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Opinions of Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Columnist: C.Y. Andy-K

The GETfund and foreign scholarships brouhaha

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The GETFund and foreign scholarships are trending as the latest "scandal" in Ghana. But, as far back as early 2012, some of us took up the issue and investigated it when our attention was drawn to what was happening by a beneficiary who was a Parliamentary assistant.

The late Dr Prosper Yao Tsikata subsequently made a draft of an article which I edited, as I often do for him. Sending even girlfriends and wives who had completed SSS years ago, and could not even gain admissions into the Ghanaian public universities, to study some mickey mouse first degree courses abroad was just too much. They could not even cope, ruining our enviable reputation.

Prosper was in Ghana and tried to lobby for some action to halt the nonsense but was told it was an election year. And, was probably told what he was bringing up again was rather the nonsense. There was this matter of the One Man March thing too to protest his being swindled twice of land (built a boy’s quarters on the second) he had paid for. It turned out that the same charlatans, led by the former Greater Accra Regional Minister, had swindled my own elder sister too.

I could not follow up to find out if he even got the article published even though he was warned. As I told him once when he called from the US, if he really wanted change for the better in our country, then he must be prepared to be a full rebel against injustice and even family. That is the pack we made. Anyhow, as I have the article on my desktop, it deserves re-publishing in his memory. He was ready to be a Rebel. May he continue to rest in peace.

Meanwhile, when opportunity like this crops up, I do not miss the chance to call for the total abolition of using GETFund to fund scholarships to study abroad for BAs, Bsc. MAs or Msc, that is, first and second degrees. PhDs should only be considered on a very restricted basis.

The debate about setting up the GETFund was centered on provision of school infrastructure and facilities, not scholarships. This should have been the top priority for the use of the GETFund but we all know how precarious the situation has become since its foundation. Schools under trees, very dilapidated and overcrowded schools, a crazy rotation system going to make Ghana the worst in education in the world, as were already in the bottom with Niger; just mention it, we have the ailments.

In view of the foregoing, disbursing GETFund for scholarships abroad must be suspended for the next 5 years and all the money be channeled towards addressing the infrastructural deficiencies in our education system, from the basic to tertiary levels. After the 5 years, there must be a review. However, scholarships to study abroad first degrees must never be funded with GETFund money. All such students should be enrolled in our public universities; not even the private ones.

Let us turn to Prosper’s article.

A call for an immediate investigation into the disbursement of Ghana Government Scholarships

1. After long years of investigation into the disbursement of Ghana Government Scholarships through the Ghana Educational Trust Fund (GETFund), it has become very clear that scholarships awarded by the Fund for the pursuit of higher education do not necessarily go to the most brilliant and deserving students. These scholarships, instead of supporting academic excellence, have been turned into political patronage thank you packages for family members, friends, party praise-singers, and loved ones, to the neglect of the truly deserving students.

2. The essence of scholarship in the hope that scholars may learn new ideas and become conduits of innovation in the development discourse has long been lost on those in charge of the country’s vault. If it cost at least US$70, 000 to churn out Masters in the social sciences and about US$100, 000 to educate engineering students in any US university, then any investment in individual beneficiaries must be evaluated on merit – academic excellence and the potential to succeed in graduate school. Sadly, these opportunities are being channeled to friends, relatives, and party-praise singers who do not have to necessarily prove “anything” to the awarding institutions. The results are that some of these individuals could not even complete their programs in time while others cannot pass their qualifying examinations. It must be pointed out that, for any extension of program, due to the inability of beneficiaries to produce their thesis, pass their qualifying examination and so on, additional cost is incurred by taxpaying Ghanaians.

The point is that if even “Kayayos,” or potters at Makola market pay tax or other forms of levy in order to practice their trade, then any money generated from the Valued Added Tax (VAT) from which these scholarship are awarded, must be targeted to all deserving students regardless of background or affiliation. For example, if Government is spending US$70,000 on a single individual, the program of study of that individual and the potential to succeed in graduate school must be well evaluated through “best practice,” to ensure that our opportunities are maximized.

3. I am aware of the intentions of the leadership of both the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to fight corruption wherever there is one. But I think both parties have failed miserably in this endeavor. Indeed, some of the scholarships I have investigated clearly depict the lack of understanding of our development issues and how scholarships can be directed and targeted at those areas to maximize our opportunities as a people. What sense does it make to sponsor individuals to study Gender Study when the amount of money spent on one individual could educate more than 10 students in the same discipline locally? It is even preposterous to sponsor individuals in areas where citizens of their own volition have sponsored themselves in those areas and couldn’t find job back home.

4. I would like to state categorically that the award of Ghana Government Scholarships have been fraudulent, and I am calling on the august house of Parliament to set up a non-partisan committee to investigate the award of GETFund scholarships covering the last 10 years. Members of this committee should be chosen from the Students Representative Councils (SRC) of Ghanaian universities, the clergy, and members of Parliament.

5. Foreign Embassies and High Commissions in Ghana must cooperate in this endeavor. They will need to provide information on recipients of these scholarships for the past ten years. With this, even the destruction of documents by individuals at the helm of affairs to cover-up can be exposed.

Yours in the service of the nation,

Prosper Yao Tsikata, PhD

March 2012