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Opinions of Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Columnist: Madilo, Wonder

Eight (8) Years Of Getfund, Which Way?

Amidst the avalanche of Governments attempt to introduce cost sharing in our tertiary educational sector, several calls were made through the 80s to the late 90s as to how the people of Ghana could find an alternative mode of funding education particularly tertiary education, hence the introduction of GETFund in September,2000. As wisdom would have it, an unexamined life they say is not worth living. This is why we have to look critically at the GETFund since its inception eight years ago!

This is in response to numerous calls being made by major stakeholders of the GETFund for reforms in the operations of the fund. Prominent on the agenda of the proposals for reforms is the mode of disbursement of the fund. The latest to join this call is: Professor Sam Afranie, Council Chairman of the Christian Services’ University College (CSUC) to get government review the legislative instrument establishing the Ghana Education Trust fund (GETfund) to include private universities. This would help the private universities to provide quality education to young people who could not enter the few and over-stretched public universities. Indeed there is the need for certain pertinent questions that one must ask following this call;

1. Is it Government responsibility to finance private universities whose prime motivation is profit in most cases just like any other entrepreneur?

2. Should parents who send their kids to private schools –knowing the cost implications shirk their responsibility to Government?

3. Shouldn’t the GETFund be preserved to improve the few public universities we have in order to maintain QUALITY and not QUANTITY of graduates?

4. Are those in private institutions not Ghanaians and are therefore entitled to the distribution of the national cake thus the GETFund?

Interestingly to note, most students in both the public and private institutions are all first and foremost Ghanaians. So don’t they deserve a fair distribution of the national cake?

I believe that, the main reason why some argue that the fund should not be made available to the private universities have failed to appreciate the fact that government is not doing enough to better the condition of the few public institutions.

There is virtually no monitoring and performance system in place to evaluate the performance of the fund. As a result, there is an ever increasing gap between the public and private institutions. It is, therefore, not strange that: people tend to think that attending a private institution is a case of affluence and luxury, therefore, one should be prepared for the cost.

Should we as a country not do more to encourage private universities so that they can supplement the efforts of the government? I am all for it... I hope am not sounding controversial, “It would be beneficial than the ex-gratia that these politicians take without thinking about the welfare of the nation. “May God forgive them!

“Government alone cannot shoulder that responsibility of providing education and therefore when private individuals are helping, the impression should not be given that the society and the government are not appreciative of the private sector” -Kwodwo Mpianim former Chief of staff under the NPP Government. From this comment of Kwadwo Mpianim, is it not fair to say that private institutions also need to be assisted to be able to support Government to provide education to many Ghanaians?

In order to sustain the viability and effective functioning of the fund, there is also the need for government to concentrate on other funding modules of the GETFund including fund raising activities as contained in the act that established it. What is the current state of the fund as its’ importance to us students and other stakeholders in the educational sector? As the government burdens itself in presenting the state of the nations address, students of Ghana would also want to know about the state of the GETFund.

A lot of issues came to light when The NATIONAL UNION OF GHANA STUDENTS (NUGS) led by Mr. Kweku Tuoho Bombason conducted a research into the operations of the fund.

This research work made interesting findings including:

? Projects under the fund were supervised by Architectural and Engineering Services Limited (AESL) and Public Works Department (PWD), some challenges remained quite problematic.

It was observed that the works of AESL & PWD as consultants to the projects were not satisfactory. This is evident in concretes not properly vibrated, abandoning of some projects by contractors, delay in certification and poor labor efficiency.

? Monies for projects are funded directly by GETFund after completing stage(s) and certificates are prepared and signed by the Projects’ Consultant and Clients. This therefore delayed money for the contractors unduly thus disrupting the master programmes for the projects. About 65% of GETFund projects in all tertiary & Senior High Schools (SHS) levels of education are behind schedule because of disbursement problems.

? Reduction in the fund allocation to Tertiary Institutions, thus a drop from initial disbursement of GH¢ 4.2 million to about 52%, we think is likely to affect the aspirations of these institutions at a time when enrolment continues to soar.

? Delay in Approving Requisitions made by Heads of Senior High Schools through the Ghana Education Service & the Regional Coordinating Council. Some schools have sent requisitions several times and have not had approval. This affects the aspirations of the schools and the quality of education in the country.

? The committee also found out that although GETFund started lots of projects and investments since 2001, most of these projects were behind schedule. About 62% of the projects started during the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy I and are still behind schedule. 25% started between 2006 and 2008 are completed. The vast majority of the projects and investments within GPRS II are still being handled administratively thus defeating the GPRS II objects of increasing access to and participation in educational training at all levels.

? Unlike the universities and polytechnics where the heads are involved either during consultancy services or during the awarding of contracts, heads of SHS are not involved in the projects thus they have no say leading to reduction in their supervisory role in project implementation.

? Diversion of Funds into other Projects have also become a worrying occurrence due to delays in the aid-in-grants to Tertiary institutions, management of these institutions divert the funds into other areas such as purchase of vehicles among others.

The findings concluded with some recommendations which were made to the Government and the administrators of the GETFund that I think the new NDC Government need to now about this since it was the previous NDC Government that brought forth the GETFund:

A) Restructuring of the GETFund Secretariat The secretariat should be restructured to have different sections that will handle matters in relation to the various levels of education such as Basic Education, Senior High Schools and Tertiary Education Departments. This will enable the departments effectively handle issues at each level. This we believe has a high tendency of reducing the unnecessary delay in honoring certificates and project allocation. b) Pay Attention to Less Endowed/Deprived Schools The committee recommends that attention should be given to the less endowed and deprived schools. This will help reduce the pressure on the well established schools and bring quality education to the door steps of the community. For example, the single building community schools should be developed as a strategic action to encourage community usage.

c) Involve Private Consultancy Services

Consultant selection to GETFund projects should be de-regulated to involve equally competent private consulting firms within the country to reduce the monopoly and perceived corrupt practices of AESL and PWD and their work load.

d) Institute Maintenance Policy

The GETFund project beneficiaries should have a well planned maintenance policy that will ensure the periodic maintenance of facilities at their disposal and it should be the basis for response to requisitions by the schools in question. The students should be encouraged to be more responsible in the usage of the facilities. e) Speed up the Right to Information bill The government should speed up the passage of the Right to Information bill into law to enable free flow and access to information as most of the heads of institutions visited were reluctant to share information to the committee for fear of victimization.

f) Pay Attention to Technical/Vocational Education

In respect efforts towards improving Technical and Vocational Education as prescribed by the Education Reform 2007, the committee recommends that GETFund support and develop the aforementioned educational system by expanding facilities and equipments to meet modern standards.

Its’ my hope that these submissions would be accepted and implemented by all concerned, giving Ghana an educational system that will stand the test of time, particularly at time when Ghana has be come an unfavorable participant in the global race of excellence!

BY: Wonder Madilo

STUDENT ACTIVIST GIMPA, ACCRA. wondermadilo@yahoo.com