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General News of Saturday, 8 March 2008

Source: National Union of Ghana Sudents University of Cape Coast

Right to Education Act(draft)

BRIEFING OF STUDENTS AND GENERAL PUBLIC ABOUT THE BILL@ A PUBLIC FORUM IN UNIVERSITY OF CAPE COAST.

NUGS CALL FOR ENACTMENT OF RIGHT TO EDUCATION BILL

The National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS),University of Cape Coast secretariat wishes to draw the attention of the students of University of Cape Coast and the general public of a Right to Education bill drafted by the executive of the NUGS-UCC and for which it is currently before the select committee of Education of Parliament of Ghana. The Right to Education bill is put into effect the right to free and compulsory elementary and secondary education of equitable quality until that of tertiary level is realized. I would like to use this opportunity to throw more light with respect to the bill.

Right to free and compulsory elementary education

The bill stipulates that every citizen of school age shall have the right to participate in a full time elementary education and to complete, and towards that end shall have the right to be admitted to a neighbourhood school .They shall be provided free and compulsory education in such school, in the manner provided by this Act provided that a citizen who, due to his profound disability or disadvantage, or nature of occupation of his parents, cannot be provided elementary in a neighbourhood schools, shall have the right to be provided education in an appropriate alternative environment. This is similar to what the government is current practicing under the FCUBE and we commend the government for the step. However a vast majority of children of school going age are out of school.

Right to free and compulsory Secondary education

The bill also stipulates that every citizen shall have the right to participate in a full time secondary education and to complete it, and towards that end shall have the right to be provided free and compulsory education in such a school, in the manner provided in this Act. Also, the central government is duty bound to provide timely and adequate subventions in realizing this right. Education as right move beyond the basic level of education since it is most time prerequisite for the job market. Access to secondary education has become expensive. Over 52 % of youth of secondary school going age are out of school as a result of inability to pay fees or failure in the Basic Education Certificate of Examination (BECE). This tends to undermine our human resource capacity to attain sustainable economic growth and development.

Right to Tertiary Education Every citizen shall have the right to access and participate in tertiary education and complete it, and towards that end shall have the right subject to the provisions of this act to be cost-sharing however the central government is duty bound to provide timely and adequate subventions in realizing the right to tertiary education. Also, the government shall ensure and create the necessary environment for the establishment of loan schemes to assist in realizing such right.

Responsibility of the State

The bill emphatically states the role of the state in relation to the central government and the appropriate government in ensuring that education becomes a right at the levels of education. This is not found in the Education Act, 1961 (Act 87) which talks about the establishment of education institutions such public higher institutions and basic schools. It is of interest to note that the Right to Education bill stipulates the responsibility of the state towards the non-enrolled child.

Prohibition of Private Tuition by Teachers.

We strongly recommend that no teacher shall engage in any teaching activity for economic gain, other than that assigned by his employer or supervisor. However, we recommend government to give teacher equitable compensation for their effort.

Protection of Right

The bill guarantees protection of rights imposed by this Act. That any person aggrieved as result of deny of such rights to apply to a court of competent jurisdiction for redress. The 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana suggest that education shall be free and compulsory at the basic level, progressively free at secondary level and progressively free based on the capacity of government at the tertiary level. Taking a cue from it the state has not lived up to expectation because we tend to see the reverse.

Monitoring of Implementation of this Act For the purpose of consolidating the implementation process, we recommend the establishment of the National Commission for Elementary and Secondary Education. The Commission will among others monitor all aspects, including quality of elementary and secondary education. At the Tertiary level there already exists National Council for Tertiary Education, for which we are of the respectful opinion that it should be strengthened to meet the proposition of this Act.

Right to Education Fund (RE Fund)

The proposed bill recommend a Right to Education Fund (RE Fund) to supplement government subventions in relation to academic facility user fees and the capitation grants, to consolidate the right to free education such as this Act provides till that of tertiary education is realized. Also, towards basic material support to education.

The source of money for the Fund include

§ 2% of net profit before tax from corporate institutions

§ Voluntary contributions to the fund from civil society, NGOs, CBOs and individuals § Money approved by Parliament for payment into the Fund § Money from any other source approved by the minister responsible for finance.

The proposed bill makes it clear the management of the board, functions of the Board and policy directives, financial reporting and audit of the fund.

Our estimation suggests that if the bill is passed into law government will realize GHC120 million (as against this years projection for GET Fund of GHC161million) to support education. This allays the fear that government can not make secondary school free and compulsory.

We took cognizance of the abolished National Reconstruction Levy which was geared toward national development and the degree of social responsibility of corporate institutions towards education in Ghana. We are of the considered opinion that the vast majority of the human capital is used by corporate institutions; therefore there should be law that stimulates their contribution to the development of this human capital in the form of financial resources.

Responsibility of the Parent/Guardian

It is interesting to note that proposed bill imposes responsibility of every parent/guardian to enroll his child or ward in a school, and to facilitate her completion of elementary and secondary education. It recommends penalty if parent/guardian defaults in discharge of his responsibility in the form of performing compulsory community service by way of child care in the school, in such manner as may be prescribed.

Basically, at the time that stakeholders are calling for political party funding law, right to information law and the recently passed domestic violence law, we the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) ,University of Cape Coast wishes to call on all well meaning Ghanaians to support the right to education bill, which we of the respectful view it will bring smiles to the vast majority of the youth because they can access free and compulsory education which will help them met their aspirations, which has the multiplier effect of reducing poverty and moving the economy of Ghana toward sustainable economic growth and development.

This bill as become necessary because education as per the Article 26 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed and adopted by the General assembly of the UN in 1948 states that everyone has the right to education. Assessing the 1960 and 1992 Constitutions of the Republic of Ghana, in the former, education was not emphatically stated as fundamental human right but the state made education free to the tertiary level and accessible to all, but the latter that emphatically states education is fundamental human right government is doing little with respect to making education free and accessible to all. Admittedly the population and the financial resources of the state cannot be compared to today’s, however, since education still remains a fundamental human right then the nation is duty bound to ensure that citizens access education by appropriate means.

Also due to the nature of Section 25 of the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana, it has not explicitly impose on governments a yardstick of assessment; therefore, governments have played at their own pace. In our opinion, the proposed bill will serve as a good measuring rod for assessing various governments with respect to education.

In conclusion, we wish to appeal to government and the general public to objectively look at the draft bill and collectively assist in making it a workable document to help meet the aspirations of our youth and nation at large.

By: Theophilus Tawiah Local NUGS President University of Cape Coast 0244079982

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