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The Ghana government, based on its promise in the 2016 elections, has embarked on what it called restoration of nursing trainee allowances with a fanfare that can best be described as needless. While many students cannot gain access to education based on the introduction of such a policy, citizens are being asked to jubilate with government over its acts that have deliberately cut off many of its citizens, denying them access to pursue education.
For populism, we were required to clap over government’s re-introduction of the trainee nurses allowances. Meanwhile, I don’t think this is any policy that was meant for good except for its populist intent and to manifest the fulfilment of a campaign promise.
Contrary to government’s denial that the introduction of these allowances were not done on the back of denying a huge number of students access to education, available evidence points to the contrary.
The government had issued a strict QUOTA system that cut down the number of students who would have gained admissions into government nursing training schools.
Before the coming into power by this government, nurses’ allowances were withdrawn. In the two years preceding the 2016 elections, admissions rose by some 60 percent as all these trainee schools were admitting to full capacity, providing access to students to acquire a profession they yearned for.
As soon as the idea of restoring these allowances was introduced into the political campaign, some of us warned the nation of a possible clandestine attempt that would be made to limit the number of students to be admitted into these schools because government could not pay these allowances in the state they were in the past, without cutting down the number of students.
Today, the overall effect is that instead of the existing facilities admitting a total of 7,335 qualified students into these schools, the quota system allowed only 5,737 denying a total of 1,598 their right to acquire education because of a reckless policy of government.
What must be the interest of government in any country? Provide opportunities to all, where such opportunities exist, to acquire knowledge? Or, is government’s interest in denying citizens access to education even when they can afford, in instances when even such facilities that they need to acquire education exist?
Must we be clapping when we have been slapped in the face with a reckless policy that has denied access to education to a whopping 1,598 who would otherwise have gained admission and pay for their education?
At this stage, citizens who would have proceeded to these institutions to acquire knowledge based on their passion for the profession have been blocked from realizing their dreams. And this is what we are supposed to be praising?
In addition to this slap, while government is admitting 5,137 into training schools, the ministry of health under the same government, has introduced a quota for regional employment of these nurses. A total of 2,997 have been strictly allowed to be engaged nationwide, with specific quota to every region.
What this means is that, government is admitted 5,737 while providing jobs for only 2,997 leaving out a total of 2,740. What kind of policy is this? An essential service of this nature is being played for the purpose of political footballing?
This reveals one thing: the government of the day has no commitment to engaging any increase in employment for these students it is training contrary to promises to create jobs. The government does not seem to have any plans in place to expand healthcare facilities beyond what it came to meet.
The overall implication is that at this stage, education would be reduced to the highest bidder as institution heads would favor those who can pay their way through for admissions knowing that allowances would be paid when admission is given. The poor and vulnerable, those who require education to liberate their families from poverty, for their inability to afford such payments, would remain in their states for generations to come.
I am of the view that a system that was admitting without quota, but to full capacity, would provide citizens the opportunity to gain admission on merit and not base on economic circumstances which in this case, must be positive and favorable. This must be the ultimate concern of government. Providing access and equality ought to have been the guide.
Meanwhile, the government took a decision not to bond these students. What this means is that the government is only interested in training without responsibility of providing employment. While the few to gain employment into government hospitals would be competitive and sold to the highest bidder under the current system, many will be thrown onto the streets.
What must be the joy of parents and students? To pay for your education and get ready jobs for the rest of their lives? Or to take allowances in school and after completion, search for job and remain possibly unemployed for the rest of their lives?
In the light of these, one would have thought that government would focus on increasing the number of hospitals, increase the number of Polyclinics as the NDC did by building all 5 brand new Polyclinics in the Brong Ahafo Region, increase the number of CHPS compounds, complete the Afare Military Hospital started by John Dramani Mahama, complete the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital, among a host of many others that were started.
I am sorry, instead of clapping, I think we must rather see the wickedness in introducing a policy in modern day Ghana that denies students who can afford education, access to same. It is rather unfortunate that we have allowed ourselves to be tricked into this rather ill-thought-through policy which leaves a more devastating outcome on our nation in the long-run.
For a government that just a couple of weeks ago, had to borrow from banks to pay September salaries of public sector workers, to prioritize the payment of allowances over building a strong economy to deal with its recurrent expenditure and proceed to expand growth in our development projects, one can best conclude that it has a larger interest at this early stage, in consolidating power than the exact welfare of the larger society, Ghana for which it was elected into office.
It is obvious that the government is seeking for avenues to hang its astronomic debts being accumulated over this short period, through what was described as privatizing profit and socializing debt. In effect, the government is socializing pain while privatizing joy. The government is engaged in these smart moves as a decoy to cover for its borrowings that have so far not been channeled into any visible developmental project to the benefit of the people of Ghana. It is high time citizens read through the lines and appreciate the populism that has surrounded the implementation of policies without the application of common sense.
We must be in a position to interrogate government policies and to ascertain the latent functions as against the manifest functions that are showing today. Policies have long-reaching implications and their assessments must be carried out looking at the long-term effects instead of the immediate outcome which may appeal to ignorance at their introduction. We have a nation to protect as well as a future to sustain. Let us all rise and be part of assessing the impact of policies against the simple reason of populism and point to policy makers that such hasty moves would grind the wheels of our nation to a halt in the long-run and jeopardize the future of the very people in whose interest they must act.
Source: Stephen Kwabena Attuh, ASK