EQUITY CONSIDERATIONS IMPERATIVE
The Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC) in collaboration with ISODEC in a press statement on the 18th of August 2004 denounced calls by the National Democratic Congress (the largest opposition party in Ghana) that the government's disbursement of a capitation grant of ¢30,000.00 per child per annum, to poor children should be extended to children in private schools as well. The statement however welcomed the renewed debate on education in Ghana.
It pointed out that, Article 38(2) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana guarantees "all persons….the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities". It provides that basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all. This constitutional provision by the Government of Ghana, in 1995, instituted the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) programme to be attained by the 2005. Among others, the FCUBE aimed at improving access to basic education and in particular addressing the gender disparity at the basic level. In spite of these lofty ideals, the stark reality as at now is that the goal of universal coverage and free basic education remain implausible. Indeed the report of the Core Welfare Indicators Questionnaire (CWIQ) for 2003 showed high drop-out rates at the basic level of education. According to the report, 25% of children between ages 6-17 dropped out of school because of the cost of education. This obviously has dire implications for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)-one of which is to achieve universal primary education by the year 2015.
Putting the issues into perspective, the statement noted that currently, tuition at the public basic level was free, however, various surveys had revealed that user-fees were a major barrier to access at the basic level. It acknowledged that although the capitation grant was an effort on government's part to alleviate the plight of the poor, the ¢30,000 grant per child, was inadequate set against the actual payments in many districts. According to a research conducted by GNECC in the Dangbe East district for instance, user-fees at the primary level were as high as ¢367,000 per annum and at the JSS level, ¢717,000 per annum, meaning that, at the current proposed level, the capitation grant would not succeed in removing the cost barrier that many poor families are confronted with.
The NDC's argument for the extension of this grant to private and more endowed schools in the opinion of ISODEC and GNECC, is oblivious of the need for equity in national resource allocation, the basis upon which the Northern Scholarship scheme was set up by Ghana's first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, to correct injustices of the colonial era which deprived the people of northern decent educational opportunities. Equity, the statement argued, is rational for targeting the capitation grant at those for whom user fees had become a major barrier. The group however saw merit in the contention that parents were often faced with the painful decision to opt for private schools mainly because of the absence of public schools in their communities, and the long distances they had to travel to the nearest school. They agreed that in such instance the private schools could be said to be providing a service the government ought to be providing.
In the coalition's view, the abolition of user-fees should go hand in hand with conscious efforts at ensuring that every community in which a child lived had a school, with structures and facilities conducive for teaching and learning. Again, to improve upon the quality of public basic schools, it was imperative to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio, as well as pupil-textbook ratio, and to review the remunerations and conditions of service of teachers, especially those in deprived areas, to provide the needed incentive in order to engender the required improvement.
The statement concluded that the MDGs represented a consensus on the need for a conscious effort at eradicating poverty, with education being the most enabling of all rights which if accomplished would enhance progress towards achieving other rights. Again, it argued, the exercise of the right to education would facilitate the realization of the right to development. It therefore called for concerted ways of monitoring the implementation of these commitments for the good of all."
Tuesday 15th July, 2008
More to benefit from school feeding
The number of pupils benefiting from the Ghana school feeding programme, GSFP, is to be increased from the current 477,714 to more than one million in the next two years. It is expected that about 560,000 pupils in 1,556 schools will benefit from the programme by the end of this year, while the figure is expected to rise to 800,000 pupils in 2,222 schools I 2009.
These are the projections and if we are able to get the extra cash, the targets will be exceeded, according to Mr. Michael Nsowah, the national coordinator of the GSFP. He added that the secretariat of the programme had submitted proposals to the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment, for an upward adjustment in the feeding per pupil. The cooks under the programme had made requests for the current 30Gp per pupil to be increased in view of the increasing food prices.
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