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General News of Friday, 29 June 2018

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Government to use scholarship as tool for national development - Registrar of scholarships

The Registrar of the Ghana Scholarships Secretariat, Mr Kingsley Agyemang, has emphasised that one of the most effective tools to accelerate national development is through the award of scholarships to not just brilliant and needy individuals, but deserving ones as well.

Mr Agyemang, in an interview with the media, gave an assurance that as the head of an institution that is supposed to complement the government’s efforts in promoting education across the length and breadth of the country irrespective of one’s social background, he would ensure that the secretariat met its expectations.

The media briefing was to throw more light on the activities of the secretariat in the past year and its intentions moving forward.

Open-door policy

With a mission to utilise funds from the government, the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), as well as donor support to provide scholarships to Ghanaians from diverse backgrounds, Mr Agyemang stressed that the secretariat had adopted an open-door policy to allow everyone, provided they meet the requirements, apply for scholarships.

“I believe education is the most important asset a nation can give its citizens because the development of every nation largely depends on how educated its people are. And with our mandate to ensure that we support individuals financially, the secretariat, under my watch, will not relent on this agenda,” he assured.

“We have a mandate to back our President’s vision of making education accessible to all. This is in line with the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals aimed at promoting learning activities for all irrespective of geographical area or class,” he stated.

“Education is a human right, and like other human rights, it cannot be taken for granted. Across the world, 59 million children and 65 million adolescents are out of school. These alarming figures indicate that there are children and youth being denied not only a right but opportunities: A fair chance to get a decent job, to escape poverty, to support their families and to develop their communities and countries,” he added.

Accessible education

Mr Agyemang observed that his willingness to make the Secretariat one of the supporting pillars in ensuring that education became accessible to many Ghanaians resonated with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s vision to see that majority of the citizenry enjoyed education in order to reduce poverty and create wealth.

“It is an undeniable fact that with the introduction of the Free Senior High School (SHS) policy, over 90,000 students who risked dropping out of school due to financial difficulties have had the chance of being in school.

“As disclosed by the President when he addressed the 72nd session of the United Nations' General Assembly meeting in New York last year, the policy is in line with the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals aimed at promoting learning activities for all irrespective of geographical area or class,” Mr Agyemang stated.

He continued: “With the Free SHS in place, the future looks bright for Ghana because a literate society means a better and prosperous Ghana. For me, I am not surprised with the massive commendation our President has received from all over the world for prioritising education. The recent endorsement from the executive director of the United Nations International Children’s Fund shows President Nana Akufo-Addo is doing something very right.”

Arrears cleared

Mr Agyemang further explained to the media that the secretariat had cleared arrears owed to Ghanaian students studying on Government of Ghana scholarships worldwide.

It can be recalled that Ghanaian students, over the years, have expressed their displeasure over challenges they are made to go through in other countries due to a seeming abandonment by the government of Ghana.

Attempts by previous governments to address the problem have proven futile.

“As I speak to you now, four months arrears, that is from January to April, have been paid, leaving just the month of May outstanding,” he said, adding that this is the first time in 10 years that a government has done this.

Mr Agyemang disclosed that the government had released $4.7 million for tuition, accommodation and meals for the medical students in Cuba for the 2016/17 academic year.

The move was appreciated by the Ghanaian students in Cuba who, through a release, commended the secretariat for heeding to their calls.

The commendation was contained in a letter addressed to the registrar of the secretariat by the President of the National Union of Ghana Students in Cuba, Mr Nyarko Quansah.

Mr Quansah stated in the release that though the issue of delay in stipends had been a recurring challenge students had harshly been faced with for a couple of years now, including its unbearable economic hardships to the students, “we cannot overlook the fact that in recent times, there has been a massive response from your office in solving catastrophic event of delay in payment of students. This has led to the payment of all accumulated arrears, both maintenance and book allowance of the previous year”.

According to Mr Agyemang, his recent visit to Algeria, the first time a registrar of the Scholarship Secretariat had visited the country to check on Ghanaian students on government scholarship, was very fruitful.

“The visit was a very important exercise. I used the opportunity to meet with officials of the Algerian Ministry of Education and to take a second look at the various scholarship programmes in operation to ensure that they fit into Ghana’s development agenda,” he stated.

He revealed that during the visit, 10 months’ worth of student payment arrears had been cleared, including books and health allowances.

With recent visits to the secretariat by various dignitaries, including the Spanish Ambassador to Ghana, Alicia Rico; a delegation from the China Scholarship Council; The Hungarian Ambassador; Turkish Ambassador to Ghana, Nesrin Bayazit; a delegation from the Cuban Medical Services, as well as the outgone Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, the registrar expressed optimism that the secretariat would embark on more educational tours to countries to sign Memoranda of Understanding to gain more educational scholarships and opportunities which would not require counterpart funding from the government of Ghana.