Trainee nurses were lined up to say thank you to the President, Nana Akufo-Addo for restoring their allowances scrapped by the previous government.
The "thank you's" was supervised by the Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang Manu at the launch of the restoration of the Nurses and Midwife Trainee Allowances at the Brong Ahafo Regional capital, Sunyani.
The restoration puts more than ₵23.2million monthly bill over 10 months on government with each of the about 58,000 trainees expected to receive ₵400 per month. The total annual bill is ₵232million.
The restoration took effect from September 2017. The last time the trainees received the allowance was in 2014.
That gap from 2014 to 2017 saw some heavy political fight between then opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) and governing National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The social democratic NDC supposed to be the protector of the poor was seen to have done the exact opposite. The Liberal democratic NPP with its perceived 'you are on your own' ideology also did the opposite of its ideological playbook by promising to restore the allowance.
It looked like a bi-partisan ideological understanding between the NPP and NDC that exchange is no robbery.
While the NPP vowed the restoration was non-negotiable, the NDC led by former President John Mahama was stoic that he would rather lose the elections than lose his principles.
The President lost both after his government tried to partially restore the allowance when the political heat proved too much.
So after taking political spoils from the war over training allowances, the NPP government wants to mark its commitment to the restoration promise by organising a launch at the Nursing and Midwifery College in Sunyani.
Hundreds of students are well packed at the venue of the launch to give the administrative process of restoration a touch of great achievement.
The celebration of the allowance is only a foretaste of heavy trumpeting of an achievement with the next election three years away.
Students from nearby training colleges also joined. Health Minister and his Deputy, Information Minister Mustapha Hamid and his Deputy Perry Okudzeto and Council of State member from the Brong Ahafo Region were present to witness the 'celebration'.
But critics point out that the restoration of the allowance means Colleges of Education are going to limit admissions according to the budgetary allocation for the allowance.
Nonetheless, the Health Minister described the restoration as having the potential to "change the course of national history". He credited this to the "good judgment" of the President's "visionary" and "selfless leadership" and paused for applause to follow.
Just before the President arrives, some excitement tore through the gathering. Students rushed out, screaming about the alert.
Some students had just received text messages confirming receipt of their 'alawa' in what appeared a perfectly synchronised 'coincidence'.
"We are getting indications that some of the allowances have hit their respective accounts", the Health Minister confirmed it during his speech.
Joy News Brong Ahafo Regional correspondent, Precious Semevor reported that about five students were lined up to express their gratitude to the president.
The Health Minister paused his speech to conduct interviews with some of the students.
"Have you gotten yours? And what do you tell the president," he asked one of them.
Taking the hint with gladness, she responded, "His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, thank you very much. God bless."
The nurses say the ₵400 will keep them off the backs of their parents in requesting for 'chop money'. Already, free Senior High School policy rolled out by the government is also keeping headteachers off the backs of parents in demanding school fees.
Trainee nurses pay about ₵2000 per semester as tuition. This makes at least ₵4,000 a year. The government is paying ₵400 to cover 10 months of each year. This makes it ₵4,000 in allowance.
In essence, the government is paying back the students after they pay their tuition. It is a somewhat zero-sum game for, in reality, it means nursing trainee education is free - almost.
Photo: President Akufo-Addo arrives for the launch
Timeline of the politics of trainee allowance payments
- Trainee allowances were introduced in the 60's by President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of the Convention People’s Party.
- It was cancelled in the 70's by the Progress Party government led by Dr. Abrefa Busia. The NPP is an off-shoot of the Progress Party.
- The PNDC government under Flt Lt Rawlings re-introduced in the 80's to check an exodus of trained teachers to Nigeria.
- A quota system was put in place to set the number of students that a College of Education can admit based on how many students the government could afford to pay.
- The quota system is believed to have led to a decline in admissions to Colleges of Education.
- Some 20 years of the quota system, the Colleges are said to be operating below 45 percent of their capacity.
- In 2014, the NDC government cancels the allowance.
- In September 2017 the NPP government restores it.
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