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Education Under Prez Mahama Gets Big Boost
 
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30-Jul-2015  
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School Feeding Program Makes A Big Impact

From its modest start 10 years ago, Ghana’s innovative school feeding program has succeeded in every way. By offering one hot meal a day, the positive ripple effects move outward and touch not just each hungry child, who becomes a happier and better student in class, but also families, local communities and farmers and workers who have become part of this growing band highly successful program.

Because most of the food is locally sourced, the larger goals of self-sufficiency and additional markets for Ghana’s farmers are part of the national benefits resulting from such a simple idea.
In just a decade, the Ghana School Feeding Program (GSFP) has grown from a pilot program to a top national priority that ensures that more than a million and a half Ghanaian children get at least one hot, nutritious meal a day.

As about 80 percent of the program’s food is locally grown and produce such as rice, corn and vegetables, GFSP also represents a government commitment to supporting agriculture, and eventual food self-sufficiency and security, within the country-and as an added benefit, many more children are able to stay in school.

The program has become an integral part Ghana’s effort to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in relation to reducing hunger and poverty and expanding primary education. By using local providers, the program additionally creates jobs (cooks, caterers etc) and market for the nation’s farmers, including small farmers.
The UN World Food program has reported that, worldwide, 66 million elementary school children go hungry every day, and 23 million of them live in Africa.

Providing schoolchildren with meals on site thus serves the dual of reducing hunger and malnutrition, and promoting school attendance. According to the World Bank, there are three main reasons why countries may choose to implement school feeding programs: to address social needs and to provide a social safety net during crises, to improve learning and educational outcomes, and to enhance nutrition. The GSFP was designed to link school feeding to agricultural development through the purchase and use of local farm produce, and to provide children, especially those in the most deprived communities-with a hot and nutritious meal every school day.

When the program began, during 2005-2006 school year, it was a small scale, involving only 10 schools in each administrative region, serving 64,775 children, broken down by region as: Ashanti,8972; Brong Ahafo, 5,701; Central, 7,796; Eastern, 10,161; Greater Accra, 14,817; Northern, 3084; Upper West, 2, 457; Upper East,3886; Volta, 4,531; and Western, 3,370.

Achievements

A decade later, by the 2013-14 school year, the latest for which figures are available, the program served 1,739,353 children. The regional breakdown was: Ashanti, 334,358; Brong Ahafo, 193,494; Central, 90,780; Eastern, 199,925; Greater Accra, 194,187; Northern, 204,968; Upper West, 178,694; Upper East, 159,882; Volta, 127,415; and Western, 135,749.

By 2013, 10 regional directors and 101 agricultural extension officers were involved in the effort, helping farmers produce crops that were then used by the GSFP, and 268 Farmer Based Organizations (FBOs), representing 2,680 farmers, received training on how they can participate in GSFP and how they can link up with the caterers who supply the actual food. The Alliance for Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA) gave $500,000 to support links between FBOs and GSFP caterers. UNICEF also supported the program by printing and distributing posters.

Charles Antwi Kyeremeh, deputy national coordinator of GSFP, said there has been a measurable and significant increase in enrollment, attendance and retention in beneficiary schools.
“there have also been numerous jobs created, often in the poorest areas of the country, as the program creates markets for small holder farmers and employment opportunities for people to process and transport the food, as well as for caterers and cooks,” he added.

The deputy national coordinator said a more intangible, but nonetheless important, benefit of the program is strengthening the relationship between the communities and schools. Especially in the poorer regions, which are largely those where the program operates, he said, the feeding program can initiate a positive cycle in which parents can afford to send their child to school because they do not have to provide food during the day themselves; they can also become inclined, if they were not before, to send their children, particularly the girls to school in order to take advantage of the mean program; and they can begin to see educators as helpful to the general community rather than apart from it.

In addition, Kyeremeh said, because children who are well- nourished learn more easily and perform better academically than those who are hungry or malnourished, the program sets up a cycle of success – well-fed and well-nourished children are happier at school and perform better there, which demonstrate to parents that their children can indeed have a successful school careers, thus fostering a better academic climate overall.

By relieving parents of the burden of feeding their children for at least one meal, he said, the GSFP acts as a social safety net that cushions people, in some degree, from the shocks of poverty.
Praise of Ghana’s program

The World Food Program (WFP) has high praise for Ghana’s school feeding program, and the international agency said GSFP success is “in large part due to the political commitment and support shown at levels of government starting from the very top”. WFP was particularly impressed – as written in its report “The State of School Feeding Worldwide 2013” – with the government’s willingness and efforts to continually review data on how the program was working, revising its policies to serve the nation’s poorest children and ensuring they have access to nutritious meals.

