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Opinions of Friday, 5 December 2008

Columnist: Atta-Quayson, Alhassan

Akufo Addo's Utopian Campaign Promise on Tertiary Education

Last Sunday, at the backyard of the Asantehene where losing fear has emerged, the ruling New Patriotic Party’s flag bearer, Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo Addo, once again, firmly landed himself in the land of Utopian, making more impracticable promises and building castles in the air. The trained lawyer was speaking at a rally organized at the Pioneer Printing Press in Adum, Kumasi. There, he made very striking promises out of which one will be reviewed in this piece. Nana Akufo Addo categorically promised that, should he be elected as the President of Ghana, he would make sure that, beside the so-called free basic education and the already promised free secondary education, he would ensure that by the end of his tenure in office, tertiary education will also be made free.

In Akan language, there is a popular adage which goes like this; if a naked man promises you a cloth, ask of its name. And this is quite explanatory. The naked man would be misinterpreted if he is promising the cloth of nakedness! In the same vein, if Nana Skiff Addo is promising few people within his circle of friends of free education from the basic level to tertiary level, then he is also likely to be misinterpreted. Let us also be mindful of earlier campaign promises and particularly the impacts of the global financial crises on the economy. Already more than four mining companies have reviewed downwards considerable portions of mining projects, leading to the lay-off of hundreds of mining workers.

Now let’s come back to the free tertiary education promise made by the NPP’s Presidential Aspirant. What has been the track record of the ruling NPP in as much as tertiary education is concerned? One particular brainchild of the Kufour government is the FULL FEE RECOVERY PROGRAMME which is currently being executed by all the government-assisted universities. What does the programme imply for the programme imply for the ordinary Ghanaian and what has been the consequences? Well it has numerous implications and consequences. Most graduates of these universities these days can hardly express themselves eloquently. And this is not restricted to English but often in their native language.

But what is the link here? Well as I write now at the School of Nursing, University of Ghana, Legon, where a very good friend of mine is at the final year, just about 15 per cent of the current final year students are regular students. By regular students I mean those who are charged with the government-assisted fees. And the remaining 85 per cent pay full fees. This academic year they paid about GH¢2000.00 (equivalent of twenty million old cedis)! Please note that this excludes accommodation for such students. That is these students must look for a place of accommodation for themselves and this also hovers around GH¢600.00 (equivalent of six million old cedis) per annum! Yes this is the programme that the careless and lackadaisical government has since 2001 been executing and Nana Akufo Addo has been a leading member of this government.

The observed trend in all the government-assisted universities, particularly in the cherished field of medical sciences and nursing, is that not only are the Academic Facility User Fees and Residential Facility User Fees paid by regular students have been steadily increasing the in-take of full fee paying students on the other hand has also been on the ascendancy. As will be testified by students on various campuses, our universities have become the annexes of the numerous universities in Nigeria. Nobody is saying that Nigerians must not be given chance in our universities, rather they must be admitted on merit and not merely because they can pay.

So what does the former foreign minister of the country really mean when he promises that he would make sure that should he be elected as the next President of Ghana he will ensure that university education would also be free? Well as I noted earlier if he means free tertiary education on paper and in reality only full fee paying students are admitted then we need to take very good note of such promise.

Alhassan Atta-Quayson Graduate Student, Univ. of Ghana aattaquayson@yahoo.com