President John Dramani Mahama says he remains resolute in his government’s decision to scrap the teacher trainee allowance, noting that he prefers losing the December 7 elections to restoring the allowance.
Speaking at a forum at the University of Cape Coast last Wednesday night, the President, who is seeking a second term in office, said: “For purposes of partisan politics, you have your political opponent come and say when we come back, we will restore trainee allowances to colleges of education. For me, it is better to lose the election on principle than to win it on falsehood.”
The heavily attended forum was held as part of the President’s campaign tour of the Central Region.
In 2014, the government scrapped the age-old teacher trainee allowance and replaced it with student loans for teacher trainees to ensure parity, since other tertiary students were on the students loan scheme.
The teacher trainees, not happy with the government’s decision, resorted to demonstrations to force the government to back down.
As the general election closes in, the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has promised to restore the allowance if he wins the elections.
But the President has maintained that there is no turning back on the decision.
Making reference to the progressively free education programme, President Mahama said the 1992 Constitution provided that tertiary education should be made progressively free.
“I wish to assure you that as Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) continues to grow and as we continue to make wealth, we will continue to make tertiary education progressively free, so that you pay less fees,” he said.
With regard to senior high schools (SHS), the President said this year, fee-free SHS education would start with 120,000 boarding students in deprived areas.
For day students, he said, the government had absorbed 12 of the items on students’ bills, leaving only the parent-teacher association (PTA) levy of GH₵20.
Before then, he said, there had been massive investment in tertiary education, especially in infrastructure.
In an answer to a question on graduate unemployment, the President said industry was looking for skilled people and, therefore, stressed the need for students to keep that in their minds and pursue courses that would make them competitive on the job market.
In that context, he stressed the need for career guidance to be given an important place in schools.
Believe in Ghana
President Mahama urged Ghanaians, regardless of their party affiliations, to believe in the country, adding that every nation that had developed was as a result of the can-do spirit of the people, instead of the spirit of pessimism.
“Unfortunately, it is that self-belief that we have a problem with. And this is because every day we are discouraging one another.
“Instead of looking at what we are successfully doing, because of our partisanship every day we are concentrating on what we are failing to do. It is only when you concentrate on what you are succeeding in doing that you can do more and overcome your failures,” he said.
Arguing about the progress made by the country, President Mahama referred to the human development indicators which placed Ghana as one of the leading countries in West Africa.
“We can do more. We must not be satisfied because I believe that Ghana is going to be the next emerging nation in West Africa, and we can achieve it only if we believe in ourselves,” he told the gathering.
President Mahama defended the government’s management of the economy, saying that the economy had become resilient after the initial hiccup.
“In the first quarter of this year, the economy grew by 4.9 per cent,” he said, but admitted that there were still challenges.
That explained why the government went for the IMF programme, he said, adding that the programme had brought positives to the economy.
Agriculture, he said, would be given added attention in his next term.
Touching on rice production, which has seen significant increase over the past eight years, President Mahama said, “I am setting a target that by 2021 we must be able to produce as much as we eat in Ghana.”
He said plans to make coffee a major cash crop were on course, adding that five million seedlings were to be nursed soon for distribution to coffee farmers .
A producer price would be announced for the crop, he added.
Answering a question on corruption, the President said it was a fight that involved every one.
He said the corruption fight was driven by the National Anti-Corruption Plan which was approved by Parliament and that all the steps laid for implementation were being followed by the government.
He defended the position of the government to investigate all corruption cases that had come to its notice.
“And when you investigate, then your opponents turn around and use what you are investigating to say you are corrupt. We were in this country when a particular government said it would not investigate corruption to bring the government down,” he said.
He touched on the fact that in a constitutional era, the government could not send anyone to jail on suspicion of corruption because such a process must go through the courts.
Answering a question on the confusion in the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) resulting from the planned private sector participation in the company’s operation, the President said the confusion was needless.
He maintained that there was no intention of privatising the company, as was being spread around, adding that the Millennium Challenge Compact did not make the privatisation of the ECG a condition.
He made reference to Cote d’Ivoire where, he said, private sector participation had been introduced into the power sector and it was working very well for that country.