Is nursing education in Ghana for sale?
The health sector of every country is one of the key components that contribute to the socio-economic transformation of that country. A country that is serious about its development usually pays very close attention to its health sector by making sure that health facilities are adequately equipped to facilitate healthcare delivery.
The major resource of every organisation is its human resource and it is heartwarming to know that Ghana has put premium on the human resource development of its health sector as a way of ensuring that quality health care is delivered to her citizenry.
Expansion in health training
The establishment of new health training institutions and the expansion of existing facilities demonstrate the government’s commitment to ensuring that people who are put in our health facilities to render services to patients are well trained to deliver those jobs.
One major area in the health sector that has seen massive expansion in terms of training opportunities in the country is nursing. The country has witnessed the establishment of many health training institutions such as health assistants’ training schools, community health training schools, midwifery training colleges and nursing training colleges.
While the establishment of these health training institutions is laudable because they have opened job opportunities for many youth, who otherwise may not have been employed as a result of lack of knowledge and skills to work in health facilities, there are a lot of issues regarding admission and training in these health institutions that need to be addressed.
I have followed admission procedures of some nursing training institutions for the past two years and it appears that innocent students seeking admission to these institutions are defrauded.
Students seeking admission to some nursing training institutions are made to pay “interviewing fees” in addition to the admission form they buy. The average amount charged by health training institutions this year as ‘interviewing fees’ was about GHc100 per student.
What is “interviewing fees”? And how is it accounted for by the principals of these training institutions? My investigations revealed that some health institutions received as many as 4,000 applications and every applicant was invited for an interview while the authorities of these institutions knew for a certainty that they would not admit more than 100 candidates. Just multiply GH¢100 by 4,000 and that is a whopping GH¢400,000 !
In addition to the interviewing fees, students are also made to pay between GH¢50 and GH¢60 during the interview for the confirmation of their results. I need a little education here. Are the results of prospective students confirmed before they gain admission to institutions or the confirmation is done after they have been admitted? And if it is only those who are admitted who have their results confirmed, what happens to the fees paid by the unsuccessful candidates for the confirmation of their results?
High school fees
Another issue that baffles me is the amount of money paid by students as school fees in these health training institutions.
This year, I decided to make a comparison between the fees paid in the universities by nursing students and those paid in the health training institutions by the students applying for the certificate and diploma courses.
In the University of Cape Coast, for example, first year resident BSc Nursing students paid GH¢2,696 while the non-resident students paid GH¢2,034 per anum. Resident continuing students paid GH¢2,184, while their non-resident counterparts paid GH¢1,522.
At the College of Health Sciences of the University of Ghana, Legon, first year B Sc and B A nursing students paid GH¢1,855 for the 2015/2016 academic year while the continuing students paid GH¢1,575.
As evidenced from the foregoing, no student in any university paid up to GH¢3,000 per annum and these are groups of students who are studying for a degree in nursing.
The situation is, however, different in the health assistants training schools and midwifery and nursing training colleges. First-year students in some of these institutions were made to pay almost GH¢5,000 as school fees! The average school fees paid by the continuing students was around GH¢2,200 per semester. It means that those who paid this amount would pay GH¢4,400 per year.
Differences in fees
My question is, why should certificate and diploma students in these health training institutions pay twice the amount paid by their degree counterparts in the universities? Or do non-degree nursing students now pay tuition fees? Again, what accounts for the non-uniformity of the fees paid in these health training institutions?
The fees of Nalerigu Health Assistants Training School differs from those at Lawra and Damongo. Likewise, the fees of Sunyani Nursing Training College is lower than that of Jirapa and Tamale.
What accounts for the differences in fees among these institutions? Or they are now autonomous and can,therefore, determine their own fees?
As a country, have we considered the social consequences of this unbridled increase in the fees of institutions that are usually patronised by wards of parents of the lower class? I learnt that the school fees at the teacher training colleges are in no way better.
How many teachers, nurses, labourers or civil servants can pay this GH¢5,000 per annum? And as a country, are we saying that the poor should no longer send their wards to school?
Who are those responsible for fixing these fees, by the way? Do they consider the general salary levels in the country before doing so?
I think the authorities concerned should do something about these school fees as a matter of urgency and the Parliamentary Select Committees for Education and Health should look into the admission process for health training institutions and sanitise the system.
Until that is done, students seeking admission to these health institutions will continue to be defrauded by some people and the poor will continue to get poorer as many of them cannot finance the education of their wards beyond the senior high school level.
By: Marcelinus Dery
The writer is with the Department of Communication Studies,
University of Cape Coast.