Parliament yesterday approved a financing agreement between the government of Ghana and the International Development Association for an amount Ghana $ 156 million dollar to finance the Ghana Secondary School Education Improvement Project.
The project which forms part of government's promise to build 200 new Senior High Schools across the country is in response to the demand for secondary education.
Out of the facility, an amount of $15.6 million will go into scholarship for 10,400 students from low income families with emphasis on girls to pursue senior high education, $98.9 million for the construction of 23 new Senior High Schools in selected districts and $ 9.0 million for the upgrade of 75 existing SHS.
Part of that amount will also be used to expand 50 schools to increase capacity to absorb more students.
Moving the motion for the adoption of the Finance Committee's report of the facility, Chairman of the Committee, James Klutse Avedzi, informed members that the facility has an interest rate of 1.25 percent, a repayment period of 20 years, a commitment charge of 0.5 per cent per annum on principal and a maturity period of 25 years.
He noted that an amount of US$ 15.9 million has been allocated for management research, monitoring and evaluation, adding that "this component aims at strengthening the capacity of relevant implementing agencies to ensure effective project implementation, monitor and evaluate projects results and performance, as well as strengthen ongoing and new data collection, monitoring and information management systems."
He informed members that the selection of beneficiaries of the scholarships would be based on students who take care of themselves, disable students and orphans without support, students living with HIV /AIDS, students from the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) beneficiary households, students with sickle cell disease and teenage mothers without support.
He noted that, the $500 scholarship allocation per student for each academic year is expected to cover items such as sanitary pads, rulers, pens and pencils, math sets, school bags, school uniform fabrics, school Uniform, school sandals, note books as well as other approved fees and levies on the student's bill.
Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Dr. Anthony Akoto-Osei, who seconded the motion, however, expressed concerns over the use of the facility and wondered why the House could approve a loan to procure sanitary pads, pens and pencils, as well as rulers amongst others for secondary school students.
He further questioned the rationale behind agreeing to use an amount of $15.9 million on research, monitoring and evaluation; an amount which is far higher than the amount quoted to take care of scholarships for 10,400 students which is $15.6 million.
Dr. Akoto-Osei, who is also the NPP MP for Old Tafo wondered how a student from a large household unable to afford to send all children to school and a teenage mother without support should be a beneficiary of the facility.
After a long arguments for and against the approval of the facility, the 2nd Deputy Speaker, Ebo Barton Oduro who was in the Chair put the question for the adoption of the facility and ruled in favour of the majority, after a voice vote but the decision which did not auger well with the minority.
The Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu called for a head count which was eventually effected living the minority with 83 votes as against the majority who pulled 105 votes. The minority leader in response to his sides defeat indicated that "all my side wanted was to have it as part of the official record that, we opposed the approval of the facility."
The project is expected to be implemented over a five-year period and to take effect from October 1, 2014 to November 30, 2019 as scholarship for students in deprived areas who may have difficulties in paying their fees.
Source: ISD (Gilbert Ankrah)