Covid-19 relief: GETFund not robust enough to finance tertiary fees – education expert

Kofi Asare, Executive Director of Africa Education Watch

…urges gov’t to seek other sources

Even though many institutions and student bodies have expressed support for a proposal requesting President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to absorb the fees of tertiary students as part of the COVID-19 relief programme, the issue regarding source of funding for such has also come up.

On January 20, Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga moved a motion in Parliament requesting the president to absorb fees of new entrants and continuing students at public tertiary institutions for the 2020/2021 academic year.

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

In an interview with the B&FT, Executive Director of Africa Education Watch, Kofi Asare – who expressed support for the call, also raised concerns about the initiative’s source of funding.

According to him, the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), which is the main source of funding for the education sector, is not well-resourced enough to finance the initiative.

“We all know the impact of COVID-19 on household income. We will support any attempt to remove fee barriers or financial barriers to re-enrollment or enrollment of students after this long period of COVID-19, as it is consistent with UNESCO’s recommendation for member-countries to as much as practicable remove financial barriers to accessing education. We are supporting the absorption of fees on the premise that government can find money to do so.

“Within the education sector, the biggest fund is the GETFund. The GETFund as we speak now, even the student loan, is in arrears to the tune of about GH¢10million; so people have not received their student loans for the last academic year, just because inflows into the Student Loan Trust Fund from the GETFund are inadequate.

The amount of inflows into the GetFund last year, for instance, was less than GH¢1billion. So if government is able to find money, that is fine; but for GETFund, we are not sure,” he said.

He estimated that, should the proposal go through, government will require about GH¢750million to absorb fees of the students in question. “We are talking of about 500,000 students, and with an average of about GH¢1,500 per person in terms of admission and academic facility user fees, it means that we require GH¢750million.”

Commenting on the proposal’s substance after it was moved on the Floor of the House last week, MP for Effutu Constituency, Alexander Afenyo-Markin – who raised several issues including the legal, also raised questions about the fiscal burden the request is like to impose on the economy.

He noted: “In any event, government is at its formative stage. We know that this government has implemented a lot of COVID-19 relief programmes, including school feeding for schools. You know that there must be an appropriation in support of this; you cannot just get up and say that it should be waived. What is the fiscal impact of this on the economy?” he quizzed.

Meanwhile, Parliament is yet to begin the debate on the matter, which has been referred to today, Thursday, this week.

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