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Mahama Ayariga
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Government has failed to make its position clear on whether the increment in academic and accommodation fees for the 2011/2012 academic year, by authorities of the University of Ghana, Legon, is justified.

The decision by public universities to increase fees is causing uneasy calm among parents and students as Ghanas premier university has already announced its increment, with the rest likely to follow suit.

As a result, students of the University of Ghana have vowed to embark on a protest march to the seat of government, Osu, Castle, on Wednesday July 27, 2011 to present a petition to President Mills over the increment.

In its bid to calm the students down, management of the university decided that, as a concession, and contrary to the usual practice of students paying full fees at the beginning of the academic year, it would allow students to pay a minimum of 50 percent of all due fees and charges for the first semester, although it was not prepared to reduce the fees.

On Friday, the Ministry of Education organized a news conference to brief the media on the upcoming national forum to be held in August 2011 on the financing of tertiary education in Ghana. Mahama Ayariga, a deputy Minister in charge of Tertiary Education, took the opportunity to comment on the increment of fees.

When asked about the governments position on the increment, Mr. Ayariga rather called for calm among the student body and appealed to them to dialogue with the university authorities for peace and harmony to prevail.

He said all along, it had been the governments wish to make tertiary education free but since it was difficult to implement such a policy, the government resorted to cost sharing where it (government) bore bulk of the cost, noting, We still insist that the universities should not increase fees more than10 percent threshold.

He said he personally conferred with the vice chancellor of the University of Ghana and other top management members and they were able to explain to him the need for the increment.

He stated, They have in fact increased academic user fees by 10 percent which is within limit. There are other cost elements which have seen increment and they include medical expenses for students, examination fees by 100 percent as well as sports fees.

Mr. Ayariga said the university authorities explained to him that they had to increase examination fees due to the high cost involved in the organization of examination, and added that due to high incidence of malpractices, the university intended to decentralize the conduct of examination in the various faculties and use CCTV cameras to monitor the process.

He also said the university authorities explained that cost of out-of-campus sporting activities, among others, compelled them to increase sports fees.

We are appealing to the students to allow more space for dialogue. I have also appealed to the authorities to engage the students to review the situation so that both parties will reach acceptable conclusion.

He said the government, in collaboration with the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE), was committed to providing a common platform for all stakeholders including political parties, to deliberate on how tertiary education should be financed in the country. The event is slated for August 24 and August 25, 2011.

He said Ghana had a strategic advantage in the West African sub-region and should therefore work hard to make tertiary education equitable and accessible to Ghanaians and attractive to foreign students.

If we pretend that everything is well with our tertiary education, the quality will decline. We do not want to churn out graduates who the job market cannot absorb.
Source: Daily Guide

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