Over the years, Ghanaian Public Universities have continuously increased fees in every academic year without any regulatory legislative framework until 2009 when Ghanaian Parliament saw the need to establish an Act of Parliament to regulate the rate at which University Managements charge fees.
This decision by Parliament, therefore, gave birth to the Fees and Charges Act 2009 (ACT 793, amendment 2016). Even that, public tertiary institutions were not adhering to this ACT until last year when all public tertiary institutions were directed to adhere to this legal provision.
According to the ACT, all public tertiary institutions MUST submit their proposed fees to Parliament through the Ministry of Education (MoE). This ACT has been in existence since 2009 but it became operational just last year when the MoE, through the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE), directed all public universities to submit their fees and charges to Parliament for approval.
The story about next academic year’s fees is not told differently as a letter from the MoE is directing all public universities to submit their proposed fees for 2018/2019 academic year to Parliament for approval.
This means that until the proposed fees for 2018/2019 academic year are approved, all public universities must maintain the fees charged for the 2017/2018 academic year.
University students across the country have seen this directive as refreshing and welcoming and a sigh of relief to them since university students have been victims of the astronomic hikes in fees for the past years.
Recently, former president, John Agyekum Kufuor, was reported to have appealed to Parliament to expedite action on the approval of the fees for next academic year.
In Mr. Kufuor’s view, he intimated that the delay in approving the fees will disrupt activities on the academic calendar of the universities.
Former president Kufuor was reported to have said this at the 10th Graduation Ceremony of the George Grant’s University of Mines and Technology at Tarkwa in the Western region.
I perfectly agree with the former President when he said: “Approval of the 18/19 fees will enable universities to seamlessly fulfill their obligations in order to continue with their mandate of teaching, research and extension services, and smooth running of the 2018/2019 academic year”.
The questions that however come to mind are, should we be interested in appealing to Parliament to fast-track the approval of these fees?
What exactly are the individual components of these fees? How exactly are these figures arrived at? Are students, through their leadership (SRCs, USAG, NUGS, TTAG, among others) consulted?
Are these student leaders given a fair opportunity to make inputs into the fees or it is the normal. We are management and so what we say is final?”
Do these students even know the components of the fees? Are there proper justifications or bases for the increment in fees? Is the increment hinged on real economic factors such as inflation? Or it is a matter of ‘fees must go up every year and so we (management) think that it should go up by 25% without due recourse to inflation rate? Have these fees been used judiciously over the years?
Do university managements properly account for these fees to students? Can they even account for it at all? Are students really getting value for the monies they often pay as fees or it is simply students paying fees for maintenance of lecture theatres meanwhile these lecture theatres do not get the necessary renovation? Are there certain illegal components in the fees schedule?
Have these public universities been getting their priorities right? Do they really use these fees for teaching and research work? Or they are interested in buying big cars for their comfort?
Do they prioritise teaching and research over the purchase of so many sophisticated and luxurious cars for central administration, colleges, faculties and departments?
Are these university managements not interested in using these monies for unnecessary allowances and small chops (item 13) during meetings? Are these universities getting their priorities right at all? Over the years, how many lecture theatres and hostels( halls) have been built out of these fees? Even when was the last time new lecture theatres and hostels were put up in these universities? These and many others are a number of questions which Ghanaian University students seek answers to in order for them and all stakeholders concerned to appreciate the need for payment and increment of University Fees.
I would rather suggest that proper scrutiny of these documents (proposed fees) and a broader consultation are done for all relevant stakeholders in order to arrive at a decision accepted by all than urging Parliament to fast-track approval of these proposed fees. If not, the purpose of the Fees and Charges Act would be defeated.
God Bless Our Homeland Ghana.
By: John Kpodo (Sir John)
The writer is a student at UCC