Fund per section 15(1) of the Act. These and many other provisions in the current GETFund makes it quite effeminate and subject the Authority to the whims and caprices of government and for that matter political authorities. This is how bad the narrative of GETFund has been and that is why we are calling for a REVIEW of the Act to make it financially independent and INSULATE it from governmental control so that it can effectively function.
2) ESTABLISHMENT OF A NATIONAL STUDENT FUND (NSF)
We propose for the consideration of government and all stakeholders in the education enterprise, the establishment of a Fund, to be called, National Student Fund (NSF). Unlike GETFund, which serves several purposes as observed in the introductory part of this statement, the National Student Fund shall be solely dedicated to subsidizing the cost of higher education for the Ghanaian student. The fund shall cover areas such as school fees, utility bills, tuitions fees among other relevant cost elements.
Proposed Sources of Money For The Fund
- a) Each student shall contribute at least 1 cedi to the Fund and this amount shall be included in the fees payable annually.
- b) A marginal increase in the communication service tax (talk tax) which currently stands at 3 pesewas per minute to 4 pesewas so that the extra 1 pesewa shall be paid into the Fund. This would require an amendment of the current regulatory regime and we expect to be able to impress upon parliament to undertake this all important exercise if this country sees education as a priority.
- c) Government should consider giving tax rebate to corporate entities that wish to contribute to the Fund as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.
- d) Grants, gifts, donations and other voluntary contributions to the Fund from individuals or donor agencies
- e) Other money as may be allocated to the Fund by Parliament or the Central Government
3) ALLOCATING 15% OF THE OIL REVENUE THAT IS EARMARKED FOR CAPACITY BUILDING
It is our humble proposition that at least 15% of the oil revenue which is earmarked for Capacity Building in the Annual Budgetary Fund (ABF) should be devoted to funding higher education in the country. In any case, Capacity Building manifests itself through education and training. Education is thus, a very crucial instrument that nations use to secure the future of generations upon generations. It is in the light of this that governments all over the World make conscious efforts to prioritize the education of its citizens through various policy initiatives. Having identified the challenges with the current funding regime in respect of Ghana’s education sector and taking into cognizance the fact that we are now an oil producing country, we at NUGS are making a strong case for the allocation of at least 15% of our oil revenue (what goes into capacity building annually) for the purpose of funding higher education. We believe this is the surest way of building the capacity of the citizenry in order to secure our future and that of the next generation for God and country.
4) INSTITUTING A REGULATORY REGIME FOR THE USE OF UTILITY ON CAMPUSES OF HIGHER LEARNING.
We have noticed with grave concern, the financial nightmare confronting government in sustaining the payment of utility bills for public tertiary institutions in the country. This development has recently compelled government to consider the possibility of shifting part of this burden to students but same was vehemently resisted by NUGS and the student leadership citing the relevant provisions in the 1992 constitution of Ghana as well as matters of capacity. As a way of “curing this mischief” and reducing the financial burden on government to fully foot these bills, we recommend an institutionalization of a regulatory regime regarding the use of utility on our tertiary campuses. This would entail, coming out with a cap or threshold in respect of the number of units to be subsidized by government on monthly basis; such that, any public hostel or residential facility that consumes more units than the threshold would be surcharged for the excess consumption.
We are also highly concerned about the lack of accountability in our schools in relation to the use of Residential Facility User Fees (RFUF) by the various hall managements and school authorities. Students occupying public halls of residence pay so much as RFUF which is not accounted for even though these monies don’t get into government coffers (as rent) either. We recall that this issue compelled NUGS sometime last year to petition the parliamentary select committee on education to invite heads of Public Tertiary Institutions to provide answers to these legitimate concerns. Unfortunately, very little has been heard from them. We are therefore calling on parliament to as a matter of urgency; intervene under the circumstances for the purpose of ensuring public accountability.
5) ESTABLISHMENT OF PRIVATE EDUCATION TRUST FUND (PETFUND)
We have taken into cognizance moves by the Ministry of Education to establish a Private Education Trust Fund (PETFund) and wish to commend government for this laudable initiative. We are, however, deeply concerned about the slow pace of its implementation, which we find highly intolerable and wish to call on government to expedite actions on same to enable private university students enjoy some support from government. Again, we are calling on government to reduce the 25% corporate tax slapped on private universities which has invariably shot-up the fees paid by students of these institutions. The idea of ‘taxing education’ and particularly, private universities, does not sit down well with us, considering the pivotal roles these institutions play in augmenting government’s efforts towards the provision of tertiary education in the country.
On the matter of securing a GRADUATE DESTINATION MARKET, we wish to make the following proposals for the consideration of government, curriculum planners and implementers, industry players and indeed all stakeholders in the education enterprise:
- i) We recommend that entrepreneurship be made a compulsory course for all students in the nation’s tertiary institutions to adequately prepare them for the world of work.( course be taken by students in at least first and final years of their programmes of study)
- ii) That School authorities ensure that Compulsory Industrial attachments undertaken by all tertiary students is well supervised and monitored.
iii) We also suggest that, like tertiary students, lecturers should equally be made to compulsorily undertake industrial attachments at least, once in an academic year in order for them to be abreast with industry requirement and to aid relevant practical teaching and learning.
- iv) Last but not least, captains of industry be invited to our tertiary institutions occasionally to mentor students and take them through practical training in order to help bridge the disconnect between academia and industry.
It is our fervent hope and anticipation that the legitimate issues we have raised in this communique as well as our RECOMMENDATIONS would receive the needed attention from all the relevant stakeholders. We must all continue to see EDUCATION as a RIGHT and NOT a privilege as enshrined in our Constitution for the love of God and country.
Michael Paa-Quecy Adu