The Private University Students Association of Ghana (PUSAG) is demanding the immediate reassignment or dismissal of Deputy Minister of Education, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa.
The association is accusing him of exhibiting “gross incompetence, nonchalance and lack of interest in the affairs of private universities and their students across the country.”
Below is the full statement from PUSAG:
PUSAG WITHDRAWS FROM OKUDJETO ABLAKWA’S “CAMPUS CONNECT SERIES” AND APPEALS TO PRESIDENT MAHAMA FOR HIS IMMEDIATE REASSIGNMENT OR REMOVAL FROM OFFICE
The Private University Students Association of Ghana (PUSAG) wishes to officially inform its numerous constituents, students of Ghana, stakeholders in the education industry as well as the general public that it is disassociating itself from the “Campus Connect Series”, which is a programme that is being rolled by the tertiary education division of the Ministry of Education under the leadership of Hon. Okudjeto Ablakwa, the Deputy Education Minister; which would see officials from the Education Ministry, Ministers of State as well as other government officials visit all tertiary institutions across the country to interact and connect with students.
The association is accordingly appealing to President John Dramani Mahama to immediately reassign the Deputy Minister in question or better still, remove him from office for gross incompetence, nonchalance and lack of interest in the affairs of private universities and their students across the country. Failure to heed to our call would be inimical to the electoral fortunes of the NDC government come 2016.
First and foremost, the decision by PUSAG to withdraw from the ‘Campus Connect Series’ and subsequent call for the head of the Deputy Minister of Education in charge of tertiary was arrived at by the national leadership of the Association after deep reflection and thorough consultation with all the people that matter in respect of the two issues. In the case of the former, we think it is a misplaced priority and an absolute waste of time and energy for the Ministry of Education and for that matter Ablakwa’s outfit to spend huge amount of money and scarce resources to embark on that fruitless venture at the expense of the taxpayer.
As we speak, the nation’s education sector is overwhelmed with several seemingly intractable challenges which ought to be the preoccupation of Okudjeto Ablakwa and not this so called “Campus Connect Series” which we see as a deliberate attempt and a clandestine move to woo students into coming to terms with government propaganda message ahead of election 2016.
In any case, Okudjeto Ablakwa cannot claim to be oblivious of the countless challenges and problems confronting university students in the country. Why do students have leaders? Why the existence of national student unions? In the specific case of private university students, how many times haven’t we met him personally to lament about our numerous problems and the needless neglect from government and its agencies to our issues?
What efforts has he made towards addressing the issues? Hasn’t he always been dismissive of our concerns with the argument that government’s primary obligation is to public universities? Hon. Ablakwa has never attended any of our programmes even though we always send him official invitations. Not even has he ever acknowledged receipt of any of our letters to his outfit. In fact, the least said about his demeanour and comments anytime we visit him with our issues, the better.
He treats our matters with absolute disdain as if we are not Ghanaian taxpayers just like our counterparts in the public universities. Assuming without admitting that he has always been right with his assertion, then why does he now want to visit us in our schools to acquaint himself with our problems when he thinks we don’t matter? Isn’t this a classical case of what we call a populist display of political gimmickry to make his government look good before private university students? We also do not need him and his team in our schools and we are accordingly directing all SRCs in private universities not to cooperate with the so called “Ablakwa’s campus connect team” should they make any attempt to visit them.
If Ablakwa pretends that he and his government are unaware of our problems, then we wish to remind them as we always do; even though we doubt very much that they would make any attempt to address our issues. In as much as we are not calling for parity with respect to how government treats our counterparts in the public universities, we nonetheless think that as Ghanaian taxpayers and in the letter and spirit of our national constitution which enjoins us to see education as a due right and not a privilege, government must consider some of its actions and policies which do not auger well for the educational wellbeing of students in the nation’s private universities. Our issues are quite innumerable but we are going to attempt mentioning just three of our peculiar issues which we find topical;
Concerns regarding GETfund
Private university students have always pleaded with the NDC government to extend the mandate of GETfund to include us as it was the case in the past. It is worth making the point that during the erstwhile kufour government, many private university students including Zenith university College, Ashesi University College, Valley View University, Wisconsin International College, Islamic University College, Methodist University College, Central University and many others benefited enormously from GETfund projects and programmes in the form of computers, scholarship schemes, buses among others. We really do not know what has changed that this government thinks that the private university student is no longer deserving of any kind of support from GETfund.
For God’s sake, we are also Ghanaian taxpayers who ought to benefit from our taxes through government educational policies. We are not requesting for projects on the campuses of private universities but rather policies that would directly benefit us as students.
After contacting GETFund representatives on this issue, they indicated to us that their outfit (GETFund) has no problem supporting private universities once government gives them the go ahead. So it is a matter policy which has to come from government and does not require any legislative amendments per se. In fact, they added that the previous NPP government took a deliberate decision through an intervention by the Education Ministry at the time which allowed GETFund to extend support to private universities during their reign. However this government has refused to continue with that policy for some incomprehensible reasons.
Surprisingly, when we raised this concern before Hon. Okudjeto Ablakwa, he chose to lie to us that until parliament reviews the current GETFund Act, there is no way government through GETFund can offer support to private universities. This is one of the several legitimate reasons why we think that Hon. Ablakwa has outlived his usefulness at the Ministry and as such; he must go because he has exhibited a lot of bad faith in his dealings with us.
Imposition of tax on private universities
PUSAG still contends that government’s decision to slap private universities with a needless 25% corporate tax is very unpopular because of the rippling effects on the students. It is apparent if returns that could have been used to expand school projects and pay whooping expenditure bills like fuel for electricity are taxed then the only option is to adjust fees to settle them.
Hence, this explains extra charges resulting in an alarming increase in our fees. It is a fact that no government in the world has ever contemplated taxing education because it is indispensable and an essential necessity for national growth and development. Why is the situation different in Ghanaian government? Must we go taxing everything simply because we want to increase our revenue?
PUSAG pleads with government to reduce the tax rate to about 10% if they cannot completely do away with it. It is our strong conviction that the tax waiver government gives to industries in the private sector as well as the removal of corporate tax on farming tools and raw materials in the 2015 budget should also be extended to private universities if government is really committed to the development of the private educational sector of the economy.
Source: Ewurabena Ewudziwa Hagan/ Ashesi Student Council Vice President
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