The government has expressed hope that accrued arrears from various scholarship programmes over recent years, will be cleared by the middle of 2018.
Speaking on Eyewitness News on Thursday, the Deputy Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said that the government was committed to ensuring that beneficiaries of scholarships from the government receive what is due them.
According to him, the current administration had spent large sums on clearing the backlog of arrears that had built up over the years, and was hopeful that by the second part of 2018, all outstanding payments would have been made.
“The question of why stipends for beneficiaries of scholarships sometimes delay, is a question of funding of the Secretariat, and of the priorities of any particular administration,” Mr. Oppong Nkrumah said.
“We have in this fiscal year spent heavy amounts of money in clearing a lot of the arrears in the Secretariat because in previous years, because a lot of people were being enrolled on scholarships, but government money was not adequate, people were put on and there was no money from the Secretariat.”
Scholarship or hardship?
Many concerns have been raised about the apparent neglect of Ghanaian students abroad who are beneficiaries of scholarships from the government.
The students consistently complain that they struggle to make ends meet due to delays and sometimes outright non-payment of allowance due them.
A Ghanaian student in Morocco told citifmonline.com in November that scholarship beneficiaries are supposed to get $250 dollars a month from the Ghana government for upkeep, which is the only money they have access to for living expenses, as they are not allowed to work, per their agreement with the Morocco government.
“The only source of income we have is the money that comes from the government of Ghana, which is $250 a month, and $300 for health allowance per year, and then the book allowance. So that is what we rely on, and when it doesn’t come, it puts us in this particular situation, ” one of the students said.
The students lamented that no support has come from the government since February 2017, a situation that is pushing them to the edge of desperation.
The situation is similar in other countries hosting Ghanaian scholarship beneficiaries, particularly Russia and Cuba.
Kojo Oppong Nkrumah explained that, the arrears had built up over the years because government at the time had approved persons for scholarships despite not making any budgetary allocations to them.
“We’ve been paying down a lot of those arrears and gradually trying to close that gap to ensure that once we have students there, we budget adequately and pay for them. And we are expecting that hopefully by the middle of 2018 and on wards, we will not have students under scholarships who don’t have budgetary allocations.”
The issue has been brought under the spotlight after government stated that it would allow the Scholarship Secretariat to administer the funds meant for the free Senior High School programme.
The Minority in Parliament, led by Haruna Iddrisu, have slammed this plan, stating that the Scholarship Secretariat should be left to focus on addressing the concerns of the stranded beneficiaries.
“The Scholarship Secretariat deals with scholarships. This [the Fre SHS policy], is a major government policy of providing bursaries to ensure free secondary education… the scholarship secretariat must focus on Cuban students, Ghanaians students in Moscow, ” Haruna Iddrisu said.