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Students Give Gov’t 48hr Ultimatum to Withdraw Utility Bills

Students in tertiary institutions have given the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) government 48 hours to withdraw plans to charge them utility tariffs.

The students are threatening to stage a string of demonstrations staring next week if the John Mahama-led administration fails to meet their demands.

Government officials have served notice that students in public tertiary institutions will now have to pay their own utility bills as an alternative means to tackle increasing utility debts in public universities.

But the leadership of the various public universities at a news conference in Kumasi warned government should rescind its decision or face their wrath.

Below is the full statement:

The Students of Ghana appropriately extend warmest appreciation to you our friends in the media for joining us today. We cannot be more appreciative to those who have concerned themselves to these times that our education is being threatened and the prospects of young people guaranteed by Tertiary Education is about being collapsed for the single inordinate policy choice of a Government that purports to trumpet a social democratic agenda. I accordingly welcome you student leaders herein gathered for mastering the courage of justice and truth and assembling here with this impressive numbers to support this noble cause especially for those within our ranks who by the sheer ineptitude of this Government policy would abort their programs of studies.

Ladies and gentlemen, on the 25th of March, the Government of Ghana convened a certain stakeholder’s consultation following series of hints that this Government harboured objectives of failing on its mandate ushered by the ‘1998 Cost- Sharing Educational policy’ which we have come to popularly call the Akosombo Accord. This policy (which has travelled close to two decades) framed the current arrangement of the components of the cost of education that must be split and subsequently shouldered by the individual and the government. Following the Stakeholder’s forum, Government skilfully championed its agenda through the vehicle of a certain Stakeholder’s communiqué that leaves more questions than answers clearly with an attempt to force the cost payment of Utility bills at the blind side of students.

Ladies and Gentlemen, following public students’ outcry over the clandestine attempt by the Government of the day, to defer its responsibility to the already burdened students, the Ministry of Education has attempted to suggest that this policy is only under consideration. Unfortunately for the Ministry of Education in its spin business, the Universities across this country are processing the fees of students for the next academic year and this includes the cost of utility bills for the next academic year and this is outrageously being pegged at an average of GH¢550 per student across Tertiary Institutions.

This therefore suggests that the cost of Education especially for the fees paid by tertiary Students for the next academic year would increase approximately by GH¢550. An incident with enough potency to force several of our ranks out of school and definitely out of their career paths.

We the Coalition of Students and Student Leaders by this Press Conference oppose vehemently this ill thought through Government policy and our established resolution is grounded firmly on the following pillars.

1. That the government of Ghana has failed on its pledge to cushion education of its citizens by bearing the cost of Utility bills and the results of the Government of Ghana’s financial indiscipline shall not be the latent drive of the government to pass on its social compact expectations on its citizens. We are reminded that at this same time that Government has and is still failing to carry out its mandate to the tertiary student, reports suggests increasing waste of expenditure in the use of the public purse in several government engagements. We recommend that close monitoring of government expenditure and a war of corruption would save enough for the public purse to be used in paying for Utility bills at our tertiary institutions.

2. We would resist any attempt by Government to force the hands of students to bear the arrears of Utility bills owed by the Universities as a consequence of the failure of government of Ghana to exercise its responsibilities.

3. That the failures of the University officials and government agencies to ensure the prudency of the use of electricity by some students shall not be the burden of the several innocent students

4. That Government of Ghana has failed according to page 19 of the its own 2012 manifesto to ensure upgrade and construction of Residential Facilities in existing public institutions cannot support the weak proposition of government to place students into sections of those housed in Halls and those in Private hostels. The students in the private hostels who form a constituent of the several SRC’s we head as student leaders don’t have any challenge with students leaving in University Residential accommodations not paying for Utility bills. The Government of Ghana has a more honourable equity call to achieve by building more Halls for all students to have access in these Halls of Residence on our various campuses and not by charging all students Utility Bills.

5. We the students of the coalition mandated by the popular will of the students of Ghana are clearly aware of the failure of the Government to credit the account of GETFUND with its full statutory payments. Logically, it is pathetic how expenditure in education is decreasing but the government of Ghana still does not have enough funds to finance its historical responsibilities for the Tertiary students.

The way forward
1. As a fact of passionate action we declare officially the education red alert crusade. Every student of Ghana must identify with something red to register our displeasure until the Government calls off this sickening policy.

2. We would in the coming days organize mass student rallies across the country to press home our demand.

3. That the single event of Government closing its ears, establishes a point for a nationwide call for Tertiary students to push out this government in the coming 2016 elections.

4. We are embarking on mass media campaigns to ensure that the government does what is right.

5. We request an official correspondence from the office of the President and the Ministry of Education recalling this policy and stating clearly that Tertiary students would not bear cost of utility bills.

We thank you all for your patience and granting us some audience. This country would live on, leaders are temporary but the country’s destiny must be safeguarded. Education would not be sacrificed for political convenience. We thank you and God bless us all.

Source: Ghana/