NUGS kicks against payment of utility bills
The National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) has expressed concern about attempts by the Vice Chancellors, Ghana (VCG) and the government to compel students to pay utility bills.
The NUGS said making students to pay utility bills was additional financial cost for students, especially for the ordinary Ghanaian student.
The student body, therefore, encouraged VCG to seek ways of making the government pay utility bills instead of passing them on to the students.
This was contained in a statement signed by the President and the Information Secretary of NUGS, Mr Paa-Quecy Adu and Mr Thomas Takyi-Bonsu respectively and issued in Accra yesterday.
However, the Deputy Minister of Education in charge of Tertiary Education, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, explained that the government had not taken any decision to compel students to pay utility bills.
He said the government’s decision that education and health institutions be exempted from the disconnection exercise embarked on by the Electricity Company of Ghana had not been changed.
The students later Tuesday tried to present a petition to the leadership of Parliament but they were prevented from doing so by police personnel on guard duties.
In the press statement, the students said as the highest decision-making body “we want to unambiguously state that we disagree with the idea that the government’s financial burden should be the burden of the ordinary Ghanaian students.
“NUGS believes that any decision that would be binding on Ghana students and generations to come needs to follow the right procedure and not just a meeting between Vice Chancellors, Ghana and Student Representatives Councils which are not recognised by any law as the highest decision-making bodies for Ghanaian students.
“We bemoan the government’s backslide in settling the debt it owes the utility providers which is the basis for the Vice Chancellors, Ghana in pushing the payment of debts to the students.”
The decision for students to pay utility bills came out on March 25, 2015 at a meeting which drew stakeholders in tertiary education to one auditorium at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA).
Leaders of the students and teachers, including those in vocational institutions, administrators, education NGOs, the Energy Commission and Accountant-General’s Department, formed part of the historic decision that took the cost-sharing debate to a new level.
The directive for students of public tertiary institutions to pay utility bills will take effect from the 2016/17 academic year.
The government of Ghana has been solely responsible for the payment of tariffs on utilities in public tertiary education institutions. Government’s sole responsibility for the payment of the cost of utilities used in tertiary education institutions is not sustainable.
In the new arrangement, lecturers living on campus will also have to pay their share, while the government commits to pay utilities arising from the use of academic facilities, and administrative cost.
The initiative, according to the government, was one of the ‘innovative, alternative means’ to tackle increasing utility debts in public universities.
The Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) cut water supply to KNUST over a six million cedi debt.
The universities earlier warned that failure of the government to settle the debt would leave them no choice but to push the cost to students.
The union further indicated that the SRC was not the highest decision-making body for the student, so the right procedures were not used to make the decision.
According to NUGS, the recognised Ghana students’ movement by law was the congress, which is recognised by the Constitution and not a gathering of SRC representatives.