The GSFP involves not only a great commitment of effort and resources by the Ghanaian government but also corporation with a host of international partners, including: UNICEF and the Partnership for Child Development (PCD), the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), the World Food Program (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health; the Alliance for Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA) and the Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (ECASARD).

All of these relationships have been greatly strengthened through Ghana’s corporation, commitment and professionalism in developing GSFP and making the best possible use of the resources provided by local and international actors.

Internally, the program’s success relies on the coorperation and coordination of the ministries of Local Government and Rural Development, Education, Food and Agriculture, Health Finance and Economic Planning, and Gender, Children and Social Protection.

It would seem that by all measures, the Ghana School Feeding Program has been a success in every way. Its direct value and positive impact on over a million and a half children and their families can be misunderstood by no one. The relationships that it engenders between local workers and vendors, and most important, Ghana’s farmers, is nothing less than a road map to a future of sustainability and food self-reliance.

It results in school enrollments going up, better students’ attention and academic results, tighter connections between the communities and the schools, and a positive feeling about school and how important education is to everyone. This is more than a win-win situation, it is something that must be supported and, if possible, grown further to reap even larger benefits for all of Ghana.

‘Emphasis is placed on empowering the youth with relevant skills’
The Ghanaian government is rebranding technical education and refocusing polytechnic education to make them more attractive to the youth. As part of the process, the government has pledged to upgrade polytechnics into degree-awarding technical universities to ensure better placement of graduates in the job market as well as meeting the country’s development and economic-restructuring agenda.

A technical committee constituted by the ministry of Education to facilitate the upgrading of Ghana’s polytechnics into degree-awarding technical universities has produced a report on the conversion and has drafted a technical Universities Bill, which is presently in the attorney-general’s department.

A stakeholder Consultative Forum was organized on Jan. 6 in Accra to discuss the Technical Committee’s report. About 150 participants drawn from academia, industry, civil society organizations education, development partners, the informal sector, students and other relevant stakeholders attended.

The forum affirmed the government’s commitment to upgrade the existing polytechnics in the country to technical universities, and to initiate actions to review the polytechnics Act 2007 (Act 745) to reflect the changes in their status to that of technical universities.

It also obliged the technical universities not to mimic traditional universities, but instead to carve out a niche as vocational oriented and career-focused higher education institutions producing highly skilled personnel to support economic growth with national development Forum participants agreed that the effective start date foe converting the polytechnics to technical universities should be September 2016.
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, deputy minister of education in charge of tertiary, said the conversion will be on merit and not a wholesale and automatic conversion of all 10 polytecnics.

The tertiary sector comprises universities (11 public and three private), private university colleges (60), polytechnics (10), colleges of education (38 public and 9 private), tutorial colleges (10), distance-learning institutions (three), as well as other institutions.

The tertiary sector also includes specialized agencies of the ministry such as the National Council for Tertiary education (NCTE), the National Accreditation Board (NAB), the National Board for Professional and Technical Examinations (NABPTEX), the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS), the National Service Schemes and the Students Loan Trust Fund (SLTF).

Presently, there are about 318,607 students at the tertiary level. Enrollment in the tertiary institutions increased by 11.3 percent for universities, 8.9 percent for polytechnics and 20.7 percent for colleges of Education in the 2014-15 academic year. A recent decision to transfer teacher trainees into the Student Loan Trust Fund accounted for the huge enrollment in the Colleges of Education.

The tertiary sector continuous to attract foreign attention, and, notably, there are 10,398 international students now enrolled at the tertiary level.

Ranked high

Significantly, the latest university ranking compiled by Thompson Reuters ranked the University of Ghana-Legon as the 10th best tertiary institution in Africa.

The deputy minister in charge of tertiary stated that Colleges of Education (CoE) in the country would also be upgraded to tertiary status. “A Joint Technical Committee constituted by National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) and Ghana Education Service (GES) has developed documents to harmonize the CoEs with tertiary institutions. The Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) and a review Committee have completed work on the review of data for the migration of members of staff of the Colleges of Education in line with the Single Spine Grade Structure for Colleges of Education,” Ablakwa said.

He said “in the 2013-2014 academic year, government replaced trainee allowances with the option to apply for student loans to ensure equity in the tertiary sector”.

