Posted: Friday 4th July 2014 at 4:19 am

Free Sanitary Pad Is To Prevent School Dropouts – Education Minister


Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang
The Minister of Education, Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang, has defended government’s decision to use part of a World Bank loan to procure sanitary pads for school girls.

Prof. Opoku Agyemang said the move was a good one, which had support from the World Bank.

Arguing that the decision was taken with the poor in mind, she said case studies had shown that, in taking into consideration factors that cause girls to drop out of school, the preparedness of the student had always been overlooked.

‘You see in all of this we are talking about girls of a certain age, mind you 13, 15, 17 years and at that time something peculiar happen to their bodies, so we conceived the project differently, we didn’t think that it was only a matter of building the schools although these are important.’

‘It is not about the nice building, equipment and teacher alone, but the preparedness of the student and the role of the community in getting the child to go to school,’ the Minister said.

She said the absence of toilets in schools, for instance, was part of the reason why girls were not in school.

‘I am very disappointed that girls should hear that what happens to them is something that should not be paid attention to. Let us not imagine that because you and I can afford pads for our daughters, it is the same everywhere. When you go to the village schools like I have you’ll see that the girls are not there.’

The Education Minister who was responding to criticisms on the government’s latest move, said to be a fulfillment of an NDC manifesto pledge,  said she had been to a number of village schools and the girls were not in school because their parents could not afford sanitary pads for them. World Bank Loan

Parliament Wednesday passed a US$156million International Development Association (IDA) loan facility to finance the Ghana Secondary School Education Improvement Project, despite protestations from the Minority group.

The loan is to be used to construct 23 new senior high schools (SHSs) in selected districts, improve 50 existing SHSs through the expansion and rehabilitation of existing structures and facilities, as well as undertake quality improvement to an additional 75 existing SHSs.

A whopping $15.9 million of the loan, however, is to be used for research, monitoring and evaluation, an amount that far exceeds what is to be set aside for the upgrading of the 75 existing SHSs and is almost equivalent or equal to what is to be used for the expansion of the 50 schools.

That, the Minority said, was unacceptable, hence its vote against the deal.

What is worse, according to minority, is that part of the amount is to be used to procure sanitary pads for students.

Some minority members had argued that taking loans to buy sanitary pads, rulers, pens and pencils was out of place. Support

But responding to the criticisms in a radio interview on Joy FM, the Education Minister said it was a World Bank project.

‘when you are doing a World Bank project it is not just one country that just sit back and does the project without the World Bank’s attention.’

‘We worked on this project with the World Bank and went as far as, go and defend the proposal at the headquarters and fortunately we got a positive response May 20th.’

‘We took documentation to cabinet for support and we got it. The final stop was parliament and whatever happened or didn’t happen yesterday we have support and I’m very happy about that,’ the Education Minister said. Why pads

Explaining, Professor Opoku Agyemang said Ghana values education to the extent that the percentage of government funding in education was extremely high, far higher than what prevails in many other countries.

Therefore, she said, the expectation was that returns would be very high, but that was not the case.

She said studies had shown that over the years, children who stay in school from class one, two, three seem to be okay but by end of class five, six and JSS, the dropout rate for girls becomes very high.

The Minister said the situation was not peculiar to Ghana, noting that it was universal problem which many countries had been tackling for decades.

She argued that the provision of nice buildings, laboratories and other educational infrastructure and facilities alone does not make for quality education – although it is a prerequisite – neither does quality education depend only on how highly trained the teacher is, or how well the headmaster understands his job as a leader of the academic process.  The welfare of the student is also important, she emphasised. Project breakdown

The project cost breakdown, as contained in the agreement, the construction of the 23 new schools would cost $98.9 million, while upgrading of the 75 existing SHSs was valued at $9 million.

Expansion of the 50 schools to increase capacity to absorb more students would cost $16 million, while scholarships for 10,400 students to pursue SHS education for three years would cost $15.6 million.

In spite of the vehement disagreement by the Minority,  the Majority got the loan agreement approved as a result of the fact that it had a larger number in the House.

The loan has a 1.25 per cent interest rate, 20-year repayment period, 60-month grace period, a 0.5  per cent per annum commitment charge on the principal amount not withdrawn (effective 2015), a service charge of 0.75 per cent per annum on the withdrawn balance and a 25-year maturity period.

Credit:  Enoch Darfah Frimpong /Daily Graphic.com.gh

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