Education takes centre stage in 2019 Budget debate

Stevens Siaka, MP, Jaman North

Stevens Siaka, MP, Jaman North

Education took centre stage yesterday as the debate of the 2019 Budget Statement and Economy Policy of the government entered day two ahead of its anticipated approval.

 

Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, last Thursday presented the budget to the House in line with Article 179(1) of the 1992 Constitution, and as it demands, members are to scrutinise the document before giving the minister the authority to spend the amount requested for.

 

The chairman of the Education Committee of Parliament, Stevens Siaka, MP, Jaman North, and Peter Nortsu Kotoe, Member, Akatsi North and Ranking Member on the committee, among other things reignited the never ending debate of which political tradition meant well for the education sector.

 

Mr Siaka, taking the first bite said the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo government since assuming political power, apart from implementing the free Senior High School policy, was also embarking on developing the basic and pre-school sectors to give pupils sound educational foundations.

 

“President Akufo-Addo and his team have demonstrated that indeed they are in to bring complete transformation of our educational sector,” he stated.

 

According to him, 1,171 kindergarten and primary schools have been earmarked to be provided out of which 90 have been completed.

 

Another area of focus of the government, Mr Siaka said was the rehabilitation of 52 collapsing schools.

 

With pictures of what he said was the Sampa Islamic Nursery School which appeared to be in a deplorable state as evidence of claim before its refurbishment, Mr Siaka said “this school could have also collapsed” but for the intervention of the government.

 

“If your child is attending school in this environment, will he be intelligent?” he rhetorically asked as his colleagues in the Majority in a chorus-like manner responded “No.”

 

He named the free registration of BECE candidates, free distribution of school uniforms, the recruitment of teachers, the free SHS programme, the distribution of free text books, provision of furniture, amongst others to underscore his belief that the NPP government was more concerned about the education of the Ghanaian child than the NDC.

 

“Clearly, this is the manifestation of Nana Addo’s seriousness and commitment in ensuring access to education for all Ghanaian children” he said to loud cheers from the Majority caucus.

 

But in a sharp rebuttal, Mr Nortsu-Kotoe said of the more than 1,700 basic school facilities earmarked for construction, “I know for sure that less than 100 were awarded in 2018 but the number completed so far is not even up to 20 so his information to this House is not correct.”

 

According to Mr Kotoe-Nortsu, there were still schools he knew which were without desks and textbooks and that the committee chairman did not paint the true picture of situations on the ground.

 

In his view, “we are having a big challenge at the basic education level and if care is not taken, the downward trend that was reported by the World Bank in its human capital project will continue to affect this country. So there is the need for the redirection of basic education.”

 

Accusing the government of being insensitive to the plight of teachers, the Akatsi North lawmaker said the government was to be blamed for the reported underperformance of fresh teachers in the licensure examinations and charged it to provide further and better particulars for the planned affiliation of Colleges of Education to the traditional universities.

BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI

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