The National Union of Ghana Students has called on government to take immediate steps to disburse money to Student Loan Trust Fund in order for students to get their loans.

It said the non-payment of loans to students was adversely affecting the performance of students.

Addressing a press conference at the weekend, the president of the Ishmael Tweneboa-Kodua said, “In a country where leaders parrot their commitment to education and the youth, this kind of situation is the least one would expect.”

The press conference coincided with the National Students’ Day which falls on May 15.

“In the light of the increasing incidents of cyber fraud, we expect that government will pay these loans to students in good time and make the necessary adjustments to enable them secure a minimum level of comfort. That in our view, will secure students against falling prey to the magnetic attractions of such crimes as ‘sakawa’, now a national headache.”

NUGS also expressed concern at the fate of Ghanaians students studying abroad.

“While we are struggling to contend with the problem domestically our brothers and sisters studying abroad face even more frustrating situations.

“Universities and other centres of learning out there have written to Ghanaians to either meet their financial obligations or be shown the door. This is not only disgraceful but also unacceptable. How can we abandon our countrymen in foreign lands without any compunction?”

The full statement president by the NUGS President is published below:

PRESS STATEMENT BY ISHMAEL TWENEBOA-KODUA, NUGS PRESIDENT ON THE OCCASION OF NATIONAL STUDENTS’ DAY, MAY 15, 2009 AT GNAT HALL

Officers of the National Executive Committee of the National Union of Ghana Students
Colleague National Officers
Institutional Representatives here present,
Fellow Students
Media Friends
Ladies and gentlemen

Good afternoon to you all and thank you for making it here this afternoon as we seek to draw attention to the debilitating problems facing students in Ghana and young people in general.

As you may be aware, today is May 15, a day declared by the National Union of Ghana Students as national students’ day.

While the day is supposed to be a joyous day, students of Ghana regrettably are mourning this day, I will tell you why we are mourning.

Student Loan Trust Fund
Colleague students, ladies and gentlemen, as we speak, many students who rely solely on the meagre loans under the Student Loan Scheme are languishing in absolute despondency following the failure of the appropriate authorities to disburse monies to them. In a country where leaders parrot their commitment to education and the youth, this kind of situation is the least one would expect.

We have often touted how poor our people are as if poverty is a situation to be desired. Is it then not surprising that while conceding that parents are poor, government compounds the situation by reneging on its responsibility to make funds available to tertiary students in the form of loans.

The fierce harshness of the situation is exacting a heavy toll on students who are supposed to be accorded the necessary support that the state can afford.

If we were a nation with priorities, should we deny students the merest support they need to study and yet keep pontificating about the need for education to be taken seriously?

Is it news anymore that our economy has been wobbly for a considerably period now while prices suffer some volatility? Now that the economy remains unstable and prices are escalating and regrettably, the size of loans for students mark time, how does the nation expect students to fare on the various campuses? To make matters worse, the meagre amounts are even paid grudgingly by government.

If the son or daughter of a peasant farmer from my village where money is usually a rare commodity find themselves in Accra or Cape Coast or Kumasi, and for a whole semester the loan does not come, how are they supposed to live? Are we not creating fertile grounds for people to engage in unlawful activities and other anti-social behaviour?

In the light of the increasing incidents of cyber fraud, we expect that government will pay these loans to students in good time and make the necessary adjustments to enable them secure a minimum level of comfort. That in our view, will secure students against falling prey to the magnetic attractions of such crimes as ‘sakawa’, now a national headache.

Mr Chairman, media friends, it is sad but true that consistently, successive governments have shown gross insensitivity to students and student welfare. They have demonstrated clearly that they have little regard for knowledge acquisition.

It has become religious for graduate students to undergo frustrations before receiving their allowances. That apart, there are indications that post graduate students in Ghana take longer time to complete their courses than in other countries within Africa. This is attributed to the ridiculously low thesis allowances that government pays to markers of thesis. Why must leaning be made so cumbersome?

While we are struggling to contend with the problem domestically our brothers and sisters studying abroad face even more frustrating situations.

Universities and other centres of learning out there have written to Ghanaians to either meet their financial obligations or be shown the door. This is not only disgraceful but also unacceptable. How can we abandon our countrymen in foreign lands without any compunction?

Media reports say about 200 Ghanaians in Russia are facing deportation due to our government’s failure to pay their bursaries. This, indeed, is heartbreaking.

We are a proud nation, or at least that is what our forebears fought for, and if for any reason we are unable to meet our obligations, we need not extend our collective shame beyond our borders and be made the laughing stock of the rest of the world.

Last year language students from the country’s institutions could not pursue their one year abroad programme in neighbouring Togo and Benin as a result of lack of funds. The Scholarship Secretariat could foot the bills to facilitate their trips. What becomes of that component of their training?

While students are sweating under the vagaries of poverty on the various campuses, even water to wash down remains a problem. It is a shame that decades after attaining independence and trumpeting desires of becoming the Gateway to Africa, students at the university scrounge for common water.

