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Feature Article of Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Columnist: AFAG

Huge Question Marks On Government Sponsored Education To Cuba?

Ladies & gentlemen of the press, good morning and welcome to another important national issue of accountable governance being raised by AFAG today. AFAG wishes to precede our statement today with Article 35 clause 6a of our 1992 constitution under the Directive Principle of State Policy

With a heavy heart today, and recognizing how dangerously divisive the subject of our press conference is, AFAG is worried about the most blatant discrimination by the sitting vice-president.

Ladies & gentlemen, last week, the country witnessed the sending off dinner of 250 Ghanaian students (hosted by the vice president John Mahama) to Cuba for six years of medical training at the cost Gh ? 50,000 per year. By simple arithmetic, this puts the total cost for the entire program at an astronomical GHC 160 million. It should however be stated that with superior infrastructure and training than what currently pertains in Cuba, the cost of training a medical doctor for the entire period of study is GHC20,000. This means the total cost of training the 250 students here in Ghana would be GHC5.0million. This, ladies and gentlemen, translates into huge savings of Gh? 155 million. The amount saved, AFAG strongly believes, could be channeled in resourcing both the Volta and Brong Ahafo Universities which have only been given a seed money of GH? 5million, pay polytechnic teachers, who are on strike, or use to expand the medical school facilities in four public universities currently offering medical training for future doctors. To this end AFAG is vehemently opposed to this deal as it only further exposes the Mills-Mahama government to have its priorities wrong and completely out of touch with what is in the national interest.

Background of the current Deal

Ladies and gentlemen, the point should be made, that training of persons in Cuba is not new to us as a country. However, when the program began under PNDC Chairman Jerry John Rawlings, in 1983, it had no cost implication to the Ghanaian taxpayer and Ghana had not developed the kind of training infrastructure currently available.

AFAG will therefore want you (the media) to join us in asking the questions, what has changed for today, a government that claims to be the offspring of the PNDC, to be today throwing scarce cash to a programme that can be done at least four times cheaper here in Ghana? But, this has been the stock in trade of the Mills-Mahama led NDC. They are quick, at the drop of the umbrella, to ignore what is Ghanaian in favor of what is foreign, whether it is Korea, South Africa, China or Cuba. In this case, what has changed is that, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, under a Revised Cuban Agreement during his April 2011 trip to Cuba brokered this obnoxious deal on behalf of Ghana contrary to what is reported on the official website of the Cuban embassy in Ghana. And we quote some portions of the bilateral relations relative to the scholarship agreement. It states;

‘under the agreements, the Cuban government will provide scholarship for all the 250 students who were selected from deprived communities throughout the country and would be ready to come back to serve their communities…’

Scholarship Distribution Ladies and Gentlemen, the cost implication of the Revised Cuban Agreement is worrying and dangerous to the unity and harmony of this multi-ethnic state and more worrying is the level of discrimination that has been deliberately applied in the selection of students for this scholarship programme to Cuba. Our random checks of the names show that, not a single one of those selected was considered on political party basis. The names were forensically screened to avoid anyone connected to the Opposition.

But, that is not all. Our greatest concern is to with the regional distributions upon which the applicants were selected across the country. According to official documents available to AFAG, of the 250 Ghanaians selected, a total of number of 122 was allocated to the 10 regions, whiles another 179 was distributed amongst the office of the president, vice president, national security and the scholarship secretariat. The regional distribution is as shown in the table below;

Region Scholarship Awards Ashanti 6 Eastern 7 Central 12 Volta 10 Gt. Accra 17 Brong Ahafo 9 Northern 10 Western 18 Upper West 12 Upper East 21

Again, of the remaining 138 beneficiaries on the protocol list of the vice president/scholarship secretariat/min of health, only 27(19.5%) persons were Akans and other southern tribes. Akans make up about half of the national population.

Ladies and gentlemen, the vice president on behalf of the Mills-Mahama administration has several questions to answer. Questions: 1. What criteria were used in selecting the beneficiaries? 2. AFAG wishes to know the membership of the selection panel? 3. Is the scholarship secretariat, under President Mills and Vice President Mahama, pursuing an ulterior agenda as witnessed in Dundee University in the selection of applicants for Oil & Gas courses? 4.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we expect the Vice President to respond to these questions as you take note of unprecedented bias in the award of scholarship to Ghanaian youth to study in Cuba and beyond. We do not want the wrong signals to be sent.

We are extremely worried Thanks.

Signed:

Abu Ramadan 0244570006 Arnold Boateng 0244294754 Zalia Seidu 0262481240 Henry Haruna Asante 0248274646 Bright Acheampong 0545230621

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