The Minster for Education, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyeman, has stated that the Government has no desire to impose a decision concerning the payment of utility bills by tertiary institutions, on students.
She said the solution to the problem would come through the dispassionate discussions and consensus by the utilities taskforce set up by the ministry, comprising representatives from student unions, authorities of the tertiary intuitions and the utility agencies.
“We hope that the work of this group will put behind us the protracted issue which has bedeviled the delivery of education for quiet sometime, to enable us focus on the core business. Government has absolutely no desire in imposing a decision on any group, least of all students”, she said.
This was combined in a speech read on her behalf at the last sessions of the 48th Congregation of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) at the weekend, at which the last batch of the 9,203 students graduated from the College of Distance Education (CoDE) with diplomas and degrees.
Since it emerged that government could no longer fully pay the utility of tertiary institutions and that alternative measures should be put in place, including suggestions that students should contribute, various students unions have been up in arms against the government.
Although a final decision is yet to be taken as to whether students would be made to pay or not, the students have already taken an entrenched position that they would never pay and would resist any attempt to force them to pay.
But according to the minister, the task force had agreed to install properly calibrated meters at all halls of residence and staff bungalows on campuses while suggestions have been made that government should continue paying the bills for essential areas such as lecture halls and laboratories.
Prof. Opoku-Agyemang said it had also been suggested that the institutions cover the remaining areas using internally generated funds and therefore called for a lasting and sustainable solution to be found to the problem as uninterrupted flow of electricity and water was crucial for effective teaching and learning.
On enrollment into tertiary institutions, Prof. Opoku-Agyeman said the continuous reliance on the traditional campus based approach was hampering enrollment and that the gross enrollment ratio for 2014/2015 was 14 per cent as against 25 per cent targeted.
She said over the past five years, the ratio had inched up by at best a per cent per annum and described it as woefully inadequate and would take the country another 10 years at least to reach the 25 per cent target.
“One of the reasons that tertiary education continues to be perceived as elitists is that it remained largely accessible to only a small segment of the relevant population”, the former vice chancellor of UCC stated.
She said mainstreaming of open and distance learning in tertiary education was a strategic option and that plans were far advanced for the implementation of the Open University Ghana Project to resolve the enrollment problem.
The Chairman of the UCC Governing Council, Nana Sam Brew-Butler, in a speech read on his behalf urged graduands to see challenges as opportunities and translate knowledge acquired into tangible commodities for society.
The Vice Chancellor of UCC, Prof. Domwini D. Kuupole, said that the college would soon run some of its programmes on campuses of some sister universities in the West African Region via distance learning as request for collaboration or mentorship had been received from them.
He said the CoDE as part of efforts of expanding access to cater for its large and increasing clientele base had opened 73 new study centres across the country while plans were far advanced to open additional centres for post graduate centres.
From Jonathan Donkor, Cape Coast