Covid-19 relief:…MPs divided on call for gov’t to absorb fees of tertiary students

File photo before the outbreak of COVID 19

Following a proposal by Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, requesting the President, Nana Akufo Addo to absorb the fees of new entrants and continuing students of public tertiary institutions for the 2020/2021 academic year, MPs on both side have held diverse views on the matter.

According to the Bawku Central MP,  who moved the motion on the Floor on Wednesday, incomes of households have been affected by the dire effects of Covid-19, making it difficult for parents and guardians to cater for their bills, including fees of their wards in tertiary schools.

Due to this, the MP has called on government to consider the proposal as part of the national Covid-19 relief programmes, being implemented by government since the pandemic began.

“There is no doubt that the Covid has affected negatively, household incomes across sectors. Government, no doubt, has taken measures to address some of the economic fallouts resulting from the covid infections that have been visited on this country,” he stressed.

“Government has done some things, but the reality is that as the government has directed that schools should reopen, many young people and their parents cannot afford to pay the fees to get in,” he added.

Mr. Ayariga pleaded with colleague parliamentarians to come to the aid thousands of students in the country, negatively impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic to get some relief from government.

“It is on the basis of these developments that I urge colleagues to support this motion that the President be requested by this house to take urgent steps to suspend the application of the fee imposing provisions of these LIs for one year period.”

The motion was however challenged by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) caucus of the House, describing it as incompetent, arguing that the motion was not properly presented to the House, hence, it should be rejected.

Commenting on the substance of the proposal, MP for Effutu Constituency, Alex Afenyo-Markins who raised several issues including the legality of the matter , also raised questions about the fiscal burden the request is likely to impose on the economy.

“In any event, the government is at its formative stage. We know that this government has implemented a lot of Covid relief programmes, including school feeding for schools.

You know that there must be an appropriation in support of this, you can not just get up and say that it should be waved. What is the fiscal  impact of this on the economy?,” he quizzed.

Meanwhile, Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin ruled that, the motion was properly laid and admitted it as competent and relevant, stressing its urgency— considering that schools have reopened as directed by the President, and payment of fees could be a challenge to some parents and students.

The Speaker subsequently suspended debate on the motion, for the House to go and consult and also reconsider on the wording of the motion, as well as to decide on what particular fees to absorb, instead of the entire fees.

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