6 August 2012

Ghana: Student Nurses Kick Against Increases in Fees

Kumasi — THE GHANA Nurse and Midwife Trainees Association (GNMTA), an affiliate of the Ghana Registered Nurses Association (GRNA) has expressed shock at the increase in fees announced by the Ministry of Health (MOH) recently.

The association, with a membership of over thirty thousand student nurses, midwives and interns nationwide, is complaining of increases in feeding fee, library user fee, practical assessment fee, computer maintenance fee, developmental Levy and educational visit fees by MOH.

Other items such as semester examination, utilities and general maintenance, are said to have also suffered increments, according to the association.

It said the said increment meant an abrogation of their students' right to education, since most of them cannot afford to pay these exorbitant fees. The student nurse body expressed concern about the grand disparity that exists in the fees of different institutions offering a similar programmes in nursing education and has therefore requested that the MOH directs that a ceiling as to what can be charged per semester in all institutions and ensure their effective enforcement.

The nurses also raised concern about what they labelled as "repetitive levying," whereby institutions charge their students huge amounts every semester for a service that is rendered for only a semester and cited computer fees and educational trip fees which are, in some institutions, paid for the full six semesters but are enjoyed by students only once.

"GNMTA is against the sudden increment of about 100% in our school fees. This is too much of a burden on both students and parents", a statement issued by its National President, Mr. Ernest Sarpong in Kumasi has said.

According to the association, there has not been any occasion where increment in school fees has been over 100% with students paying between GH¢800.000 and GH¢1,100.00 per semester a situation which can lead to some students withdrawing from school because they simply cannot afford these huge sums.

The GNMTA said feeding fee has witnessed an increase from GH¢250.00 to GHc400.00 saying the quality of food in the various schools did not merit the old charge of GH¢250.00 students paid and that the current increment will not result in any further improvement in the food served.

In view of this, the students want the MOH to reduce the amounts being charged for feeding or scrap it totally from their school fees because elsewhere in other tertiary institutions, students are not fed yet they survive.

On library user fee, GNMTA mentioned an increment from GH¢15.00 to GHc30.00 per semester and said even though they recognize the important role of libraries in their education, the current fee of GH¢30.00 per semester is too much and explained that with an annual payment of GH¢60.00 per student, students in most schools are yet to see their libraries stocked with relevant modern books, alongside the very pertinent issue of the time frame within which students can access the library.

It noted that while classes officially close at 5 p.m. the libraries close at 6 p.m. or latest at 8 p.m.

anddoes not open at all on weekends, and pleaded with the MOH to revert to the old charge and ensure that principals use the money taken for the purposes of maintaining and stocking the library with better relevant books do exactly that.

The association also announced an increment in the practical assessment fee from GH¢20.00 to GH¢30.00 per Semester, even though students observe this only once in an academic year,saying in all cases students are made to pay additional amounts in order for the practical assessments to be taken.

It contended that students do see the need for an increment, since they have been supplementing payments and believe that it will continue to do so, irrespective of this increment and urged the MOH to help students and their parents by reverting to the old charge.

The computer maintenance fee has also been increased to GH¢30.00 from GH¢25.00 per semester, which the association sees as "an insult to student nurses and midwives all over Ghana", because computing as a course is done in only one semester in all the three years of training, despite the fact that not all schools have computer labs, and in some schools where they are fortunate enough to have them, students do not benefit from them because they are not allowed to go into the computer labs, let alone use them.

"In some schools also, where they exist, the computer labs are kept under lock and key; even during computer classes. Under such circumstances, it will be a shame for students to pay GH¢60.00 per annum for computer maintenance," the association declared.

On the item of developmental levy, GNMTA said the payment of GH¢100.00 per annum, though laudable, has not reflected on their various campuses since the MOH introduced it a year ago and do not see the need for any increment since the GH¢30.00 charged per semester previously for general maintenance is hardly used to maintain school infrastructure by the various principals.

The association cited an instance of the case of the two Psychiatric nursing training institutions, namely the Ankaful and Pantang NTCs which have very poor facilities for regular students, as well as affiliates from all over Ghana, though they have been paying maintenance levy for years and pleaded for an 80% reduction in the development levy because they believed effective development can still go on with the reduced amount, since the charge is supposed to support the government in developing the schools and not meant to be the sole responsibility of poor parents and students.

The GNMTA argued that most schools did not go on educational visits and even when they have to embark on such trips, students still pay for it despite having been charged for it and called on the MOH to remove it from their fees totally, so that if students are to embark on educational visits they will bear the cost as they have been doing.

As a result, the GNMTA has issued an ultimatum to the Health Ministry to, as a matter of urgency, call for a stakeholders meeting with their representation to amicably discuss the fees of their continuing students and the remunerations of their intern nurses to address their concerns or they will "advice themselves".

Centre 3rd

DISAPPEARED LAW DRAFT RESURFACES By John Bediako

The draft legislation to ban the exportation of ferrous scrap metal which reportedly disappeared from the Ministry of Trade and Industry has resurfaced at the same ministry's legal department, The Chronicle has learnt.

Our sources have hinted that the draft law is now back to the Attorney General's office on its way to Parliamentary for approval.

The Chronicle's intelligence has gathered that following the media exposé on Tuesday of the disappeared draft, the Ministry of Trade and the Attorney General's office decided to redeem their image.

A team made up of officials from the two sectors went into action and conducted 'surgical operation' from office to office, and their effort paid off when the draft was finally located among files at the legal department of the Ministry of Trade.

Cheers were heard from afar, which greeted the discovery, and the search team leader placed the draft document in his armpit, and soon made his way out, followed by other members in a single file.

The team then headed to the draft law office, room 26 of the Attorney General's office and cautioned those in-charge to expedite action since the media was policing the draft to parliament until it becomes a law to protect the local steel industry.

Our telescopic eye spotted a correction, 'Ghana Standards Authority', which was earlier printed as Ghana Standards Board among others, being the only rough edges the Ministry of Trade had gone to smoothen.

The Ministry of Trade and Industries in 2004 slapped an administrative ban on the export of ferrous scrap metal in other to protect the local steel industry but the sector is asking for Legislative Instrument (LI) protection to fight the illegal exportation business which has assumed alarming height.

To protect local steel industries, some African countries, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroun, Ethiopia, Egypt, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sudan and Malawi have passed legislations to ban the exportation of ferrous scrap metal.

The steel industries in these countries are, therefore, flourishing after the ban and have enough scrap metals to feed the mills and subsequently encouraging investors into the respective countries to set up more plants.

In the end, because scrap metal is available and cheaper for production, these nations can compete among themselves in their economic blocks on the continent of Africa.

The Chronicle's finding is that if the legislation is passed and intensive monitoring takes place to avoid illegal exportation, more investors will troop into the country to set up new plants and this would mean the creation of more employment for the citizens, the importation of construction steel will be discouraged thereby saving the country huge foreign exchange, especially the dollar.

Coupled with stable electricity, the nation stands the chance to improve its economy for the local steel industry will feed on local raw material and not import scrap and billets from outside the country.

Today, with the scramble for scraps between exporters and local companies, Tema Steel, Ferro Fabrik, Special Steel, and Western Steel, can only produce a total of 20,000 metric tons of iron rods per month whereas Sentuo (formerly WAHOME) a Chinese government and Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) venture alone can deliver the same tonnage in the same period.

This is due to the fact that Sentuo decided to march the exporters dollar for dollar in the pricing, a competition the other companies could not stand hence intermittent shutdowns.

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