Mr Speaker, I rise to make this Statement in honour and appreciation of the President of the Republic of Ghana and the Scholarship Secretariat.
Mr Speaker, the Scholarship Secretariat as we all know, was established in 1960 as an extra ministerial body under the Office
of the President. Its main object was to administer and exercise central control over the award of scholarships for manpower development so as to ensure effective manpower support for the various national development pro- grammes.
The secretariat now has a mission to utilise Government funds, GETFund and donor support for the provision of scholarships to brilliant but needy students and qualified workers at a minimum cost for human resource development for the purpose of national growth and development.
The Secretariat issues five types of awards:
thesis grant for postgraduate students;
bursary grant for postgraduate students;
long course allowance for medical students;
disability allowance for physically challenged; and
hardship allowance for needy students.
Mr Speaker, for all this while, since 1960, the centralisation of the secretariat in Accra had virtually restricted access to the facility, especially to citizens who are not within or close to Accra, and that had been a great source of worry to myself and most Ghanaians.
Mr Speaker, the scholarship award is intended to provide financial support to brilliant but needy students whose parents/guardians are financially handicapped.
Manifestly, many financially handicapped parents reside in remote areas of our country with their brilliant but needy children.
Many of such people have never been to the nation's capital, and as such do not even know of the existence of any such secretariat with bursary support for them or even if they do, they are unfamiliar with the processes involved in procuring the application forms, let alone enjoying access.
Some simply do not have the money to travel to Accra for the forms. That means that by its location alone, we have failed to make the agency accessible to the very people it has been set up for.
Additionally, they are put at a disadvantage of competing with other needy students who are closer to Accra or have influential people in the nation's capital, following up on the application forms on their behalf.
Mr Speaker having taken keen interest in the situation since my school days, it had always been my wish to champion and advocate for the decentralisation of such an important institution to our regions and districts by extension.
Mr Speaker, I remember having read a Statement on this Floor in the 6th Parliament, calling for the decentralisation of the Secretariat.
It should certainly not be the case that by virtue of the location, some of our brilliant citizens' access to scholarship remains a dream. It is highly commendable that a positive action is made to bridge this gap arising from remoteness to the Scholarship Secretariat in the other regions of the country.
It is worthy of notice, that after a good engagement with your Committee on Education, an agreement reached has been that the Scholarship Secretariat should be decentralised, and to that end, meaningful efforts are under way.
Mr Speaker, this is a typical case of your referral being followed to its logical conclusion.
Mr Speaker, this House has a respon- sibility and oversight role to ensure that this good initiative sees the light of day and help in turning the fortunes of the educational sector of our dear country.
I must admit that I am particularly elated by the attention, prompt and positive response, that the President of the Republic, and the Scholarship Secretariat have given to this call and I want to say to Mr President that we are grateful.
Mr Speaker, having cited a letter from the Secretariat requesting all Regional Coordinating Councils to team up and collaborate with MMDCE's across Ghana to meet a team from the Secretariat to discuss the roadmap leading to the achievement of the decentralisation objective, this gives me much respite and hope. A boost to our decentralisation drive.
Mr Speaker, having said so, 1 would want to make a few calls again to the effect that this communication immediately be made available to our development partners, while the Scholarship Secretariat also considers and develops steps to make our scholarships more tailored toward our development programmes, such as One District, One factory, One Village, One Dam, et cetera, in the north.
We cannot continue on the old path of pursuing ‘mass scholarships' and we urgently need to veer off onto a new path