The teacher and nursing trainee allowances withdrawal has assumed political twists with politicians and especially the opposition seemingly taking advantage over something that is expected to lift a burden off government no matter which government comes to power in 2017.
What I know for a fact is that the allowances were swapped because Government wanted to create more opportunities for all and not the few who have had opportunity over the years.
To this end, the allowances were swapped with the introduction of the Students Loan Trust. This came about as a result of the new status granted teacher and nursing trainees – Diploma Certificates.
It remain a fact that diploma certificates were hitherto awarded by tertiary institutions. Students from these institutions were to look for jobs on their own after completion of their various courses. Under those circumstances, they were to consult with the Students Loan Trust for financial support for their education.
The situation with trainee institutions are that students are guaranteed employment after completion of school. In addition to that, their certificate status has improved warranting increased remuneration.
It is important to access the motivation for the introduction of these allowances. The government of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah wanted to motivate people to take up teaching and nursing for the young nation, Ghana. This policy was later abolished by the then Busia administration when its relevance was still rife.
Fast forward, the Rawlings administration reintroduced the policy to enable more students have the motivation to take up those professions.
Today, government is overwhelmed with the numbers. There are more teacher trainees in the system as there are trainee nurses. Employing these chunk had remained a challenge for the Kufour administration as was under Mills and now Mahama.
Meanwhile, there were those who would wish to take up private engagements but who were constrained because of the bond they had with government from the benefits of these allowances.
Today, due to the swapping of the allowances and the removal of the quota system, intake into teacher and nursing training colleges have shot up to some 63%. Have we paused for a moment to ask where these 63% would have been had the quota system remained?
I think it is this point that any discussions on these allowances must be situated. The allowances had their benefits; augmenting those who do not have the wherewithal to pay their fees.
It also remain a fact that the withdrawal/swap was to be phased out. Those who gained admissions prior to the removal of the allowances are still being paid their allowances. Any student who applied to be enrolled in teacher and nursing training colleges after the withdrawal/swap were aware of the situation. One could not claim they have been treated unfairly when the facility never existed at the time they applied.
It also remain a fact that government continue to pay feeding grants for all students admitted even after the allowances were removed.
Today, the benefit this comes with include the fact that students are free to switch their preference of work. They are no longer bonded to serve government over a stipulated time.
The window is opened for those who wish to work for government to apply to be absorbed. If we can look at the benefits this new scheme offers our fellow compatriots, we can begin reassessing the way we are playing politics with this issue.
We must also look at the many who have had opportunity to be enrolled into these institutions who hitherto would not have had the chance. Stories abound of many who tried unsuccessfully on may occasions to gain admission. Today, such people would remain grateful for a government policy that had given them opportunity.
If anyone is promising a reintroduction of the policy, ask a few questions. Today, these trainee institutions have become tertiary institutions. Would all tertiary institutions receive these allowances? Would the government maintain the policy of schools admitting to full capacity? Or would there be the reintroduction of the quota system which would deny 63% access to these trainee institutions? These are critical questions that require specific answers the basis upon which we can all make political meaning out of these political promises.
M. Baba Latifa/GhanaPoliticsonline.com