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Feature Article of Friday, 2 November 2012

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Mahama Govt Responsible for OLA College Admissions Fiasco

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

I posted an article on the admission problems at OLA Training College in Cape Coast (see “Is OLA College Principal Involve in Admission Fraud?”, Ghanaweb September 19, 2012), as per this link: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/artikel.php?ID=250822

I quoted extensively from a Daily Graphic report of September 13, 2012 headed “OLA College Applicants Appeal To Education Minister” by Shirley Asiedu-Addo. I also declared my interest since one of the applicants who were wrongly denied their places was my niece. The story was that, the Principal had collected admission letters for the affected applicants and disappeared into thin air, which prevented them from registering as first year students by the deadline and therefore forfeiting their places. The affected applicants went to the education ministry in Accra and appealed directly to the education minister for assistance but the ministry only gave them money to assist them to travel back home.

Since posting the article, I have been trying to find out the truth about admission fiasco at OLA Training College and also to assist the affected applicants to be admitted since Ghana needs more trained teachers to ensure quality education. This is the outcome of my investigations through contacts in Ghana.

First, I offer my sincere and unqualified apology to the Principal of OLA Training College for suggesting in my aforementioned article that, she was involved in admission fraud. I also apologise to the management, staff and students of the college if my article brought their college into disrepute. I was wrong.

Indeed, the fact of the matter is that, the Principal is equally a victim of bad government policy as much as the affected applicants. The Principal was forced by government policy or the Ministry of Education to act the way she did. There is no fraud either on her part, by her staff or the affected applicants. The college genuinely offered places to all the affected applicants but had to withdraw those places under orders from the education ministry. The college had enough places to take all the affected applicants.

According to my (reliable) contacts in Ghana and from someone who worked in education for decades (working with Training Colleges), now retired but working as a consultant and has personal contacts with OLA Training College, the NDC government did not make sufficient budgetary allocation to cover all first year students at OLA Training College. Though the college has places to take on all the applicants it offered admission for the 2012/13 academic year, it had to withdraw some of the offers because there are no funds to cater for all of them. The Ministry of Education therefore instructed the Principal not to admit more students than has been budgeted for by the ministry. As a result, the Principal had no option but to deny some new applicants their places at the college by taking away their admission letters so that the affected applicants could not register. She did that because she could not tell the affected applicants the truth and she disappeared from her office because she was embarrassed by the action forced on her by government policy.

I put my findings to the ministry of education in Accra but no one was prepared to respond to them. I was asked to speak to Mahama Ayariga, the Deputy Minister for Education but there was no response from his office any time I telephoned. I was later given the telephone number of another Deputy Education Minister but a member of her staff (who introduced himself as Eric) kept telling me that the Deputy Minister will respond to my enquiry but after one week of calling, I told him it appears the ministry has no explanation to offer so I will make my findings public. In fact, the last telephone conversation with Eric was on Friday October 26, 2012when he told me that, it was a public holiday in Ghana, so the Deputy Minister will call me the next day as if Saturdays are working days in Ghana.

I was given the direct (office) telephone numbers of the two Deputy Ministers and Eric called me on my mobile and home numbers using his mobile. I also received the mobile number of one Mr Tay, a Director at the ministry and I spoke to him as well. In fact, he returned my call but was very rude because he ended the call abruptly as soon as I told him the reasons for my call and subsequently refused to answer any further calls from me.

Is it not interesting that the NDC government claims to have quality and quantity education as one of its priorities, yet it cannot provide enough funds to pay for all first admissions at OLA Training College? This is against a background that most schools in Ghana have untrained and unqualified teachers. So in the midst of places at OLA Training College and with qualified applicants willing to undergo training to be qualified teachers, the NDC government could not ensure that all the places available were utilised by qualified applicants who have been offered admission. What a waste?

This is also at the time when millions of judgement debt payments have gone to Woyome and others. NDC party/government, where lies your priority in education? The NDC government claims to have eliminated hundreds of schools under trees across Ghana, yet some of their propagandists cannot name just five schools under trees they claim to have eliminated. Give us a break and do not take Ghanaians for granted. The admission fiasco at OLA was not only a deception but also criminally negligent and abrogation of responsibility by the government.

I challenge the Ministry of Education not only to deny my findings but to make public the total number of places available at OLA Training College for first year applicants and what provision the ministry made for the college by way of funds per new applicant for the 2012/13 academic year. This should be detailed, such as cost per new applicant and the total number of new applicants provided for, vis-à-vis the total number of places for first year applicants at OLA Training College. NDC should put their money where their mouth is, should not only talk but must also walk the walk.

It is also disappointing that the state owned media, the Daily Graphic failed in its duty to inform Ghanaians about the facts on this matter. Having reported the matter, why did the Daily Graphic not follow up to find out why the Principal acted the way she did? Was the Daily Graphic ordered by the government to keep quiet? The media in Ghana (both private and public) have failed in their duty to expose lies and wrong doing by government officials. They are either in the pockets of the government of the day or against the government of the day, so there is no objectivity in their reportage.

Why was it that when the affected applicants went to the education ministry in Accra to appeal to the Minister, officials gave them money to go back home and not act on their request for assistance to take up the offer of admission at the college? Was it to shut them up? My niece informed me that prior to going to the ministry in Accra, they went to seek assistance from the Central Regional Minister in Cape Coast but she was away. When the Regional Director of Education in Cape Coast became aware of their visit to the regional minister’s office, he called them to the regional education office and chastised them for trying to cause trouble and warned them not to cause any further trouble. Who was the Regional Education Director trying to protect, the government or the Principal? It is not obvious from my findings that he was protecting his pay masters (the government) and not the Principal who is a victim?

It is now time for heads of Ghanaian institutions (both public and private to begin to assert their independence and speak up for the truth. I can understand why the Principal would not want to speak out to embarrass the government because she could be dismissed or victimised, but what about the Board of Governors of the college? Could they not issue a statement to let Ghanaians know the facts, when the Daily Graphic report created the impression that the Principal had something to hide? Is the Board of Governors also under government control? I served as a Corporation Member (Board of Governors) of Suffolk College and we would have come to the defence of the Principal if he had been forced by bad government policy and portrayed by a national newspaper as a potential fraudster.

I am sure the government machinery would go into full propaganda offensive to deny my findings and even coerce the Principal and the Board of Governors of the college to collaborate their version of events. That would make the Principal and the Board of Governors look stupid because why would any rational person or organisation admit more applicants than the places available as well as display their names on the college notice board?

All state institutions must play their part in ensuring that democracy and the rule of law take roots in Ghana. They can only do so effectively by exercising independent judgement and challenging those in positions of trust for abuse of office and negligence. The fact that they depend on the government of the day for their funding does not mean they are at the whims and caprices of the government of the day and must cover up lies, inefficiency and incompetency of government. It is the NDC government that has failed the affected applicants whose dreams of becoming trained teachers have been dashed, simply because the government did not make funds available to OLA Training College to admit all the first year applicants to its full capacity for the 2012/13 academic year.

A government that spends thousands of scarce resources to perform rituals to gods and pay millions in judgement debts but cannot afford to provide enough funds to train teachers has definitely misplaced its priorities. If teacher training education is too expensive for the NDC government, it can continue to try ignorance.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge

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