This informative publication is not meant to insult, but to educate Ghanaians. Would it not have been better if I had titled it, “Most Ghanaians act before they think?” I know from long time ago, the advice, “Look before you leap” But why do most Ghanaians leap before they look?
I am no exemption from this attitude of Ghanaians. Nonetheless, I am changing for the better. This publication is mostly about the reaction of Ghanaians to the revelation by the Auditor General, Mr Daniel Yao Domelevo, about some NPP Members of Parliament availing themselves of the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) scholarship.
As soon a performance audit report by the Auditor-General on the administration of scholarships by GETFund was released (understandably having left out some other beneficiaries from the NDC camp, and making it appear as though the NPP guys availed themselves of the scholarship under the current NPP government, for reasons only best known to himself), many Ghanaians jumped into conclusions. Both the highly educated ones from different professional backgrounds, the less educated ones and the totally illiterate ones without any formal education, made their voices heard loud and clear. They did not bother to think to make any little search into why and how those MPs came to enjoy the scholarship, how many MPs in total and from which political backgrounds or how many supposedly already rich people had availed themselves of the scholarship and for what reasons.
Then again, none of them cared to find out the detail rules set out for the award of the scholarship to qualifying candidates and who qualify for it except all we know, superficially, is that the GETFund is set up for needy but brilliant students in Ghana.
Anyway, who is a student? A student is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as “a person who is learning at a college or university” and by Dictionary.com as “a person following a course of study, as in a school, college, university, etc.” Is there a cut off period or age when one ceases to become a student even when studying in a tertiary institution? What again is a tertiary institution? A tertiary institution is defined as “A university or other tertiary education provider recognised by the Employer which offers Degrees, Diplomas or teacher education courses”
Therefore, could the beneficiary MPs gone to study in Universities abroad, regardless of the duration of their courses, be at that moment classified as students? And if yes, could they legally qualify for the scholarship when applied for?
Before I proceed any further, let us pause to familiarise ourselves with the reasons for setting up the fund.
“The GETFund was established on 25th August, 2000 when ACT 581 which established it received Presidential Assent. The Fund started operation in 2001”.
Object of the Fund
2. (1) The object of the Fund is to provide finance to supplement the provision of the education at all levels by Government
(2) For the purposes of attaining this object, the monies from the Fund are to be expended as follows:
(a) to provide financial support to the agencies and institutions under the Ministry of Education, through the Ministry, for the development and maintenance of essential academic facilities and infrastructure in public educational institutions, particularly, in tertiary institutions;
(b) to provide supplementary funding to the Scholarship Secretariat for the grant of scholarships of gifted but needy students for studies in the second-cycle and accredited tertiary institutions in Ghana;
© to contribute monies from the Fund towards the operation of student loans schemes for students in accredited tertiary institutions through loan scheme mechanisms and agencies, approved by the Minister;
(d) to provide through the National Council of Tertiary Education, grants to tertiary institutions,
(i) to train brilliant students as members of faculties;
(ii) to undertake research and other academic programmes of relevance to national development; and
(e) to provide monies to support such other educational activities and programmes for the promotion of education as the Minister in consultation with the Board may determine.
I leave it to the public to study the “Object of the Fund” to tell if the named MPs had not qualified for the scholarship under one or two of the specifications.
In the United Kingdom, “Child Benefit” was awarded to every child from every family in equal amount per week regardless of the financial background of their parents. If a needy parents’ child gets £10.00 a week, so does a billionaire or a millionaire’s child gets. The law was to give every child born or brought into Britain that amount per week. All the rich families were receiving the money for their children because the money was understood to be for the child.
However, the Child Tax Credit was means-tested, thus, what a child of a needy parents got was higher than that received by a child of rich parent-background. It was awarded to the children taking into account their parents’ gross annual income. With this, a single child whose parents earned say £10,000 a year could get say £3,000 a year whereas the one whose parents were on £90,000 got nothing. That was the law until the Universal Tax Credit took over.
Could you blame the billionaire for being greedy by accepting the obligatory Child Benefit? The billionaire must first accept it and if he would donate it to a charity, then it is his own choice. The law is the law.
Again, coming close to home, does the law for registering oneself onto, and benefiting from, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), discriminate against the rich in Ghana? Is it not their choice to register as the law grants them the right? Will you accuse a rich man of being greedy for registering with the NHIS instead of going for private medical care because he has the abundant means to pay for his healthcare cost? Does the law not say any Ghanaian or anyone living in Ghana has the right to register with the NHIS to access the public healthcare free or almost free of charge?
If we were all to ensure that the law prevails as it is written, without always seeking “to temper justice with mercy, thus seeking to consider the individual and societal needs of forgiveness in order to soften our need for justice”, there would be less lawlessness and corruption in Ghana. There must be no question of morality raised to negate the power of the application of the law to soften it.
Some people have been saying the MPs were greedy to have sought and accepted the GETFund scholarship because they had the means to afford the cost of their studies themselves. If the law permitted them to seek and be granted the scholarship, what evil have they committed? Do you accuse the UK billionaire for accepting the weekly £10.00 Child Benefit for their child? Do you accuse one for obeying the laws? What will you do then when one disobeys the law?
Please Ghanaians, let us be quick to think analytically before we react or else, we shall very often be making mockery of ourselves.
If there was any law or rules broken in the award of the GETFund scholarship to the MPs, then the administrators of the GETFund are those to be held responsible for not knowing what they were doing to have wrongly awarded the MPs the scholarship.
Stay tuned for the Part II of the same heading.