By William Nlanjerbor JALULAH/Top News Ghana
Once again, the NDC government has incurred the wrath of BONABOTO by refusing to release feeding grants months after it had directed heads of Second Cycle Institutions in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions to reopen their schools because there were enough funds to cater for their students’ feeding needs.
In a strongly worded press statement, BONABOTO called on all heads of the affected institutions in the three regions to close down their schools if no funds are made available by the end of October 2016. This is to enable the students return home and let their parents know about their plight.
Issued and signed by Vitus Adaboo Azeem, National President of BONABOTO and his executives, the statement also warned BONABOTO may have no choice than to mobilise its membership as well as the affected students to demonstrate in the various towns where they are located to compel the government to act positively on the matter.
Below is the full statement;
GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO PAY SHS FEEDING GRANTS
BONABOTO, ACCRA. 18th October, 2016
For the past two weeks, BONABOTO has taken time to check on the fulfilment of the promise by the government that it has paid feeding grants to the Senior Secondary Schools in the three Northern regions. We talked to some Heads of these schools, students and other stakeholders during this period and found no evidence of any such payment. This was confirmed this week by the Headmaster of Tamale Senior High School on behalf of his colleagues. This is in spite of the government’s public announcement that it has released funds to the Senior High Schools in the three Northern Regions as feeding grant. Sadly, the government has secretly indicated that it has no funds to pay the feeding grants and has directed the headmasters and headmistresses of the said schools to use the fees that the students pay to feed them. The heads have had no choice than to comply.
What most of the heads have also done is to actually use the fees that the students have paid for other purposes to feed the students. The schools have, therefore, been deprived of the use of these fees for purpose for which they were levied. However, the most depressing result of this directive is that the heads have also prevented the students who cannot pay the fees from entering the dining halls and, therefore, from feeding from the school. BONABOTO finds the situation untenable because it knows that if the government sees the feeding grants of our SHS students as a priority, it will find the money to pay.
BONABOTO has complained severally about the perennial delays and sometimes refusals of governments to pay the feeding grant of the students of the SHS in the three Northern regions but to no avail. It is sad that the Mahama-led government which includes persons who have benefited from this facility in the past should fail and/or refuse to make the payment of feeding grants to the schools a priority.
Without any relief to the schools and the students from this continuous hardship, the heads are compelled to purchase foodstuffs on credit and continue to be harassed by the suppliers who have lost patience as a result of government’s failure to release the funds to the schools. The suppliers also tend to sell the foodstuffs to the schools at very high prices to make up for the long delays which sometimes result in high interests on loans taken from the banks. It is regrettable that the feeding grants, which are supposed to have been budgeted for, have been pending for more than one year. BONABOTO wants to re-iterate its point made in an earlier Press Release that the perennial occurrence of this issue and its consequential effects on the entire Northern part of this country suggest that, as a nation, we have lost total focus on the undisputed fact that education is an essential ingredient in containing under-development, reducing poverty and, above all, could create to civil unrest as witnessed in other countries in Africa.
BONABOTO wants to remind our leaders, particularly our representatives in Parliament, that they have failed the people who have elected them to represent them. BONABOTO is saddened by the fact that no single Parliamentarian from the three Northern regions has made this an issue of debate and/or called on the Ministers of Finance and Education to answer questions on government’s failure to address this perennial issue. The students have had to endure this deliberate marginalizing action or inaction by various governments, which have contributed to the widening development disparities in this country while their colleagues in other parts of the country benefit from other scholarships.
BONABOTO has no option than to conclude that this action or inaction of the government is a deliberate and carefully crafted policy, supported by our own representatives in government whose children do not face these problems, to keep the northern part of the country in perpetual underdevelopment and, hence, to continue widening the inequality gap. The policy was put in place because as a country, we all acknowledged that there is a developmental gap between the north and south, especially with regards to education, that ought to be bridged. This unfortunate but avoidable situation is, therefore, a testament of bad faith from government, in fact, all governments, present and past, of a deliberate marginalization tactic and an affront to our collective conscience as a nation.
BONABOTO wishes to call on the government to, as a matter of urgency, settle all outstanding arrears owed the schools in the three Northern regions to salvage the schools from collapse, a situation that will otherwise worsen the already unsatisfactory performance of students in the schools in this part of the country.
Finally, BONABOTO wishes to call on all heads of the SHS in the three Northern regions to close down the schools if no funds are received by the end of the month to enable the students return home and let their parents know about their plight. BONABOTO may also have no choice than to mobilise its membership as well as the students who are suffering this plight to demonstrate in the various towns where they are located to compel the government to act positively on the matter. BONABOTO also calls on all other people and groups from the three Northern regions and others who have the people of the three Northern regions at heart should to join BONABOTO to fight this worthy cause.
Issued by the BONABOTO National Secretariat, Accra
Vitus Adaboo Azeem
Andrews Akolaa (PhD)
National Vice President
BONABOTO is an Association of Citizens of the Bolgatanga, Nangode, Bongo and Tongo towns and their environs. It is a non-partisan developmental association that has been in existence since the early 1990s.