General News of Monday, 2 October 2017
Bongo’s outspoken Member of Parliament, Edward Bawa, may soon be addressed ‘A Man of the People’ if he succeeds in his intended move to lead Parliament against what he describes as “the killer fees” being charged aspiring nurses and midwives in health training institutions nationwide.
Nursing and midwifery students today generally pay no less than Gh¢4,000 (908.06 USD) for admission and an average Gh¢3,000 (681.04 USD) regular fees every year aside some internal ‘silent levies’ of which the Ministry of Health (MoH) may not even be aware let alone to have approved.
The most crushed students are those from the rural parts of the country where poor parents virtually do betray their last pets to any interested buyer in a desperate effort to raise the fund needed to see their children through nursing and midwifery colleges.
And at least two stories have emerged- one about a frustrated student who gulped poison from a bottle in a suicide attempt over his alleged inability to defray some school fees arrears at the Bolgatanga Nursing Training College some time ago and the other involving another student from the Bongo District who, also not too long ago, tragically took his own life for a similar reason.
The MP, who just as did his long-serving predecessor, Albert Abongo, has been rendering support to needy students in the constituency, says the “outrageous fees” are so unbearable that the entire Parliament should wait no longer to go to the rescue of the poor parents and the distressed students.
“Look at the fees. The fees are so huge, they are so outrageous that sometimes you wonder how they are able to cope. If you want to look at a student who decides to go to the university to do a degree programme in nursing as compared to somebody who is doing either a certificate or a diploma programme in nursing, the fees are simply not comparable. You have the diploma or the certificate students paying huge sums of money as compared to the degree students.
“These are people who are coming from struggling homes and who have decided to take up that noble profession of becoming a nurse. And if you have a situation where you would discourage them with these huge amounts of about Gh¢3,000, Gh¢4,000 a year, how many parents can pay that? And I’m not too sure whether these are approved fees by the Ministry of Health,” the MP fumed with frustration.
The legislator was speaking to journalists Friday in the Upper East region moments after he had donated some undisclosed amounts of scholarship cash to 50 second-cycle and tertiary students who applied of their own free will to the lawmaker to help them pay parts of their school fees.
“Without mentioning names, there are parents who are struggling to pay fees because of accumulated arrears. There are [nursing students] who are likely to finish school at the end of this year. But they are not guaranteed their certificates when they finish because there are some debts they have to pay to the school authorities. And this is because of the outrageous fees that they impose on these students.
“I will have some consultations with my colleagues in Parliament, not only within the NDC side but also with the NPP side because I do know that these are problems confronting all Members of Parliament in their constituencies, predominantly those from rural communities. Hopefully, in Parliament we should be able to bring the Minister for Health to give us a clear indication whether these fees that are being charged are approved. Many people may not know that in this country the law says that the fees must be approved before you charge,” he added.
MP tells Health Minister to call high-charging authorities to order
Whilst the MP hopes to trigger a legislative discourse (as intended) on the “killer charges” anytime soon, he also has asked the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, to take a swift review himself of the “exorbitant fees” and help bring sanity and order into the system.
“The exposé that has been given to us on the Tepa Nursing Training College [shows that] beyond just these normal fees of about Gh¢3,000 and Gh¢4,000 that they pay, they also have to pay extra fees to heads of institutions. I think that on this basis, I want to call on the Minister for Health to take a second look at our nursing training institutions and the fees they label on them.
“I know that fees and charges are approved by Parliament. The figures they’ve mentioned, I’ve not seen those things in the fees and charges approved by Parliament. I think that all those principals, school managements who are charging these students such exorbitant fees should be called to order. There are a lot of people who would have opted to become nurses but because of this level of payments that they have to make, there is a hindrance to their dreams and aspirations. Poor people are ready to serve this country, but unfortunately they use economic reasons to prevent them,” Mr. Bawa stated.
“My parents sold all our donkeys to pay my fees”- Beneficiary of MP’s support
The MP told newsmen the cash donated to the students was his own money and that the beneficiaries were selected by a committee set up in the constituency and tasked to come up with a list of students with the most pressing needs among those who applied to the legislator for support.
The committee, made up of leading educationists in the constituency as well as civil society organisation workers, is chaired by Jonathan Adabre, a senior policy analyst and veteran journalist.
“The poverty situation in our constituency is not a joke. Every year, students struggle to be able to even find lorry fares to go to the various schools that they’ve gained admission to. It’s common phenomenon in this part of the country, that students struggle. I, in particular, faced a similar situation when I went to the university where common soap to be able to bathe was difficult to come by.
“The MP hasn’t gotten his share of the Common Fund that he could rely on. He had to fall back on his personal resources to be able to support them. And in order to be fair and just to all applicants, he set up a committee to review the applications, to recommend to him and, based on the amount of resources that he has, to ensure that each applicant has something to support himself or herself with. We had over 200 applicants. We selected the neediest. We selected 50,” Mr. Adabre said.
The relieved-looking beneficiaries showered praises and prayers on the lawmaker, with one of them revealing in a news interview that his parents had to give up everything they had just to secure his admission.
“I gained admission into the Jahan College of Education in Wa, Upper West. My parents had to sell the three donkeys we had been using in the rainy season to plough. The money was not enough. The MP’s support is a great relief for me. And I want to urge all the good natives of Bongo to come to the aid of the students who are still in need among us in Bongo. The MP cannot do it all alone,” said Abaa Ishmael Awine.