Progressive Students Forum has issued a press statement accusing Coalition of Students Against Government Decision to Push the Cost of Utility Bills on Students of peddling false and unfounded rumour.
It is barely less than 24 hours since a group of students including SRC presidents of some tertiary institutions issued a press statement giving government 48 hours ultimatum to rescind his decision to burden students with utility bills but another student group calling itself Progressive Students Forum says the allegations by these students are without merits.
In a statement signed by the group’s convenors, J. K Tamba, a student activist and Gideon Abotsi, also a student activist, all students of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) has described the earlier statement by the Coalition of Students Against Governement Decision to Push the Cost of Utility Bills on Students as “a selfserving politically motivated fuss aimed at drawing the name of the Government into disrepute while hiding behind the banner of the highly dignified Ghanaian Tertiary Student populace as evident in the introductory sentences of their press release.”
Below is the full statement of the group:
PRESS STATEMENT BY PROGRESSIVE STUDENTS FORUM IN REACTION TO AN EARLIER STATEMENT RELEASED BY THE COALITION OF STUDENTS AGAINST GOVERNMENT’S DECISION TO PUSH THE COST OF UTILITY BILLS ON STUDENTS
Distinguished Representatives from respective media houses, Colleague Students, Ladies and Gentlemen. Our attention was on Wednesday 29th April, 2015, drawn to a statement released by some ‘Coalition of Students’ title ‘STATEMENT BY THE COALITION OF STUDENTS AGAINST GOVERNMENTS DECISION TO PUSH THE COST OF UTILITY BILLS ON STUDENTS’ as published on www.starrfmonline.com under the headline ‘students give government 48 hours ultimatum to withdraw utility bills.’
We, the Progressive Students Forum, after perusing the said statement and critically evaluating the merits and otherwise of the full content of the statement wish to, through this statement, unequivocally condemn the unwarranted actions of the said coalition which could best be described as a selfserving politically motivated fuss aimed at drawing the name of the Government into disrepute while hiding behind the banner of the highly dignified Ghanaian Tertiary Student populace as evident in the introductory sentences of their press release.
As well-meaning members of the university students community and for that matter persons with vested interests in the administration of tertiary education in the country, we are highly disappointed in the direction taken by our, hitherto, respected colleagues in pressing home their concerns on what could best be described as unfounded rumors and accordingly wish to set the records straight.
Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is no news to any of us that Government has over the recent past been involved in respective policy restructuring activities aimed at ensuring better development and delivery of quality education at respective levels of education particularly the tertiary level; with the issues of equitable access, financial sustainability and growth being fundamental pillars of the said moves. This, as we all know, has been necessitated by the growing numbers of post-secondary school dropouts partly attributed to the relatively low numbers of students which our public universities at current capacity can admit and most importantly as a result of the increasing financial pressures which the funding of the sector puts on the public purse.
In direct response to the rather conspicuous and unfounded alarm raised by our seemingly uninformed colleagues, we wish to point out that;
The group can never claim to speak on behalf of the entire tertiary student populace. In essence, Ghanaian students are represented by the National Union of Ghana Students, NUGS, and tertiary students in specific belong to the University Students Association of Ghana, USAG, who, in principle, are mandated to represent the direct and indirect interests of students. It is therefore surprising that persons who are supposed to be central members of these bodies have gone on to speak on such a subject without due recourse to the bodies mentioned above particularly when it has not been in any way proven that the above bodies have been institutionally compromised for which they may have relented in discharging their sure mandate. We do not by this wish to in anyway suggest that the coalition lacked the fundamental locust to guardedly speak for themselves. It is, however, important to mention that none of the above named groups has come out to, in any form, hint of a possible or nearing implementation of any such government policy as our colleagues unashamedly want us to believe. Rather interestingly, available information point to the fact that these stakeholders are presently involved in deliberations on a proposed policy direction and we uncompromisingly trust our leaders to do us due diligence by making our interests paramount.
It is absolutely disrespectful and unacceptable for the Central Government to have been described by the Coalition as a failure as a result of their misinformation, when of course this identical government has stated countlessly that it had no intentions of imposing such policies on students .In actual fact, the suggestion of a whopping 550 Ghana Cedis increament in fees by our colleagues is highly conspicuous and is directed at creating an unwarranted disruption at the student front. Their clear attempt to malign government is seen in attacks on it by referring to government as corrupt. This is clearly not a position of all students but one of a few politically skewed elements as evident in the composition of the group.
We wish to state that no such policy is being implemented anywhere, at UCC for instance, the Vice Chancellor in response to a related question, earlier this month, at a Management Students Consultative Meeting pointed clearly to the fact that nothing as such had reached his desk and so any information circulating in relation to students paying utility bills was absolute falsehood and charged students to treat it with the needed contempt.
We, therefore, believe that the orchestration of the entire press release is as a result of misinformation and a deliberate agenda aimed at pitching the well-meaning tertiary student body against the government.
Convinced by the rather failed ploy of the coalition, we wish not to align with their selfish motives, instead do we highlight the following critical issues for considerations:
1. We are of the firm conviction that, like in previous times, the subject of the level of government financial involvement in funding tertiary education will continue to surface unless a more definite and generally acceptable policy is put in place. The basis of state subventions of any kind have always being to serve as a relief to the common citizen while enabling institutions function properly. We believe as students, that upon critical analysis of the residential fees which we currently pay, coupled with the respective forms of income generated by various universities we are effectively already paying for utility tariffs.
Our uncompromised position is that for us to, today, be paying around 550 Cedis per student for shared rooms in university owned residential facilities which are not expected to reports profits, it will be absolutely untoward for us to be told that this amount does not cover utility fees for residential facilities. In the case of academic facilities students equally pay substantive fees which rationally should be able to cater to the required utility tariffs for these facilities.
We, thereby, wish to call on respective stakeholders particularly government to institute appropriate investigations into the income and expenditure of respective universities with particular reference to the management of the residential facilities. We cannot pay more than we currently do particularly when we believe that even without government subvention what we currently pay is more than enough to handle utility tariffs.
Student leaders must not degenerate issues relating to our interest into matters of mere political athleticism to score unceremonious political points on behalf of their pay masters. We believe that the handling of issues such as this does not warrant top notch student leaders revolting against little or nothing. This surely portrays us as unserious particularly when there has been no official communique whatsoever from either government or its universities to warrant such opportunistic moves.
Ladies and gentlemen, we wish to, in conclusion, call on government and all relevant stakeholders to comeout clear on the definitive policy for financing of tertiary education without any further delays whiles admonition our collegues all over the country to remain calm and to at all times act without compromise and insure that they do due diligence in searching for information before coming up with such unrepresentative and politically tainted statements evident of mischief.
We belive in the principles of access to quality education for all persons and this we believe is fundamentally tied to how accountable our state institutions as well as government become. We stand together in the struggle for a better and more accessible tertiary educational system.
Convenors: JK Tamba, Student Activist- UCC,
Gideon Abotsi, Student Activist-UCC