Parliament rejects Ayariga’s school fees motion
A request to the President to pay the school fees of fresh and continuing students for the 2020/2021 Academic Year has been shot down by a majority decision in Parliament.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Caucus, through an overwhelming “voice vote”, rejected the motion when the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Alban S.K. Bagbin, put forward the question for the House to either accept or reject the motion.
The rejection by the majority group didn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the debate on the motion since it was introduced in the House on January 20 by Mr Mahama Ayariga, Member of Parliament (MP), Bawku Central.
Mr Ayariga’s motion was that the “House resolves to request the President of the Republic of Ghana to take urgent steps to absorb the fees of students of public tertiary education institutions for the 2020/ 2021 Academic Year, and to extend support to accredited private universities as part of the national Covid-19 alleviation measures being implemented by the Government of Ghana.”
Giving reasons for the motion, Mr Ayariga said that the economic condition of the country had changed due to the emergence of Covid-19, and it has had devastating consequences on the incomes of households and businesses.
He argued that most sectors of the economy had been hard hit. “For instance, the hospitality sector has been devastated, in that a lot of hotels, restaurants, eateries, and others, for most parts of the year 2020, couldn’t operate due to the pandemic, and this has really affected their income levels.”
He also noted that other sources of income for most families in Ghana have been remittances from abroad. He indicated that “as we all are aware, Covid-19 affected Europe and America, and has affected the ability to remit back home, so the President should absorb the fees to ease the financial burden on parents and students.”
But, according to the Member of Parliament for Ofoase Ayirebi, Mr Kojo Oppong- Nkrumah, the NPP side of the House cannot support the motion. He argued that the request was not clear, does not follow best practices, and was discriminatory.
On the issue of clarity, the Ofoase Ayirebi legislature indicated that the motion does not state the sort of fees the President was being requested to pay. He said there were so many monies that student pay and the motion wasn’t clear on which of them should be paid by the President.
On the same issue of clarity, Mr Oppong-Nkrumah also asked the sort of support the President was being asked to extend to private schools.
On issues of the motion not following best practices, Mr Oppong- Nkrumah said that paying the school fees of students comes with a huge financial burden, and he believes his opponents haven’t assessed the financial burden it will impose on the government’s budget.
Talking about discrimination, the former Minister of Information said that according to article 17 of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution, no one should be discriminated against. He argued that paying the school fees of students in government institutions, and merely extending a hand to private institutions, was an act of discrimination.
Mr Oppong-Nkrumah also indicated that he was surprised as to why his colleagues from the National Democratic Congress were asking the President to grant this sort of relief to students when they opposed the payment of electricity and water bills the President paid under the Covid-19 Relief Programme.
But Mr Okudzeto Ablakwa, Member of Parliament for North Tongu, disagreed with the arguments of the Ofoase Ayirebi legislature.
According to him, Covid-19 had affected a lot people and was disrupting economies.
He said there have been enormous job losses and Ghana’s economy was in a recession, hence, it was important that the education sector is supported.
He said education was very important, and all barriers to it must be brought under subjection.
He thanked successive governments for the major contributions they had made towards improving education, and asked that more should be done now that the economy is in disarray as a result of the pandemic.
“Successive governments have done well to ensure education is a priority. So we should do more now that there is a pandemic.”
Responding to Mr Oppong- Nkrumah’s argument of the NDC opposing relief programmes introduced by President Akufo-Addo, the North Tongu legislature stated that the NDC did no such thing.
He said their leader, Mr Mahama, was even at the forefront distributing relief items to people who were hit by the Covid-19.
“Aside this, some MPs, including my very self, also raised money to pay teachers of private schools who had to stay home due to Covid-19 and were not earning monthly salaries as a result.”
The former Deputy Minister of Education and Member of Parliament for Bosomtwe, who argued for the NPP, also indicated that 70 percent of students in some tertiary institutions had already paid their fees and were in school receiving tuition, so there would be no need for the President to pay school fees again.
He also indicated that some Vice Chancellors of some tertiary institutions have said the absorption of school fees was not on their priority list, hence, there was no cause for alarm.