He explained: “it was also meant to raise the number of trained teachers for a growing population, address the trained-teacher deficit, reduce the number of pupil teachers, enhance the image of teaching as a preferred profession and have more students enroll in the CoEs.

With the introduction of the policy, the quota system has been abolished, and the colleges were able to increase admission, which hitherto was restricted by annual allowances for trainees from the consolidated fund. And new admissions in the public Colleges of Education have increased”.

Touching on the government’s commitment to improve infrastructure and effective functioning of the CoEs, Ablakwa said the Ministry of Education has inaugurated Councils of the Colleges of Education to ensure that the CoEs train students to acquire the necessary professional and academic competencies for teaching in pre-tertiary institutions, and non-formal education institutions, and to build the professional and academic capacities of serving teachers through regular continuing education.

Besides that, he said, government has initiated steps to absorb five private CoEs as public Colleges of Education as part of its pledge to construct 10 new Colleges of Education in areas that are underserved. The government hopes to commence the construction of two new colleges by the close of year and an amount of GH₵38 million from the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) will be utilized for the projects.

According to the deputy minister, the government is also implementing the Transforming Teacher Education and Learning Program (T-TEL) at a cost of £17 million, which is a new four-year Government of Ghana program, supported by Britain’s Department Department for international Development (DFID). This program seeks to transform the delivery of pre-service teacher education in Ghana by improving the quality of teaching and learning through support to all 38 Colleges of Education from 2014 to 2018.

The government has also pledged to establish a new public university in the Eastern region to complete its vision of providing a public university campus in every region of the country, and also to expand academic and residential facilities on existing campuses.

Presidential Directive

A presidential task force put in place to develop a roadmap for the establishment of the University of Environment and Sustainable Development in the Eastern region has secured land in Somanya and Donkorkrom for the university. The bill for the university has been sent to parliament; presently, the Parliamentary select committee on Education is engaging stakeholders on it.

Ablakwa said the ministry is guided by eight policy objectives that are enshrined in its Strategic Plan 2010-2020 and linked to five strategic objectives of the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA II) 2014-2017, which seek to improve equitable access to and participation in quality education at all levels; bridge the gender gap in access to education; improve availability to quality education for people with disabilities; strengthen links between tertiary education and industry; improve the quality of teaching and learning; promote the educational advancement and interest in science, mathematics and technology at all levels; and improve the delivery and management of education services. The deputy minister said the government will continue to promote technical and vocational education and training (TVET) as a driver of economic transformation and development.

“Emphasis is placed on the provision of quality TVET as one of the key strategies for empowering the youth with relevant skills and competencies to take advantage of emerging jobs in the various sectors of the economy. Through the Skills Development Fund (SDF) project, GHC¢150million in grants has been provided to 510 beneficiaries made up of institutions, businesses and associations to support skills development. The Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET) continues to roll out Competency Based Training (CBT) and ongoing operation of the National TVET Qualification Framework.

A National TVET Strategic Plan is also being finalized for implementation,” Ablakwa said.

Realizing the importance of research to socioeconomic development of the country, Ablakwa said, the ministry also plans to establish a Tertiary Education Research Fund that all lectures and members of faculty cab access for effective research. “A draft bill establishing the Research Fund is presently at the attorney-general’s department for onward transmission to parliament to give legal backing for a successful implementation,” he stated.

Infrastructure

On infrastructure development, the deputy minister said the government continues to expand infrastructure at the tertiary level, and he cited some projects that have been pursued with varying degrees of success. They include: 1) expanding and equipping science laboratories in tertiary educational institutions to make the teaching and learning of science and technology more practical and attractive, 2) establishment of two new universities, the university of Health and Allied Sciences, in Ho, Volta region, and the University of Energy and Natural Resources in Sunyani, Brong Ahafo region through Public Private Partnership, 3) completion of an office complex for tertiary education regulatory bodies to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness in 2010, and 4) expansion and renovation works in all 38 public colleges of education.

Noting that the education of a nation’s population holds the key to its prosperity, Ablakwa said the tertiary sector will strive to continue producing ever more well-balanced individuals with the requisite knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to become functional and productive citizens, always moving toward the total development of the nation. It is clear that there are many ambitious changes and proposals underway, with an overarching goal to create more teachers and better students, to draw youth and energy to the fields of learning, job skills, science , research and teaching, all with the goal of improving a nation’s people, and thereby the nation itself.

