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Naana Opoku-Agyemang: NDC didn’t scrap teacher trainee allowance

Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, NDC running mate 2020, is a former education minister and senior academic

Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang was the NDC running mate in 2020

Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, the 2020 vice-presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), has said that her party did not scrap the controversial teacher trainee allowance, but rather replaced it with a loan scheme.

She said the decision was to ensure that the students had access to more money for their upkeep while undergoing training.

Speaking at Wesley College in the Ashanti Region, the former education minister said that some people had claimed on various broadcast programmes that the allowances were scrapped and that monies owed to trainees had been withheld.

“I need to emphasise that we never scrapped the allowance,” Professor Opoku-Agyemang said. “We never took anybody’s money from them. All those who were receiving the allowance, received [it] till it ended.”

She argued that the loans that were granted the teacher trainees were twice the amount given to them as allowances.

“We gave them the loans, that was about twice what they were getting as allowances, because we thought they needed more.

“So, the people who came on air saying ‘Because of my allowance I cannot pay my fees’ were lying, and I was saddened by that, because nobody took their money from them,” Opoku-Agyemang said.

Teacher trainees’ allowances took centre stage in the lead-up to the 2016 elections after the John Mahama government scrapped it in 2014. President Nana Akufo-Addo restored the allowance in 2017.

Why we scrapped trainee teachers’ allowances – Education Minister

In a report published by the Graphic Online on 2 December 2013, Opoku-Agyemang defended the then government’s decision to scrap allowances for students in colleges of education (also known as teacher training colleges) across the country.

The report read as follows:

The decision to scrap the GHC400 monthly allowance has been unpopular among trainee teachers across the country, with some of them wearing red arm bands to classrooms in a bid to impress upon the government to restore the allowance.

Prof Opoku-Agyemang is, however, convinced that the decision is a good one.

According to her, since colleges of education have become degree-awarding institutions, it would be inappropriate to pay allowances to their students without extending a similar gesture to trainee teachers at institutions such as the University of Cape Coast and the University of Education, Winneba.

“[A] college of education is a tertiary institution, just as universities are tertiary institutions. It’s difficult to understand why [students of] one should be paid to learn. In terms of justice, in terms of equity, it didn’t sound like a good idea,” she told the Accra-based Radio Gold on Monday.

Professor Opoku-Agyemang said due to the huge sums of money required to pay the allowance of trainee teachers, Colleges of education were unable to admit students beyond a certain government-defined quota.

The scrapping of the allowance, she said, has now opened the way for many more students to be admitted.

Explaining further, she said enrolment in the colleges of education increased from 9,000 to 15,400 this year as a result of the allowance cut.

“It’s a matter of opening the door to many more people. Education is important. Many more people must have access to education and this is what we are doing,” the minister said.

Unapproved fees

Touching on the Ministry of Education’s drive to ensure that only fees approved by the Ghana Education Service (GES) are charged by secondary schools across the country, Professor Opoku-Agyemang said a hotline would be set up to enable parents to report schools that charge unapproved fees.

According to her, “extortionary measures” had been used by some schools to compel students to pay between GHC1,500 and GHC1,700 in school fees instead of about GHC600.

She said action had been taken against some school heads that were found to have charged such unapproved fees.

The minister said efforts to clamp down on many more of such school heads were being hampered by the reluctance of some parents to report unapproved charges out of fear that their children will be victimised.

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