Students at the university of Ghana and other campuses in some cases have to resort to ‘free ranging’ when attending to nature’s call because taps simply will not run. If students of a 21st century university in a country with abundant water resources have to resort to survival tactics, then God save us!

National Youth Employment Programme
As we speak, employees of the National Youth Employment Programme once again are threatening a demonstration over unpaid allowances. The livelihoods of thousands must not be jeopardized needlessly. Before the programme was introduced, sources of funding ought to have been identified. The future of these struggling young people cannot continue to be in limbo. We were told the harsh talk-time-tax was imposed on the nation because of the National Youth Employment Programme. It is therefore incomprehensible that staff should be working several months on empty stomachs. It is not fair and somebody must sit up.

It is refreshing news however, that President Mills prior to coming into office committed himself to expanding the programme to give hope to the youth. Beyond the verbal commitment however, we observe rather sadly that the early signals are not too encouraging.

The problem is not limited to just these people, young nurses and teachers who complete their courses of study and are posted to state institutions to serve the nation, have to work for years before receiving their salaries. The struggle against brain drain appears to be lost on us all.

While students and young people wobble under the weight of such glaring misfortune, our national leaders quietly scramble for spoils of government. They assert their right to live in luxury. Isn’t this contrast shameful?

The conspiracy of the elite to rape the nation and further impoverish our people while paying lip service to addressing the myriad of problems that confront many a Ghanaian must cease.

Immediate steps must be taken to disburse money to all Ghanaian students studying abroad under state sponsored scholarship. NUGS is taking an uncompromising stands on this. It is not something we cannot do. We should have no choice but meet our obligation to the students. We expect the government to act with dispatch and save the nation the shame.

Government must also, without delay, disburse money to the Student Loan Trust Fund to enable the fund pay students their loans. We will not accept the usual business of explaining why things cannot be done right. We pride ourselves in being a people with the capacity and ability to resolve our problems. We must act in accordance with the creed that words are good but deeds are godly.

Thesis allowances and other allowances due graduate students must be paid in full and in good time to lessen the burden on students and families.

Efforts must be made facilitate the process for language students who are billed to pursue a year’s study abroad to do so without pain.

Employees under the National Youth Employment Programme cannot wait any longer. It is time for us to match our words with action. The employees have behaved as good citizens and the state must not push them any further. If we want to expand the programme and get the people to show commitment, we must show goodwill by paying those already engaged.

The Ministries of Education, the Ghana Education Service, the Ghana Health Service and the Controller and Accountant General’s Department must as a matter of urgency resolve all outstanding salary issues. It is unacceptable to wantonly frustrate young people as they contribute to the development of the country.

We wish to serve notice that if the problems catalogued above persist, the Union will be left with no choice but to embark a nationwide demonstration against the gross insensitivity to the predicament of students and the youth.

Mr. Chairman, colleague national officers, fellow students, I wish to also use this opportunity to speak out against the culture of harassment of female students by teachers. It is an aberration for our female colleagues to undergo the harrowing trauma from male teachers with ungodly demands. We are calling on school authorities to put measures in place to guarantee the female student her full rights and freedoms as enshrined in our national Constitution.

Let me express my profound appreciation to President Mills for his move to attach students to Members of Parliament as Research Assistants and call on him to make his pledge a reality. We must also remind him of another pledge to build for the students’ movement an office complex within two years. Such a facility is long overdue and we hopefully await his intervention.

Another issue of great concern to us is the increasing incidence of exam malpractice and the cancellation of examination results by the West African Examination Council. The situation puts a lot of strain on students and needs to be addressed.

WAEC must put their house in order stop the leakage of question papers. Authorities of schools must desist from the practice of chasing question papers to cheat the system. School authorities should be concerned with producing students of integrity and high moral standards. It is therefore wrong to introduce pupils and students cheating.

I also wish to congratulate all students elected by their respective institutions as leaders and call on those institutions yet to conduct their elections to do so in accordance with the rules of fairness.

While I bring my address to a close, let me take this opportunity, on behalf of NUGS, to advise university authorities to desist from dabbling in student politics. And while we are at it, let me caution that we will also resist any attempt by the authorities of any university or institution to increase Academic Facility User Fees arbitrarily. Instead, we expect school authorities to adopt cost saving measures and improve their internal revenue mobilization mechanisms.

We congratulate Senior High School and Junior High School students who just finished writing their examinations and wish those still writing, good luck. I wish all students across the country a fruitful national Students’ Day.

I hope we will not be forced to adopt any extreme measures to have our grievances addressed.

Long live the students’ struggle,
Long live NUGS
Long live our nation Ghana,
God bless Ghana and make it truly great and strong.

Thank you.

Signed:
Ishmael Tweneboa-Kodua
024-9206669
President

Malik Abass Daabu
0243150805
Press & Information Secretary

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