Despite the unprecedented pass rates recorded in the West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in the 2020 and 2021 academic years, Gross Tertiary Enrolment Rate (GTER) remain below 20 percent.
This situation, members and partners of the Campaign Against the Privatisation and Commercialisation of Education (CAPCOE), believed is caused mainly by economic barriers to accessing tertiary education by the poor.
With this backdrop, CAPCOE is kicking against a policy proposal to transfer responsibility for tertiary salaries to tertiary institutions, indicating that this initiative will aggravate the situation as fee-paying will become the norm.
The NGO stated that the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta, in his address on 25th March, 2022, on measures to address current economic challenges in the country mentioned, and it came to their attention that government intends to wean-off public tertiary institutions from its payroll and provide them with a fixed amount ‘block grant; implying, if this policy is introduced, tertiary institutions would need to raise their revenue to pay a substantial part of their staff budget.
They outlined the consequences of similar policy decisions by some countries that deployed the same initiatives among which are: charging ‘realistic’ higher fees; increasing the percentage of fee-paying students; increasing the cut-offs for regular students to facilitate the percentage of fee-paying; and reduction in access to tertiary education for the poor.
The envisioned outcomes, they said, do not only depict policy incoherence, but contradict government’s plan to increase GTER from 18 percent to 40 percent by 2030, as equitable access through the removal of cost barriers are key strategies to achieve this audacious target.
“We believe a globally competitive human capital is a key driver of Ghana’s envisioned economic development. We, therefore, share a common interest in ensuring that secondary school graduates have equal and equitable access to affordable tertiary education by Article 38 (4) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana,” he stated.
Again, the coalition of NGOs also indicated that they are informed of the justification being made by some members of the UTAG and Vice-Chancellors that, charging realistic fees is the way to go in improving quality, citing the examples of other European countries which have successfully implemented similar cost-shifting initiatives.
It is noteworthy that, the existence of adequate safety nets for poor students through responsive student loans and a meritorious, transparent and accountable scholarships systems has been critical to maintaining equity regardless of the introduction of fees in these countries.
In the case of Ghana, the equity context for the introduction of fees is absent. Students’ loan and scholarship systems by design are not responsive to the needs of poor students, as both are disbursed toward the end of the academic year, instead of arriving before the academic year when poor prospective students require funding to honour their admissions. Public scholarship schemes continue to operate in opacity without any accountability or certainty of access based on merit.
CAPCOE and partners opine that, in the absence of adequate safety nets to protect poor and needy students, the said policy proposal will increase the cost of accessing tertiary education and pose a major economic barrier to accessing tertiary education by the poor.
Suggesting alternative measures to this policy decision, they commended the renewed effort of the minister of finance to purge the public payroll of ghost names.
They also recommended the following: Intensify domestic resource mobilisation to shore up local revenues to finance social services provisioning; urgently pass and implement the Exemptions Bill with the same priority given to the e-levy; take drastic measures to minimise financial waste in the education sector by departing from the culture of single-source procurement for major procurement items and adopt the culture of competitive procurement to assure greater ‘Value For Money’ in the education sector; and invest in an export-driven economy by promoting value addition to raw materials such as gold, cocoa and crude oil to enhance foreign exchange earnings potential and reduce inflationary pressures.
“Finally, we urge government to continue to fully absorb the full cost of staff salaries in public tertiary institutions to maintain tertiary fees at reasonable levels. It is the responsibility of government to provide equal access to tertiary education,” the NGOs reiterated.
The statement was signed by Convener for CAPCOE, Richard Kwashie Kovey; Executive Director, Africa Education Watch, Kofi Asare; Secretary General, All Africa Students’ Union, Elorm Kwawu; and NUGS President, Ebenezer Boakye Yiadom.
The other members are Chairman, Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition, Joseph Atsu Homadzi; and USAG President Christian Armah.