Transforming the infrastructure

There are big strides being taken to tackle the infrastructure problems at many schools, as well s building new schools and universities outright. In addition, there is a push to create many more teachers by making huge improvements in many of the Colleges of Education through the country. More textbooks, scholarships and loan opportunities, as well as better vocational education, are all being given the necessary attention. This year, the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) was allocated GH¢843,899,220 in the national budget to distribute to critical and strategic areas of the education sector. We publish here an unedited version of GETFund’s formula for distribution of those funds as presented to parliament by the administrator, Sam Garba. The pictures accompanying this report illustrate the modernization and high quality of GETFund’s projects.

In fiscal 2015, a projected flow of GH¢843,899,000.22 from 2.5 percent VAT is expected to accrue to the Ghana Education Trust Fund. Spending allocations in this formula are aligned to education sector priority projects and program. Key components of these projects and programs include the following: pipeline, or ongoing projects; community day senior high schools; basic education infrastructure (i.e. Schools Under Trees); targeted senior high school facilities and infrastructures; fostering the knowledge economy; diffusing ICT through E-learning; the Students Loan Trust Fund; scholarships; procurement of textbooks; and provision of KG infrastructures and learning materials. Other projects include new public universities.

Tertiary Education

An amount of GH¢262,700,000.00, representing 31.13 percent of total spending, has been allocated to support the provision of tertiary education infrastructures and facilities. Receiving fairly significant allocations in that category is the University of Health and Allied Sciences in the Volta region. An additional allocation of GH¢12 million has been made for completion for the Medical School’s Science Laboratory Complex project at the Ho main campus of the University of Health and Allied Sciences.

An allocation of GH¢8 million was approved by parliament in Fiscal 2014 for the start of this project, and construction works are progressing. For the University of Energy and Natural Resources, and amount of GH¢ 3 million has been made as special support to foster the growth of the university. This is in addition to other allocations made specifically for the Dormaa and Nsoatre campuses of the University.

The growth and expansion of the Medical School at the University of Cape Coast is constrained by inadequate facilities and infrastructures. The infrastructure/equipment challenge is particularly severe, and to ease this, a special allocation of GH¢9 million was made for start-up work for an additional laboratory and also for the procurement of equipment and materials. A total of GH¢25 million is required for the expansion program, and subsequent distribution formulae will take this into account. Also, a routine allocation of GH¢4.691 million is made for funding other projects and programs of the University of Cape Coast for the Fiscal 2015.

An amount of GH¢36 million is allocated for the completion and/or start of new projects in the 38 Colleges of Education. A further GH¢10 million is allocated to support the procurement of works or programs in a new batch of Colleges of Education. Work toward the conversion of existing polytechnics into technical universities is progressing steadily. And to support and facilitate the effort, an allocation of GH¢ million is allocated to support the conversion process. Meanwhile, facilities and infrastructures in the Nyankpala, Navrongo and WA campuses are fully strained by user pressure.

And it is against this backdrop that some GH¢9million is allocated. This is targeted at improving and expanding specific facilities at these sites.

The first phase of work for the establishment of a public university in the Eastern region is almost complete. A fresh phase will soon begin, with its associated funding requirements. It is in this regard that this formula has allocated GH¢5 million to support aspects of the projects and programs that are associated with the evolution and growth of the university in the Eastern region.

More access to loans: Eligibility of access to loans from the Students Loan Trust Fund has surged steeply following the decision approving access by students in College of Education as well as those in private tertiary educational institutions. The scheme is also in progress of reviewing the threshold of loans per capita upward in view of current trends and costs. Clearly, these developments will generate demand pressure on the Students Loan Trust Fund, and to assist in coping with these pressures, the formula has allocated an amount of GH¢26 million to the Students Loan Trust Fund for Fiscal 2015. This is upward from the GH¢21million that was allocated Fiscal 2014.

Secondary Education

Total allocation for the subsector is GH¢325 million, representing 38.51 percent of total spending. These allocations are teased out as follows:

Pipeline Projects: The Fund has made allocations through mechanisms of the distribution formula for funding the construction of carefully selected infrastructures and facilities at the secondary education subsector.

These facilities have included classrooms, dormitories, kitchen/dining halls, teacher accommodation, libraries, science laboratories and ICT infrastructures, etc. Some of these facilities have been completed while others are still at various stages of completion. The completion process has become challenging and complicated because of sluggish disbursement of Fund accruals.

A total of GH¢14million is allocated for the completion of these pipeline projects. And to further decongest and also expand access to some existing senior secondary schools, with a focus on the provision of specific facilities, this formula has allocated an amount of GH¢50 million under senior high school-targeted facilities and infrastructures/program.

