About 45,000 teacher trainees in 41 public colleges of education will, from next month, receive GH¢204 each as monthly allowance from the Students Loan Trust Fund (SLTF).
Although each student is entitled to GH¢400, part of that — GH¢196 — will go directly to the colleges to pay for trainees’ utilities and feeding.
The amount is, however, GH¢248 less than the GH¢452 the trainees were receiving after deductions before the allowance was scrapped in the 2013/2014 academic year by the previous government.
The National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) will handle the funds that will be given to the colleges.
The Chief Executive of the SLTF, Nana Kwaku Agyei Yeboah, told the Daily Graphic that the SLTF met the principals of the colleges “to be on the same page with them”.
Not a loan
He said the allowance was not a loan and that beneficiaries would not be required to pay it back, explaining that the trust was selected to disburse the allowance because it had the structures to ensure transparency and accountability.
The restoration of the allowance was one of the topical issues in the run-up to the 2016 general election, with the New Patriotic Party (NPP) promising to restore it if it won the elections.
A number of teacher trainees had depended on the allowance for survival while in the colleges of education, but it was the argument of the Mahama administration that it was an impediment to admitting more trainees because of a quota system that prevented the admission of more students.
Nana Yeboah said the SLTF met principals of the colleges of education last weekend to discuss the requirements needed by each school and trainee to access the allowance.
The principals have, accordingly, been asked to submit information, including the names of their registered trainee students for the academic year, their levels, identification numbers, enrolment years, expected completion years, programmes of study and nationalities.
The trainees are also required to have E-zwich account numbers, valid and active phone numbers and social security numbers.
Those requirements, Nana Yeboah said, were to prevent impersonation by people, including foreigners, who were not qualified to benefit from the allowance.
He said teacher trainees in private colleges of education were not qualified because of a government policy, but he was quick to add that the students’ loan scheme was an alternative for such trainees.
He said the trust had put measures in place to ensure that the funds did not end up in the wrong pockets.
According to the chief executive, the SSNIT number and the E-zwich account were unique indemnifiers and, therefore, it was easy to detect if a trainee was not qualified and also identify any kind of scam.
He said the amount would be disbursed monthly while the trainees were in school but the payment would be stopped when they were on vacation.
On the nursing trainee allowance, he said the SLTF was, at the moment, not in charge of that because with the teacher trainees, the fund received the green light from the Ministry of Education.
“We don’t have the permission to do that for the nursing trainees. There is an ongoing dialogue with the Ministry of Health. If it gives us the green light, we will be disbursing that as well. It has been restored but as to who will disburse it, I don’t have the answer.
“What will get a principal in trouble will be the amount he or she is responsible for. If something goes amiss, then the principals will be held responsible. We are depending on them to give us the true list of students.
“The teacher trainees we’ve met are happy that the allowance has been restored. Most of them were not happy that the allowance was taken away and replaced with the loan scheme,” Nana Yeboah said.
He, however, said those who took the loan earlier would repay it because they had a prior engagement or contract.
“Those who took the loan will pay back but not immediately. After they have graduated, they will have two years’ grace period to start paying,” he explained.
The Head of Operations of the SLTF, Mr Kofi Abbew Nkrumah, said after school, students had up to eight years to pay the loans they took.
The minimum loan was GH¢1,000 and the maximum GH¢2,000, depending on the results of a needs assessment done by the trust.
A teacher trainee of the Accra College of Education who spoke to the Daily Graphic on condition of anonymity, while applauding the government for restoring the allowance,however, said the amount was smaller than expected.
“I thought the government was sticking to the old figures. The amount it is giving us now is just about GH¢7 a day. But that is still better than nothing. It is better than being saddled with a debt for some years to come,” the trainee, who has taken the loan for a year, said.
The Mahama administration scrapped the payment of the allowances in the 2013/2014 academic year and replaced it with loans from the SLTF, arguing that it would increase enrolment in the various colleges of education and reduce the financial burden on the government.
In December last year, a Deputy Minister of Education in the erstwhile NDC government, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, said the abolition of the teacher trainee allowances had increased enrolment in the colleges of education by 63.8 per cent.
He explained that before then, admission to the colleges was restricted by a quota system, with the colleges admitting only 40 per cent of their capacity, in view of the financial considerations.
That, according to him, prevented many prospective applicants from gaining admission to the colleges and that resulted in teacher deficit in the classrooms.
He said with the scrapping of the allowances and the quota system, enrolment into the colleges of education increased from 27,000 to 47,000 in the 38 colleges.
According to Ministry of Education statistics, considering the current enrolment figure of 47,000 in the colleges, the government would have spent GH¢282 million on allowances last year if the allowance regime had been in place, since each student received GH¢500 a year.
However, the NPP, during its 2016 election campaign, insisted that the country still needed more teachers and nurses and pledged to introduce the allowances, since they served as motivation for many to attend nursing colleges and colleges of education.