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Gov’t Starves Poor Students   
 
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16-Sep-2014  
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The ongoing investigations into the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup fiasco by the Presidential Commission of Enquiry, has exposed government’s insincerity, lack of commitment and insensitivity towards poor Ghanaian students.

Whereas the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) had approved a daily feeding grant of GH¢3.3 for each student at the Senior High School (SHS), the same administration sanctioned a daily feeding amount of GH¢170 ($45 at the prevailing exchange rate), to each of the 612 NDC supporters who were sent to cheer the Black Stars at the World Cup.

Questions are being asked as to whether the living conditions in Ghana are so good that a student should able to live on a paltry sum of GH¢1.1 per meal and the cost of living in Brazil is so deteriorated that government will sanction GH¢44 ($11.8) a meal for each NDC supporter who will still pocket an additional $10 or GH¢38. This makes a good case for the NDC led regime showing that at least in Economic management, we are far better than Brazil in living condition issues.

Feeding Grant

Government had announced the feeding fee for SHS students, generating widespread controversy between the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) and the Ministry of Education.

While CHASS indicated the GH¢3.30 daily feeding fee will affect the quality and quantity of food given the students, the ministry insisted that CHASS was part of the deliberations that endorsed the new feeding fee.

The GH¢3.30 feeding fee simply means that breakfast, lunch and supper will each cost Ghc1.10.

The new feeding was supposed to be an increment of 50 per cent in the GH¢2.20 the government approved for the 2012/2013 academic year.

“We are trying our best to give students nutritious meals, but whether it is enough is another issue,” the National President of CHASS, Mr. Samuel Ofori-Adjei, told the Daily Graphic.

He indicated that various schools in the various regions had applied for different fees, given that the cost of living differs from region to region.

According to him, members of the conference asked for a fee between GH¢4 and a little over GH¢5, regrettably the Education Ministry approved GH¢3.30.

“We are supposed to feed them a balanced diet which includes an egg a day. Just take away the cost of the egg and you can see what is left,” Mr. Ofori-Adjei pointed out.

Currently, an egg costs between 50GHp and 70GHp, depending on the size.

A crate of eggs costs between GH¢12 and GH¢18, depending on the size.

Mr. Ofori-Adjei argued that the SHS feeding fee was a national issue that should be debated.

Government’s reaction

However, the Deputy Minister of Education in charge of Pre-tertiary Education, Mr. Alex Kyeremeh, said it was ironic that CHASS, which had been part of the deliberations that determined the fee, could complain about it now.

According to him, the committee that decided on the feeding fee took into consideration the prevailing economic conditions and the prices of food items provided by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS).

While CHASS was struggling to get enough feeding grant for the students, government’s priority was to engage in profligate expenditure by budgeting $45 or GH¢170 for NDC supporters.

Evidence before the Presidential Commission also indicated that $10 was supposedly deducted from the $45 to be given to each supporter as pocket money with the remaining $35 to be used by three caterers to provide food for the supporters.

Curiously, about $91,800, which was supposed to have been given to the 612 supporters as pocket money was said to have landed in wrong hands.

Mrs. Gertrude Quashigah, wife of former Health Minister Courage Quashigah, who is also the CEO of Amber Quality Foods Limited, told Justice Senyo Dzamefe’s Commission of Enquiry that the committee in charge of Grounds, Events and Logistics indicated to them (caterers) before they travelled to Brazil that each of the 612 Ghanaian supporters would be pocketing $10 a day from the $45 budgeted for a supporter.

This, according to her, explained why the committee agreed on $35 a day for the caterers instead of $45.

“Initially, we charged $45 but they told us to sacrifice the $10 and take the $35 because the $10 is for the supporters as pocket money and for breakfast. The Committee told us this at our last meeting at Maxlot Hotel in Accra,” Mrs Quashigah emphasized.

Strangely, information gathered revealed that none of the 612 supporters who were airlifted to Brazil received a penny from government or any committee as pocket money, raising serious questions about the whereabouts of the over $91,000 allegedly deducted for them.

Mrs. Quashigah told the commission that there was no transparency in the committee’s dealings with the three caterers, saying they did not even know who was paying for the items they picked from the market and the amount involved.

She said when they returned from Brazil, a committee member gave her a sheet of paper which contained a list of cooking items and their cost but which were not itemized.

According to her, the committee said the list showed the amount spent by the committee on the cooking items she used at the World Cup.

Mrs. Quashigah revealed to the Commission that $37,720 was quoted as the cost of ingredients she alone used in Brazil for the cooking.

The amount, she said, was outrageous. “There is no place in the world that the quantity of ingredients I used would amount to $37,720.

“If I was sent to the market I would have bought those items at half the price that was quoted or even less,” Mrs Quashigah reiterated.

She maintained that the caterers deserved more than the $19,200 given to them, considering the problems and stress they went through during the 15 days of cooking for the supporters.

“Since I came back I have spent a lot on medicals. There was a time it was raining and I fell down and hurt my hip bone. I have still not finished treating myself,” she added.
 
 
Source: National Forum
 
 

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