Prof. Naana Jane Opoku Agyeman, Minister of Education
Some Ghanaian students studying in the United Kingdom, Russia, Turkey, China and other parts of the world are said to be stranded in their host countries as government is alleged to have refused to extend to them agreed stipends, tuition fees and other benefits.
The situation has left untold hardship on them, with some using false identities for fear of arrest, humiliation and other inconveniences, while others have resorted to self-imposed restricted movement due to their debts and fear of expulsion.
One of the affected students said ‘some of the universities are gradually considering blacklisting Ghanaian scholarship programs.’
The students who number over 200 pursuing Doctorate and Master’s degrees in various fields of study have, for the past year, been denied the support to facilitate their studies.
Some of the students who spoke to DAILY GUIDE in separate telephone interviews noted that under the scholarship arrangement, government of Ghana through the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) and the Scholarship Secretariat is to foot their bills which include a return air-ticket, tuition fees, travel allowance and monthly stipends.
GETFund has confirmed that indeed some students have not been paid.
According to Steve Baffoe, Public Relations Officer for the organization, money is paid as and when it is released by the Ministry of Finance.
Even though GETFund allocation from VAT is statutory, oftentimes the Finance Ministry delays in disbursing it; sometimes, for more than a year.
Mr Baffoe said the money they recently received from the Finance Ministry was disbursed to the students according to the urgency of the situation, since the money could not take care of all students on scholarship.
DAILY GUIDE learnt that just GH¢4million was released instead of several millions of cedis, thereby incapacitating the GETFund in executing its projects which include payment of local contractors.
Under the programme, GETFund makes direct payments to host universities and institutions on behalf of the students in terms of tuition fees, whilst stipends are made directly to the beneficiary student through their personal bank accounts. This is to allow the student to take care of feeding, accommodation, clothing and other related personal effects.
However, since April 2013, such support is yet to reach most of them; a situation which is gradually becoming a yearly feature.
One of the students who spoke on condition of anonymity said, ‘For example, in UK students who are October intake are supposed to receive their monies in October, meaning their academic year begins in October each year. Yet, all payments are currently in arrears. The last time payment in fees and stipends were made was in April 2013, thus over 13 months now.’
DAILY GUIDE’s investigations indicated that students are currently in rent arrears while their access to school facilities such as library and lecture halls has been denied due to non-payment of fees. Some PhD candidates in the UK said they have been denied access to their offices and computers for their research work.
This situation is negatively affecting their research and output as they are unable to meet deadlines for the submission of their work. To make things worse, charges on defaulting are strictly applicable.
In the UK, for instance, majority of the affected students have already accumulated default payment to the tune of over £400.
Students are also unable to feed because they are bankrupt and majority of them are completely depending on friends from different countries.
The situation, four of the students said, is affecting them psychologically, as they are embarrassed and humiliated on a daily basis.
From Fred Duodu, Ho
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