Community Day Senior High Schools: In Fiscal 2014, a full 30 percent of total allocation for that year was made for the provision of infrastructure for the Community Day Senior High School Project. Work has begun for the construction of the first 50 of these schools. A further and fresh allocation of GH¢140million, representing 16.59 percent of total spending, is allocated in this formula to facilitate construction of the next lot of infrastructures under the Community Day Senior High School Project.

Textbooks for senior high schools: Further to the commitment of the Ministry of Education to significantly improve on the quality of education delivery across all cycles of education, especially at the pre-tertiary level, and appreciating further the role of teaching and learning materials, particularly textbooks for studies at the senior high school level.

E-Schools/ICT Project: It is a holistic program of several components. Some of these components include training and the capacity building of teachers of ICT (pre-tertiary), and the adoption and installation of learning and education material approved by the Ministry of Education (MOE) as part of computer software.

A synergy between components by the E-Schools project and the MASTESS Program is carefully promoted. The purpose is to cultivate a critical mass of ICT/science-savvy cadre as strategic drivers of the rapidly evolving knowledge economy.

And toward this end, an amount of GH¢45million is allocated for the study and diffusion of knowledge and skills related to ICT. The allocation is pre-tertiary specific and split between second and basic cycles of education. A component of the MASTESS allocation of GH¢4million is for the support of students pursuing science-based programs at the tertiary level.

Basic Education

Pipeline/ongoing projects: Over the period since 2010, the policy and focus has been to overhaul, improve and upgrade basic education infrastructures and facilities with special emphasis on eliminating the depressing phenomenon of pupils receiving their instruction in Schools Under Trees or other decrepit facilities.

Allocations for funding these projects through the Fund’s annual distribution formula have been sustained. For Fiscal 2015, an allocation of GH¢90million is made to fund the ongoing program intended for the elimination of schools under trees and, a further GH¢17million is allocated to improve and overhaul decrepit infrastructures in the basic school system.

Scholarships

An allocation of GH¢15million is made in this formula for the administration of scholarships. It is intended for the sponsorship of graduate studies in selected disciplines or for particular programs in which there are clear human resource deficits.

Vocational and technical education equipment

In line with government policy of promoting vocational and technical education in the country, the Ministry of Education has given some considerable attention to this area of education in the past few years. And, to continue this effort, an amount of GH¢3million has been allocated for the maintenance and rehabilitation of equipment in selected vocational and technical institutes.

Main ministry and agencies

For the operations of the Ministry of Education and its agencies, an amount of GH¢15million has been provided.

MP’s emergency projects and monitoring
Members of Parliament continue to receive support from the Fund to enable members to undertake some projects in their constituencies and also monitor these projects. For this year, an amount of GH¢50,000 per MP for the funding of education-related projects in their constituencies, amounting to GH¢13.7million; GH¢10,000 per MP for monitoring of these projects, amounting to GH¢2,750,000; and GH¢150,000 allocated for the Select Committee on Education to undertake monitoring of education projects and infrastructure receiving funding from GETFund

KUDOS TO GETFund

In recognition of the strong adherence of the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) to quality, technology and innovation, the Business Initiative Directions (BID) recently honored the GETFund with its international Quality Summit.
Jose Prieto, president of the BID Group, presented the award to Sam Garba, administrator of GETFund, as a ceremony in New York on May 2015.
Prieto noted that “Ghana Education Trust Fund makes quality a core focus for continuous improvement of management to maintain leadership in its sector and community.”

Garba said GETFund is very committed to its mission “to support the delivery of quality education to the citizens of Ghana from the basic to tertiary level through dynamic funding policies aimed at ensuring equitable provision of essential resources for all levels of education to all segments of the Ghanaian population,” and the BID award is a proof of that commitment to its role in expanding education in the country.

“It is not always all about the amount of your resources but what you do with the resources, and do that judiciously with a lot prudence that makes the difference,” Garba said. “We are proud of the award and our achievements in the education sector.”

Established in 2000 by an act of parliament, the Ghana Education Trust Fund is a public trust set up to provide funding to supplement government efforts to provide educational infrastructure and facilities within the public sector from the pre-tertiary to the tertiary level. It also provides scholarships for graduate students, support for staff development, research and other services.

The Fund receives its revenue from VAT receipts calculated at 2.5 percent, and the allocations of its funds are subject to parliamentary approval. Credit Africawatch Magazine
 
 
 
Source: The Al-Hajj
 
 

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